Author: Tara Lain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Narrator: KC Kelly
Merle Justice wants to reach for the stars, but it’s tough to get respect when playing a teenybopper vampire on TV. Then he meets a famous director anxious to give him all he thinks he wants—and maybe a bit more. Everything’s looking up until a life-threatening encounter with some homophobes on Main Beach puts Merle face-to-face with a Sasquatch-sized hero in a pink puffer coat.
Tom Henry defies description. As unsophisticated and simple as an angel, he walks through life content with who he is and asking for very little except to care for his sister, Lily, and the dogs he loves. Then he meets Merle, the embodiment of dreams he barely knows he has. Merle knows the people who hold his future in their hands might love Tom—but they’ll never understand Merle and Tom together. Tom knows it too. With lives this far apart, who’s really the fool of Main Beach?
I liked the concept of this story in which Merle, a friend of actor Gray Anson, whom we met in Prince of the Playhouse, is attending a party at Gray’s house. When he wanders off down the beach, he’s confronted by gay-bashers and ultimately rescued by a big, cute guy wearing a puffy pink jacket. The guy, Tom, is a sweetheart but appears to be slow, aka dim-witted, in the way he speaks his mind without worry of how it sounds to others. Merle is attracted to him but is also wary of how being with this guy, might affect his career. He’s just met a film director who may want him for a role and that would be a step above the TV show he’s currently acting in. If the way the director looked at him is any indication, he’d better not starting anything with Tom.
But he doesn’t click with the director, except as friends, and over time, he and Tom become lovers. But it’s just sex—or at least it is for Merle. He refuses to admit his heart is involved. Through Tom, he learns more about being true to oneself, family responsibility, and the love of a good pet. Yes, Tom volunteers for a pet shelter—true to his loving and giving personality. After even more time goes by, they end up in a subplot with Tom’s sister and her dastardly parents and then an additional secondary plot involving Merle’s acceptance by his own parents comes into play. Thankfully, they ultimately find their way to romance, love, and a HEA.
Although the story was sweet, as is typical with Tara Lain books, it felt way too long. I was listening to the audiobook and constantly surprised by how much more time was left than I expected. These two MCs questioned their judgment about each other for a total of 9 hours and 17 minutes. To me, it felt somewhat like the secondary issues were expanded just to make the word count higher. And KC Kelly is not a narrator I can tolerate for that length of time. I find his vocalizations of gay men to be too campy and demeaning, and his delivery of sentences too frequently done without a pause at a comma or period. I want to like him. I really do, since so many of my audiobook-reading friends recommend him, but I just haven’t found the right story yet, I guess. This one was not it.
If you like sweet romance stories with a gentle giant MC, this is a good one to try. But I recommend the e-book format.