Review: Looking After Joey by David Pratt

Standard

Rating: 4,25 stars out of 5

Looking After Joey coverAccountant Calvin’s life is one that is littered with regrets and paths not taken.  His last boyfriend, Rafe, left him with the impression that he, Calvin, had failed Rafe utterly even as Rafe said” oh, its not you, its me”.  No, Calvin knew it was him. Currently Calvin has three important things in his life.  His exuberant best friend Peachy, his accountant job (ok only because of the income) and his love of hot gay porn, specifically the beautiful and sexy porn actor Joey Rhodes.

If Calvin is not at work or with Peachy, he can be found in front of his television engrossed in the latest porn movie featuring his beloved Joey.  Then one day Calvin’s life takes a bizarre and unexpected turn.  Calvin’s dream man Joey appears in the flesh, beautiful, gorgeous flesh, right in Calvin’s living room.  It seems that his latest video,a Joey Rhodes-Roddd Packer DVD called “Open the Door and Let Me In”, is something much more than it seems.

But what is Calvin to do with Joey?  Joey is a total innocent, he knows nothing about real life and Calvin doesn’t know how to return him to his.   Soon Calvin and Peachy find themselves looking after Joey, their “nephew”.  But Peaches has other ideas in mind…ones that include an upscale party in the Hamptons, a trip to Fire Island, and a gallery of rogues and misfits the like of which the island of Manhattan will never see again.   What happens when your fondest wishes come true and your life changes forever , just not in the way you expected? Calvin is about to find out.

 

Looking After Joey by David Pratt was one of the nicest surprises I’ve had all month.  From the book blurb to the story cover, I thought I was getting a fun, kind of raunchy and wild little tale.  I mean, just look at that premise!  A man’s favorite porn star steps out of the video and into his life, perfect for comedy and tons of hot sex, right?  Not exactly.  Because David Pratt takes that humerous theme, gives your the anticipated porn sex scenes and superficial comedy one expects and then deepens it all into a story of personal growth, faith, and love of all types. That’s the part I never saw coming and that’s the elements that made me love this book.

Calvin is leading an empty life and he know’s it. He has been using porn, particularly the videos featuring young, adorable Joey Rhodes, to fill up the emotional void inside.  And that use of porn has lost him his last boyfriend, who figured he could never “measure up” to the hunks Calvin is becoming emotionally invested in on the screen.  Even his few attempts to meet someone new lately have failed, know matter how hard Peachy tries to get Calvin to open up to new possibilities.  Calvin is even coasting along at his job.  He is good at it but nothing more.  David Pratt quickly delivers a portrait of a  man reducing his life down to a tv screen and a best friend and shows how hollow and desperate that feels.

Then in one miraculous night, everything changes.  And Calvin gets to meet Joey in his own “porn world” when he wakes up first inside the Joey Rhodes-Roddd Packer DVD called Open the Door and Let Me In.  Trust me, this is not only the only shocker here.  Being inside a porn world is both incredibly funny and terribly sad as Calvin finds out.  Between hot hookups from men “who aren’t gay their girlfriends are just away for the weekend” and endless pizza from hot pizza delivery boys, Calvin looks for Joey and then finds him.  Pratt must have had such a great time creating this timeless porn universe.  All the typical features of a porn film have been included.  The locations and sets where it is always sunny and never rains, where the delivery boys are always hot and ready to go, and the gym is full of available men no matter what time of the day.  But while Pratt is having fun, he is also showing how mind numbing and empty that world can be if that is all you have.

Then the situation is flipped and Joey ends up in Calvin’s world and things become heartbreakingly real and painful for all.  Yes, there is still plenty of comedy but it’s like a sexy Velveteen Rabbit who comes alive or a Pinnochio who becomes a real boy. The pathos is tangible.  Both of them to be real but unlike them, Joey has not idea of what a “real life” entails.  His fear and pain are palpable when reality sets in and the reader feels as hopeless as Calvin does about the situation.  Trust me, Joey sobbing away as reality sets in is going to break your heart.

Pratt delivers two very different type of characterizations here.  One is the layered, believably human characters like Joey, Calvin, Doug, and yes, even Peachy.  This list will grow to include a character called Jeffrey, but I will leave him as a surprise.  You absolutely believe in Joey’s vulnerability and innocence even when he is asking for sex.  Watching him mature is almost as edifying as watching Calvin do the same. You see, in so many ways both Calvin and Joey must trod the same path, but in totally different roles.  And we will be lucky enough to go along for what turns out to be both an educational and deeply emotional journey to adulthood and wisdom.  It will include discussions of faith and personal assumptions. That surprised me too.

The other type of characters found within Looking After Joey run along the line of your staple cartoon or stock characters.  Light on the nuances and heavy on the stereotypes and caricatures.  Those characters would include eternally sweaty publicist Bunce van den Troell; “theatrical investor Sir Desmond Norma; studly thespian Clive Tidwell-Smidgin; and evil lubricant king Fred Pflester “.  Oddly enough, it didn’t bother me that Pratt had both types of characters relating to each other.  Some situations almost called for it as they were as funny and contrived as the characters involved.  Other times, the scenes were gritty, painful and all too human.  And the balancing act needed to maintain both elements is a tricky one that Pratt was not always successful at.

Ultimately this story belongs to Calvin and Joey.  That’s the heart and soul here and that’s the reason to love this book.  There is plenty of romance to be found and most of the characters, the ones you are rooting for, get their HEA or the promise of one.   One surprise awaiting you is that the romances won’t be between the characters you anticipate.  That turns out to be not only an unexpected element but one of this story’s happy ones too.  It works out just the way it should or you hoped it would.

