Rating: 4,25 stars out of 5
Accountant 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.
ebook, 255 pages
Published April 2nd 2014 by Wilde City Press