I enjoyed every page. Loved the characters. Fabulous reading!
- Review by Kazza K
Well, wasn't this ebook quite the surprise. I bought it because I love rent boy stories. And it sounded sexy - male escort needing to make money from gay customers, maybe finding out he likes it. Truth be told the whole GFY trope never sits right with me but....I liked the premise. So the perv won out!. I mean look at that cover and the blurb. Sexy right? I was in luck, it's sexy as sexy can be. But it is so much more than that. It's well written, thought provoking and has some lovely dialogue.
Andrew Reynolds is twenty-four and an aspiring, struggling actor, is there any other kind? who lives day to day, hand to mouth. He gave up the opportunity to work as a weatherman on a TV channel in his home, Kansas, to look after his older sister, Maire, who lives in New York. Marie has breast cancer and has already had a double mastectomy. It's stage three cancer, which is pretty darn bad. Andrew and Marie are very tight as siblings. They love and care about each other very much. Marie looked after Andrew when they were younger, after their father took up with Andrew's English teacher. When other kids were bullying him, saying his A's were a result of his father's cocksucking skills. Marie organised martial arts lessons and looked out for him. Now it's his turn to look out for Marie. He has hardly any money and is behind in the rent when an opportunity to be a gay-for-pay escort comes up from his neighbour, Huey Wasserman. He needs to be able to pay bills, support his sister and buy everday items, like food and clothes. The trouble is he feels physically ill at the thought of being with another man, He's straight but he's an aspiring actor so he can treat it like a role, right? He accepts the escort job, it pays much needed cash, and tells Marie he has a paying job as the understudy to the lead in a play so she won't stress anymore -
"I'm so proud of you," Marie whispered in Andrew's ear. When it's produced, I promise to be there for opening night. Even if they have to wheel me in on a stretcher."
If Andrew does well with his client, a repeat, influential one, he also earns a $500 bonus. Initially this is what gets Andrew through, and it initially frustrated me - "$500 bonus, $500 bonus."
Cormac Donovan is Andrew's first client. He is a charming, yet enigmatic politician in his thirties. He loves New York, knows it well, and takes Andrew to an Irish cigar bar, that may be rundown but serves excellent food and Guinness. From there he proposes taking Andrew dancing. Andrew presumes it will be techno and lights but it's a very proper establisment that discreetly caters to same- sex ballroom dancing. Andrew drinks too much, to steel his nerves, and ends up falling asleep, then feeling sick. Cormac works out from the get-go that Andrew seems to prefer women over men. But Cormac likes Andrew's company - he's attractive, he's charming, he's honest, likes to talk sport and isn't interested in politics. Cormac doesn't push for sex and Andrew assumes the date is a disaster, particularly as Cormac ends up looking after him when he feels hungover. However, when he gets back to see Wasserman, Cormac has requested Andrew be his escort when he's in NY from here on in -
"What did you do to him, anyway? What kind of tantric voodoo bondage did you pull on Mr. Ice Water to turn him into your biggest fan?"
"We just....had a nice date. That's all."
He did like the date. The thing about Cormac is that he is a Republican Senator from California. He's the product of a conservative background and has run on a platform of traditional values. So he has never allowed himself to have sex with anyone before. He's dated women to appease his (now deceased) mother, and his party, but he's gay. So. No sex. He takes his escorts on dates - dinner, dancing - it's presumed he's picky in who he beds, or at least wants to be with. In reality he likes men but can't seem to go for sex alone. But Andrew sparks his interest.
Marie, Andrew's sister, is one of the best characters you will find in any book. I loved her spirit, her caring, her love for her brother, her non-judgemental eyes - cancer has a way of showing people how not to sweat the small things. It also has a way of putting life into perspective, and Marie embraced life, often living vicariously through Andrew, particularly as the book progressed. I wanted so much for her to beat the big C. Marie works out fairly soon that Andrew is lying about being an understudy, he never mentions quotes, lines, or his day. He tells her he's kissed a man...for the play, but Marie is onto that. She gets him to spill eventually, and she is supportive, appreciative and intrigued, as well as concerned. I just kept willing Marie to live. I loved her as much as Cormac and Andrew -
"Oh my God, " Marie whispered as Andrew took the bedside chair Cormac had vacated. "Did you really kiss him?"
Because Andy, you're my brother and I love you, but I'd kick you down a flight of stairs for that man. Is he straight and curious, or is he gay?"
"I should have known. He's perfect. Utterly perfect."