I see what David Pratt’s bio that he is the author of a book called Bob the Book.  If that is half as entertaining and emotionally rewarding as Looking After Joey, well, I can’t wait to find out and report back to you all.   I am putting this book on ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords’ list of book that are Must Rec’d Reads.  It will surprise and delight you as it did me.   Pick it up and start reading today.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  It’s adorable and on the mark as is the character standing in for Joey.

 Book Details:

ebook, 255 pages
Published April 2nd 2014 by Wilde City Press
ISBN139781925031935
edition languageEnglish

Buy Links:    Wilde City Press        Amazon        ARe

Review: Forever is Now (Shooting Stars #1) by Kimber Vale

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Forever is Now coverNine years ago Alex Bremen was very much in love with Chance Ralan.  The high school boys were inseparable until Alex’s dad caught them together.  The events from that traumatic night tore them apart. The breakup permanently separated them and  left Alex forever bitter at Chance’s betrayal. Now Alex is a successful director and producer of independent documentaries at his own production firm.  And Chance? Chance went on to rock god status when he turned  his high school rock band  into the famous Armageddon Showdown. Over the years, Alex had got a concert or two…just out of curiosity of course but never attempted to contact him.  And he never again heard from Chance.

Then Alex happens to hear the  song he wrote for Chance all those years ago played on the radio.  Stunned and enraged, he listens as his song is credited to Chance Ralan and its Armageddon Showdown’s latest hit!  The song “Forever is Now” was Alex’s love song  to Chance.  It was always meant to be a private things between them and now Chance has not only stolen it but claimed to have written it as well.

Determined to take his revenge and take back his song, Alex travels across country with his production team to meet up with Armageddon Showdown and Chance Ralan.  At first Chance has no idea that the company that is to film their tour is also bringing with it someone from their past hellbent on making Chance pay for his actions once and for all.  But Love is a quixotic thing and as the men tangle, old passions and feelings that never completely went away start to rise again.  In the end, what will win out?  Love or revenge?  Does time really heal all wounds or let them fester, so all hope of love is lost?

Parted young lovers, a troubled rock star and a spurned nice guy set on revenge.  Yep, I’m in.  Kimber Vale takes those ingredients and turns them into a highly readable and engaging tale of love, betrayal, and a rocker’s redemption.  I love rockers!  All the drama, glitz and glamor that surrounds them often hides a wealth of problems and hard work.  They make for perfect main characters and Kimber Vale’s Chance Ralan is another wonderful rock god character readers will love to embrace.  Haunted by his actions and betrayal of the one person who loved him all those years ago, Alex is wading in a mire of his own making.  The pierced, tattoed rock god is a far cry from the scared kid who only wanted to play music but Vale does a great job of showing how Chance’s insecurities and  regrets are now playing out through drunken binges, denial, and depression.   You should dislike Chance but he is so miserable and increasingly out of control that it is hard not to feel compassion for the guy, especially when Alex shows up to confront him.

Ah, Alex…..gorgeous, in control, out and now spitting mad Alex.  The story’s pov switches back and forth between our two protagonists but the Prologue and first chapters belong to Alex.  We see the events happen from his eyes and pick up 9 years later where it is clear he has never gotten over neither his resentment and bitterness nor his love of Chance.  Alex is a easy character to love.  He confronted his demons then made the tough, right choices in his life.  He became successful without sacrificing those personality traits that makes him accessible to the reader.  Plus he has a great sister he adores.  You start off understanding Alex, then you like him and finally, you fall in love with him as deeply as Chance already is.

Alex’s love life is as stalled as his affections as his latest lover just happens to resemble a  young Chance. As Vale heads her characters towards a combustible reunion and a confrontation, it is clear that both men need this to go forward in their lives. The author has created a wonderful atmosphere of suspense and anticipation for the reader leading up to this moment and she never quite gives in to the impulse to make it explosive, keeping us on the edge as we continue into the narration.  I loved that aspect of this story.  It totally works in keeping us engaged and in the moment.

There is quite a cast of secondary characters here that have important roles to play.  There are the Armageddon Showdown band members of varying degrees of maturity and congeniality,  and Cliff the manager who is smarmy from the ground up. Alex’ production company, Real Reels, is represented by Jools and Miles, the mistake and Alex’s ex lover who unfortunately is still circling around Alex like a hopeful bee. I like that no one character felt extraneous here and that each was as well crafted as the next.

Kimber Vale does seriously address Chance’s drinking and drug habits.  When we start the story Chance is already an alcoholic in denial who also uses drugs as casually as he does booze.  Without going too deeply into  the steps necessary for recovery and rehab, the author makes it plain that this self destructive behavior is hurting him on all fronts. And that only Chance himself holds the key that will make him realize how high the cost will be if changes aren’t made.  Vale keeps it realistic without being clinical, especially given the length of the story.

There are places where the story slows down, but that only happens occasionally.  The narrative picks up speed as it heads towards the end, and even though most will be able to tell who the villains of the story are and what possibly their roles might be as the plot unfolds, the pleasure you get from these characters and the drama of their situation will have you glued to the page until the very end.

Need a great little fix for your rockers in love addiction?  Start here with Forever is Now and Chance and Alex.  Kimber Vale continues the series with Giovanni Savale of Deaf Blind Mice in Double Takes (Shooting Stars #2). Giovanni Savale has a small mention here as his band plays along side Armageddon Showdown.  I will meet up with you there!  Happy Reading!

Cover Art by Unknown Artist who did a good job with the characters and cover design.

Books in the Series to Date include:

Forever is Now(Shooting Stars #1)
Double Takes (Shooting Stars #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 101 pages
Published September 9th 2013 by Liquid Silver Books
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.lsbooks.com/pre-order-coming-soon-romance-books-c322.php
seriesShooting Stars #1