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First Paperback – September 21, 2015
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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I admit, usually these books are bad. Pretty bad. Like smack-the-characters-with-a-frying-pan-because-they’re-so-incredibly-dumb bad.
And then comes along…………this book.
Before saying anything about the story itself, I want to take a deep bow to the author for portraying the porn industry realistically. For showing the gay for pay actors, the difficult friendships/liaisons that form among actors working together repeatedly, the intimate relationships that go to hell because of the porn, the problem of bareback porn becoming more and more popular and studios blackmailing actors into doing bareback if they want to stay where the real money lies. And also for touching the very delicate subject of HIV+ men going into porn – bareback – risking the lives of their colleagues. Sure, there is HIV medication, Truvada and what-not, but the studios putting pressure on people who depend on their money is the real crime here.
This book was the first that I know of that actually touched these subjects.
So THANK YOU, K.C. Wells!!
This book is clearly among my TOP 3 ALL TIME favorites in m/m romance. No kidding.
It's about 43 year old barkeeper slash porn actor, Mike, who has been in the industry for about 20 years and never managed to have a real long term relationship because of his… well…job. His day job (although it is actually more of a night job too) is working at a gay sports bar.
One night, he notices a very handsome young guy entering the bar and shyly occupying a seat, ordering Cherry Coke and not doing much, except watching Mike.
Mike is used to having admirers, but he has no idea that this new one, Tommy, is a student of agriculture hailing from rural Georgia where he grew up in a god-fearing farmer family, hoping to one day take over his parents’ farm. Too bad he’s gay and his coming out left him more or less homeless and stranded him with the family of his college friend Ben, pondering about his future and his life. Tommy’s only guilty pleasure right now is spending Saturday nights at his favorite bar, watching the handsome older barkeeper with the shining blue eyes.
Long story short, despite the age difference, Mike and Tommy get together and become a wonderful couple, with Tommy evolving into a confident young man and Mike finding a soul mate that is so different from the type of guys he was usually going for.
Oh, yes, did we forget something important here? The PORN, right…..It’s one big sword of Damocles hanging over their relationship, because Mike is sure Tommy would choose the path of all his former lovers when he outed himself to them – so he keeps silent. And with Tommy being a rather conservative young man with traditional values, he knows that Tommy would not accidentally find him online while browsing porn, so no problem there, right?
Well, what happens with people who lie? Oh, sorry, Mike. I meant people who omit the truth?
The truth blows up in their face at some inconvenient point – and breaks their world apart.
It is absolutely realistic. I am so in love with both these characters. Mike is such a sweet guy with Tommy. It’s so interesting to see him react to Tommy when they’re together. He doesn’t take him for a silly green kid at all and listens to him talk about his friends and his coming out struggles. He is just as unsure about where this is going as Tommy, but for totally different reasons. Mike is this seasoned professional who keeps getting sexual requests from fans even on facebook, but never anything like what Tommy offered him. Tommy, who doesn’t even watch porn. Tommy, who brings him flowers, for God’s sake! He’s never even been with a young guy Tommy’s age outside of porn.
And all his previous relationships ended because of his porn career. So, what should he do?!
I have hardly ever felt as happy after reading a book as I felt here. This story absolutely convinced me – and I too fell in love with both Tommy and Mike. And I can totally see the attraction between a younger/older couple now.
A thousand grateful stars from this devoted reader ;-)
Wells strikes a very interesting balance between sweet and naughty in First, and oddly enough, I can relate to both characters for very different reasons. Tommy is a shy young man who was raised in a small town in the Southern Bible Belt, so he was raised to believe that homosexuality is evil, sex is dirty, and he can only make God and his parents happy by building a “traditional” family – a wife and kids. Mike is a middle-aged man who has enjoyed a long and successful career as a porn star, who is proud of his success, yet suffers heartbreak after heartbreak because his partner(s) cannot separate Mike from his on-screen persona, Scott Masters. So how, you ask, can I relate to a sweet farm boy from the south and a naughty porn star?
Yes, I know, you didn’t actually ask that, but I’ll answer your unasked question anyhow. I grew up in a small town in the Southern Bible Belt, so I’m familiar with the religious messages that are spread like gospel among a town’s residents, the never-quiet gossip mill, and the prejudices one faces for being different. As a straight woman, I cannot pretend to know how Tommy felt as he struggled with knowing that God made him gay and reconciling it with the sermons about the evils of sodomy and homosexuality he grew up hearing. But I have seen the prejudices that Tommy would have seen, being practiced out in the open for all to see and can understand why he wouldn’t want to admit to himself or others that he was gay. For me, Wells did a wonderful job of capturing all this in Tommy and his intolerant family.
As for Mike, my best friend, my soul mate, my sexually incompatible significant other, was a gay porn actor for about a decade. I met him at the very end of his career, at a time when he was no longer doing scenes but would still make appearances at events. Because of that, I’m well acquainted with the difference between the on-screen persona and the man behind it. I watched my partner don his porn-persona while we were out and about and witnessed the relief as the weight lifted from his shoulders once he was home and could be a regular Joe again. He loved what he did, loved meeting fans, loved the attention, but he couldn’t be “on” 24/7 because it was an act, a heightened and exaggerated personality. He said, on more than one occasion, that it was a relief to be able to come home to me because he could just be himself. So I can appreciate why Mike was so hesitant to tell Tommy about his porn career. Tommy gave Mike a safe place to be himself, absent of all expectations to be Scott Masters when they were together. Because Mike knew that Tommy did not know about Scott Masters, he knew that Tommy was attracted to, cared about, and wanted to be with Mike – and to be loved for who he was and not a character he pretended to be was something Mike had waited for, for years.
I enjoyed watching the romance between Mike and Tommy play out. The age difference (an issue for Mike) and Tommy’s shyness and inexperience meant there could be no expressway to the bedroom. Even when they finally moved past their mutual admiration of one another from afar (or across the barroom), their first step was to become friends. It was as they spent time together as friends that they recognized the potential for more, especially once Tommy asked Mike to be his first. The gradual development of their relationship, the conflict over Mike’s career, and the realism of the characters make First a 5-star book for me. As for Gregory Salinas’s narrative performance... well done, sir. Salinas does an amazing job with the southern accents; so well that at times I was rolling my eyes at the characters for their run-on words, consonant dropping, and word dropping. Obviously, Wells did a great job of capturing the southern dialect, but Salinas brought it to life and had me feeling like I was back home, listening to my friends chat. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed First and have already listened to it a couple times because Tommy and Mike’s story has a special place in my heart.
Most recent customer reviews
There have been a few niggles, one rage-inducing moment caused by Tommy's religious family,...Read more
Story Rating: # 4 stars out of 5
This was a good story, but I found the age difference to be hard to get past.Read more