Friday, April 22, 2016

ARC Review: Dead Ringer by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler

Dead Ringer
From the blurb:

Brandon Ringer has a dead man’s face. His grandfather, silver-screen heartthrob James Ringer, died tragically at twenty-one, and Brandon looks exactly like him. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Brandon is unknown, unemployed, and up to his ears in bills after inheriting his grandparents’ Hollywood mansion. He refuses to sell it—it’s his last connection to his grandmother—so to raise the cash he needs, he joins a celebrity look-alike escort agency.

Percy Charles is chronically ill, isolated, and lonely. His only company is his meddlesome caregiver and his collection of James Ringer memorabilia. When he finds “Jim Ringer” on Hollywood Doubles’ website, he books an appointment, hoping to meet someone who shares his passion for his idol.

Brandon? Not that person.

But despite their differences, they connect, and Percy’s fanboy love for James shows Brandon a side of his grandfather he never knew. Soon they want time together off the clock, but Percy is losing his battle for independence, and Brandon feels trapped in James’s long shadow. Their struggle to love each other is the stuff of classic Hollywood. Too bad Brandon knows how those stories end.

Heather's rating:

Dead Ringer was my first book by Sam Schooler and my 10th book from Heidi Belleau, but I wasn't quite sure how these two authors would work together. I've seen Heidi Belleau write things ranging from very kinky (most of my stuff from her!) to sweet, so I was curious to see where this one would fall.

It wasn't quite what I had expected.

First of all, I'm no stranger to porn stars/escorts/prostitute plot lines, but if you are or you have issues with your MC doing the nasty with other people other than the other MC, just skip this one. I don't really have a problem with it as long as it isn't deceitful, so I was okay with that aspect of the story.

I also love a character with a disability, and I love a good, long slow-burn romance, so I was excited to tuck into all 452 pages of this story.

I'll start off with some positives. I think that these two authors can really write. I found most of this story to be really well done, with characters that pop and a plotline that was easy to follow. Though the story dragged at parts (pacing issues), I still had no problem getting through it, which is sometimes a feat for books of this length. I really liked some of the secondary characters, and I found the way that the authors treated the other people working at the escort agency to be really refreshing. Not all people who work in the sex-worker field are monsters; some are just trying to do their best and to help others do their best too.

I was also into the struggles that Percy faced with his disabilities and seeing how they played out in his everyday life and in the bedroom. I really got into him as a character, and I liked his chemistry with Brandon. I even liked how the authors' addressed issues of consent and BDSM vs abuse in some scenes with Brandon, which I thought was really insightful.

Up until the 50% mark or so I was SURE that this was going to be at least 4 stars from me. But then, things started going downhill.

I HATE misunderstandings, and when authors use miscommunications to further the plot, it always really bothers me. I wanted to scream at my Kindle at times at the blunders between Percy and Brandon, and I had to put the story down to collect myself. However, what I hate even more are characters that feel like "evil villains" or caricatures. I did NOT understand what motivated Percy's nurse, and she seemed like such a typical romance villain that it was hard for me to stomach. Same with Brandon's driver. I like my "bad guys" to at least have proper motivation or some redeeming quality to make the story more multi-layered and less cliched.

I also thought that the plot was a little... holey. I didn't ever quite understand Brandon's whole "I have to prostitute myself" when he had a HUGE house full of antiques that he could sell, not even counting his grandfather's collection. I mean, sell a painting or whatever, for F's sake! It didn't quite make sense. There were also some other issues with Percy's living situation that rang false to me.

That ending also... everything wrapped up too neatly and in a way that was too schmaltzy for my tastes.

While I really enjoyed the beginning, and I thought that the story brought up some interesting issues concerning sexuality, forgiveness, and learning that appearances can be deceiving, ultimately I also had a ton of issues that really dropped down my rating.

*Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Buy this book:

Riptide, Kobo, Amazon

Happy reading!

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