Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Review: Fifteen Shades of Gay (for Pay) by T. Baggins

Andrew is a budding actor who has given up a regular slot as a weatherman to travel to New York and look after his sister who has cancer. In order to make ends meet he signs up as a male escort. Andrew isn't gay, and in fact the thought of touching or kissing another man nauseates him, but the hours fit in with his sister's care and the pay is excellent.  Andrew's first client is an Californian senator, Cormac. He thinks he's managing to pretend to be gay but after too many drinks things end in disaster - or so he thinks. Another Client, Paresh, opens Andrew's eyes to the fact that he might be bisexual, but his father's coming out when Andrew was a teen and the subsequent bullying, made Andrew suppress the gay side of him. Suddenly, Andrew feels able to explore that side of his sexuality

This was a rather layered and complex story with different subplots intertwining. The first plot involves Andrew's relationship with Cormac, and how that leads to romance. The second plot involves Andrew's relationship with Paresh, and how that acts as a catalyst to breaking down the barriers of Andrew addressing his long suppressed bisexuality. The third plot involves Andrew's relationship with his sister, and how he copes with her illness.

Out of the three plots, the most affecting is Andrew and his sister, Marie. At the beginning of the book she has stage three breast cancer and I felt the way that her illness was portrayed was very realistic. Andrew is a support for Marie in every way and through his narrative we see the different ways that her cancer affects her. It was deeply moving at times.  Marie's illness also allows Andrew to be reconciled with his Father, with whom he has always had a difficult relationship. This links with Andrew's change in perception about his sexuality as he begins to identify the processes from his past which caused him to shut down all attraction to other men.  The theme of family is strong in the book, as everyone rallies round to help Marie and this once again, showed a realistic view of the push and pull of familial relationships and was perhaps the strongest part of the book overall.

As I said earlier, the book focuses in particular with two of Andrew's clients - he has others but they are relegated to the background. Out of the two, it was Andrew's relationship with Paresh which was the weakest. In fact, describing it as a relationship is probably wrong. He has sex with Paresh, and this starts the process towards Andrew opening up about his sexuality, but at least at first it is only about lust and sex.  If I had a critisism of the book, it would be that the whole sub-plot with Paresh and another character (I don't want to say too much about this for fear of spoilers) made the book have a bit of a 'saggy middle' when the plot wandered a little from the point.  However, the author managed to bring it around and I was pleased by the way this plot ended and how Andrew and Paresh's relationship had evolved by the end of the book.

I really enjoyed the development of the relationship between Andrew and Cormac. There's a lot of politics involved in this aspect of the book because Cormac is a Republican senator. I have to admit, as someone who if I were from the USA would be a Democrat, I was a little alarmed about whether I could find a Republican senator a sympathetic character. However, Andrew (who cares little for politics) and Cormac discuss the Republican party's views on same sex marriage, which proves to be a source of conflict on a couple of occasions in the story.  I felt that the balance of politics in the book was fair and this is used as a major plot point later in the book, which worked for me.  I can't say I agreed with all of Cormac's political views, but I could see why Andrew liked him when he is shown to be much more than just a political figure. Their romance develops slowly and is quite tender. I want to avoid spoilers but the fact that both men grow together as a couple was something I found quite delightful. In fact the only niggle I had with this part of the story was that I felt Andrew's change from feeling physically sick at being intimate with a man, to engaging in gay sex was a little too sudden. A gentler lead up would have, I felt, been more appropriate given the strength of Andrew's disgust at the beginning of the book.

As I said earlier, this is a complex book. It caught me quickly and was on the whole an engaging read with much to recommend it. The character of Andrew was very sympathetic and I enjoyed taking the journey of self-discovery with him.  He's a very different person at the end of the book to the one we find at the beginning, showing a great deal of growth. Andrew's life as an escort was shown in all its varied detail from the tedious, to the charming and even the faintly ridiculous and I liked that there was a balance shown here too. It's not all glamour and fancy dinners and I was pleased that some of the danger in such a job was touched upon.  Those readers who don't mind a book with a character who has sex with more than one person and who is looking for a strong character based story, filled with different emotions will enjoy this one a great deal. I did, and it gets a grade of 'Very Good' from me.

Buy this book at Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks and Amazon.

4 comments:

  1. Ahh so you're reviewing this too huh? I didn't know anything about it when I accepted, so just reading that you gave it a Very Good makes me happy -- I'll probably be reading it next week :)

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    1. Yes! It's unusual for me to review a book before you. I hope you enjoy it :).

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  2. It's somewhere on my near infinite TBR list... :)

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    1. LOL! I've been good at not buying books because I just can't get to the bottom of my pile!

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