Andrew is a popular escort. He keeps working, making good money performing all manner of jobs - housecleaning in minimum to no clothes whilst a client looks on, talking until late at night to an older man who has lost a lover, being a nude pool boy at pool-boy parties. It's at the last one that Andrew comes to the attention of a wealthy gay businessman, Paresh Choudari. Paresh is married, it's an arranged marriage, his wife knows that he likes men. He keeps a party house for escorts to come and play. Paresh is the one that introduces Andrew to the enjoyment of a blowjob by another man...and more. Gradually bringing out Andrew's reasons for his anger at gay men, the reason's for his denial of his sexuality, and helps him become a better lover for Cormac. He may have sex with someone else but Andrew always pictures Cormac.
So this is an unusual romance book. There is quite a bit of steamy sex. Andrew has sex with other people while Cormac only has sex with Andrew, but there are reasons; Cormac has to be the conservative politician, Andrew has to work to help Marie. Cormac gets this and is never jealous. I loved the real-feel it had. But it is so much more than a romance book, although that is well done. It's also about Andrew dealing with, and coming to terms with his tenuous relationship with his father, who is a know-it-all and buys Marie all manner of self-help books - 'if you're positive, cancer won't make you its victim' is his mantra,' much to Andrew's consternation. It is also very much about Marie's illness, her battle with cancer. Marie's outlook on life, what happens to her. Also Paresh's life and lifestyle, Cormac's job, his journal/book. All of which allows Andrew to develop into a better, more well-rounded person. Someone who cares and is not so cynical. I liked Andrew in the beginning. I loved him by the end. I adored Cormac throughout.
I loved that the relationship between Andrew and Cormac took time to develop but was incredibly sexy and lovely. Yes, Andrew kept working. Cormac knew this, they talked about it. He had to stay in the closet, only came to New York now and then. However, they were always in touch, had phone sex, whenever he came they would meet up and they grew closer and closer. Cormac couldn't have a relationship with Andrew other than clandestine meetings, mostly at hotels, making love and talking. Cormac supported Andrew as best he could regarding Marie. It was never sex for pay with Cormac and Andrew made sure Cormac knew this. So, while there was no exclusivity they both knew and both accepted it. If you go into this book thinking it's a fluffy, purely romantic rent boy book you may not be happy. If you go into it looking for all kinds of sexy, some BDSM included, some reality checks, sadness, anger, joy, character growth and development, how difficult families can be, and how they react differently in a crisis - you will discover all these things in this fabulous ebook.
I totally loved Fifteen Shades of Gray (For Pay) even though it hits on two nerves of mine, GFY and a closeted character. I normally have a really BIG problem with closeted characters in books. But I loved Cormac all the way through, from the beginning to the very end. I thoroughly understood his position, didn't like it, but understood it. I loved how he delighted in being with Andrew, made the effort to visit Andrew's sister when he discovered Marie was sick and in the hospital. Was patient, a gentleman and loving. I also don't like GFY very much, but the author handled this really well and it was mighty sexy, and felt right, once Andrew got over his feeling sick about the whole 'gay issue.' The explanation to his aversion was more than plausible.
Now to the title of the book. Some have raised their dislike of it. I truly do not understand the reaction to the title. It is well explained and clever. The title is based on two things. 1) Andrew reads Marie's favourite 'mommy porn' trilogy to her, as she has cataracts and is not well. Yes, we all know which one it is, and 2) He starts writing a journal about his experiences with Marie, Cormac, and his escort clients - Fifteen Shades of Gay (For Pay). It's representative of his love for something he does with Marie, reading her the trilogy she so enjoys, and his life. He used to love to write and this is a catharsis for him. He can deal with his fear of Marie's illness, having to be gay-for- pay, he can deal with his growing understanding as to why he is/was so 'repulsed' by gay men, and his eventual understanding of his actual sexual fluidity, and of others around him - his sister likes men but on her bucketlist she says she'd like to 'go down on Charlize Theron.'
I cannot recommend Fifteen Shades of Gay (For Pay) highly enough. It is so deeply layered and yet so simple to read. The book is heavily dialogue driven, which I admit to liking. A lot. It is witty, clever, sexy, sweet, sad. The characters are all multi-dimensional and have their own, real issues. There is some wonderful, heartfelt, funny dialogue and some gut-wrenching moments. And there is a good epilogue. Five star reading all the way.
So I'll finsish with some lovely words from Cormac to Andrew.
""I thought since I came out, you might give me a chance. If I went to New York and, well, stalked you in a non-threatening, attractive manner...."
"Cormac." Andrew buried himself against the other man's chest.
"I love you," Cormac said softly.