Evan Costa learned from a very early age that there was no such thing as unconditional love and that it was better to settle for what you could get instead of expecting the world to give you what you need. As Ethan, porn model for Johnnies, he gets exactly what he wants—comradeship and physical contact on trade—and he is perfectly satisfied with that. He’s sure of it.
Jonah Stevens has spent most of his adult life helping to care for his sister and trying to keep his beleaguered family from fraying at the edges. He’s had very little time to work on his confidence or his body for that matter. When Jonah meets Ethan, he doesn’t see the hurt child or the shamelessly slutty porn star. He sees a funny, sexy, confident man who—against the odds—seems to like Jonah in spite of his very ordinary, but difficult, life.
Sensing a kindred spirit and a common interest, Ethan thinks a platonic friendship with Jonah won’t violate his fair trade rules of sex and touch, but Jonah has different ideas. Ethan’s pretty sure his choice of jobs has stripped away all hope of a real relationship, but Jonah wants the whole package—the sexy man, the vulnerable boy, the charming companion who works so hard to make other people happy. Jonah wants to prove that underneath the damage Ethan has lived with all his life, he’s still gold with promise and the ability to love.
Series Note: If you haven't read the series and plan to, start at the beginning. Though I think you can read Dex in Blue on its own, fairly well, Ethan in Gold does not stand alone at all, and if you haven't read Dex in Blue, you will be very lost, and probably bored. So just keep that in mind.
I bought the first four books in this series a couple years ago, and for some reason, I can't quite fathom, it's taken me ages to get around to reading them. I've been devouring the series like I devour pretty much any Amy Lane book. She writes angst like no one else and knows how to send her characters through the gauntlet on their way to their HEA. Angst central, let me tell ya, and I eat it up with a spoon.
By and large, I've enjoyed this series, but I've got some mixed feelings about Ethan in Gold. I did like the book, and I loved the MCs and supporting characters, but not everything worked well for me.
I absolutely loved Ethan. He's been one of my favorite characters in the series, since the beginning. He's a lovable, dependable, stand-up guy who was dealt a shitty family - especially his mother. After more than a decade of therapy, Ethan decided to go into porn because he needs to be touched and he stayed with Johnnies because it was a safe outlet to explore his sexuality and the rest of the guys felt more like family than his own ever did. I hate his mother for starving him for affection in her quest to rid the world of "bad touch" and I hate that Ethan felt responsible for family issues that were squarely out of his control, causing him to regress to self-loathing.
Jonah is a good addition to the extended family. He's no stranger to hard work or responsibility, since he helps care for his terminally ill sister. Jonah was good for Ethan, especially in teaching Ethan that he is worthy of love and porn does not detract from that. He seemed to really "get" Ethan. Jonah's family was pretty great, too, showing that not all families are awful and sometimes they really do stick together and support one another. I think it was important for Ethan to see this side of family. It wasn't something he ever had.
So what didn't work quite so well for me? The timeline for Ethan in Gold overlaps a lot with Dex in Blue, so parts of the story felt repetitive. Also, with so much going on with all the Johnnies guys, Ethan in Gold felt too busy, like the first two books, but especially Dex in Blue bled all over this one, and that detracted from Ethan & Jonah too much.
I have some serious mixed feelings about Ethan's sisters, too. On one hand, I understand how everything went down, but on the other hand, Ethan was abandoned, and for someone that needs family, that was devastating for him and I felt he forgave them too easily. Ethan is a forgiving kind of guy, in most cases, so I don't think it was out of character, but I do think they need to really see how much they hurt him.
Overall, I recommend the series, including Ethan in Gold with just those couple caveats.
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