Brave the spotlight for the man he loves, or stay alone in the shadows…
William Harris is a reserved man, private and guarded. He has no one to go home to. He’s never found a man worth sticking around for. He’s never been in love. And he's convinced he's happy with his lone-wolf life.
Nate Kelly is William’s opposite, social and easy going. He comes into William’s life as the elegant geisha Momo. When William realizes Momo is a man in drag, he’s captivated.
From their first date, William’s world changes. Nate is nothing like his usual type. And William soon finds out being with this carefree man means always being on display and attracting attention, which makes him want to retreat. He tries to keep Nate at arm’s length, but it’s no use. Nate’s transformed his life in a matter of months and keeps drawing him back in.
If they stand a chance, William has to be comfortable standing next to someone so at home in the limelight. Their future together and William’s happiness depend on it. Is Nate the man finally worth giving up William's solitary existence? Is he worth sticking around for?
*Extensively reworked from the short story, The Measure of a Man.
Many, many moons ago, I read the first chapter of this book in a different incarnation, and I also have the previously published version of the whole book.
I struggled with a review for a while, and I'm still not sure that what you're about to read is going to accurately convey my thoughts.
There were many things I liked about this book, especially Nate. His carefree, easy-going persona really appealed to me, but I could also see that he had much inner strength, and a forgiving nature, which was truly needed in light of the stupid shit that sometimes came out of William's mouth.
Which brings me to William - he's the sole POV in this book - who made me cringe on more than one occasion while reading. His self-loathing was evident, even if he didn't think of himself that way, but the fact that he hides his sexuality behind drab colors and a strict and no-nonsense personality at work was telling. While he was more open about his sexuality outside of work, we're also told that he's normally attracted to jock types, and that flamboyant, twinky men don't usually do it for him, and thus the anomaly of his attraction to Nate was somewhat of a shock to him. I didn't enjoy being in his head, for most of the book, and he came across as judgmental and also somewhat ignorant. Like, it's okay to be gay when it's not obvious, and Nate's obvious gayness is a strike against him. Internalized homophobia is not a good look on you, honey.
Nate has an alter ego of sorts - on weekends, he works as a Geisha in a Japanese Tea House, as Momo. In fact, all the Geishas are male underneath the make-up and wigs, and most of the customers have no idea. He's out and proud, a bit flamboyant and unapologetic about it. I liked him from the start - his wicked humor, his easy smile, and his openness.
William and others from his company are enjoying a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, when William notices the somewhat prominent Adam's apple of the Geisha serving him and realizes that it's a man. He's intrigued, and when the young man gives him a business card with his phone number, William decides (after much soul-searching) to give him a call and ask for a date.
Nate/Momo sees something in William, though I couldn't understand what exactly that is. Perhaps he saw the lonely man who convinced himself he isn't lonely at all. Since we don't really get to know Nate other than through William's eyes, I couldn't discern what really drew him to William.
What bothered me the most is that William sought approval from three important people in his life - his brother, his mother, and his loctitian who's been doing his locs for a long time. I thought it someone strange that a grown man was so insecure in himself and his feelings for another man (albeit someone that didn't meet his usual attraction profile) that he had to seek the approval of others to ensure he was making a good decision. It just felt odd to me. What if they hadn't liked Nate? Would William have let him go?
Another thing that bothered me was William chastising himself for desiring Momo just as he desired Nate - as if they were two different people - and thinking that it was wrong. That he was wrong for wanting both. He also tested Nate at almost every turn, and I really didn't like William for doing that. He seemed to expect Nate to fail, and when he doesn't, William seemed surprised. I wanted to reach into the book and shake Nate to just drop William's judgmental ass. I think in these situations, it would have helped to have Nate's POV to make me understand what he saw in William and why he kept jumping through all those hoops for the guy.
William did eventually get his act together and redeem himself, though it was a long and draining road to read through to his happy ending.
There are a few sensual scenes, and I liked one of them best. The rest do further the plot, so there's no gratuitous hanky-panky here.
Overall, it's a good story, but not the best I've read by this author. That title remains with the North Star series.
** I received a free copy from the author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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