Ten years ago, Andrew Reynolds caught his father cheating on his mother with a man. Since that day, Andrew has had an irrational fear of gay men.
Now Andrew is struggling to make ends meet. When he moved to New York City to take care of his sister, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, he gave up a career as the local weatherman in Wichita. Trying to follow his dream of becoming an actor, Andrew has tried out for several parts but has yet to receive a serious offer beyond porn, which he refuses to do. When his neighbor offers him a job as a gay escort, Andrew finds no other option but to take it, even though he’s straight.
Assured that sex is not part of the job, Andrew reluctantly accepts his first assignment, a date with California Senator Cormac Donovan. Getting drunk and admitting to Cormac that he was straight was not part of Andrew’s plan, but in the end, Andrew finds a friend in Cormac, someone he likes and can talk to.
The life of a gay escort is not exactly what Andrew expected. Treating the experience as an acting job and playing the role of a gay man, Andrew discovers a side of himself he had hidden, even from himself. While playing a “party favor” for a private party, a client’s slow seduction leads to a continuing experimentation that Andrew never dreamed he would enjoy. All the while, Andrew and Cormac continue to grow closer and the attraction between them begins to strengthen until Andrew finally gives in to it. Getting to know Cormac and falling for him is only the beginning. Dealing with the deep-in-the-closet politician and his Republican platform, while also dealing with difficult family dynamics and his sister’s illness, takes a toll on Andrew and his relationship with Cormac.
Fifteen Shades of Gay (for Pay) is a wonderful journey of self-discovery. Full of confusion, sadness, lust, hurt, love, and even politics, this story has a little bit of everything.
Andrew is an amazing character. He basically gave up the beginning of an opportunity to follow his dream in order to take care of his sister. His heart is huge. He’s so caring and understanding, almost to a fault, and his patience rivals that of a saint. Andrew’s resolution is solid. He discovers a part of himself he lost years ago and instead of denying his feelings and attraction, he charges forward in order to become the man that he wants to be. He’s encouraging and beautiful and strong willed. I adore him.
Cormac is a successful, prominent member of the Republican Party, and because of that, as well as his upbringing, he has remained in the closet his entire life. Andrew’s view of Cormac makes him easily lovable, despite his political views and his many mistakes. He’s confused and vulnerable when it comes to Andrew. The barrier between his professional life and his personal life has been in place for a long time and he finds it difficult to change his ways, but he is willing to do so for Andrew. He just doesn’t know how. His journey is one of honesty. He works to find a way to reconcile both his professional career and his personal life while trying to keep both intact.
Their relationship is complicated and experimental and messy and I love it. I especially love that they take the time to get to know each other outside of the bedroom. They don’t instantly fall in love, they take their time to grow and strengthen their relationship. Their relationship is far from perfect, but they are perfect together. The fact that Cormac has lived his life in the closet and Andrew – although just now realizing he’s bisexual – refuses to step into the closet is a major struggle for them. Add to that the distance between NYC and California, Andrew’s job, and Cormac’s party’s stance on gay marriage, and the relationship puts a lot of strain on them. But they are both strong enough to work together to try and understand one another.
The secondary characters make this story adventurous and fun and lovely. Marie, Andrew’s sister, is such a wonderful character. She’s so supportive, accepting, open, and honest, willing to help Andrew through his journey of self-discovery even when she doesn’t realize she’s doing it. Paresh, a client turned friend, is Andrew’s door to discovery, so to speak. Meeting Paresh and learning from him becomes a way for Andrew to open up and learn about himself. Andrew’s parents, as well as his dad’s partner, bring a family dynamic that is imperfect, real, believable, and loving. They don’t always get along and they argue, but they love each other regardless. Andrew’s relationship with his dad is a major part of this story, and also a growing point for Andrew. His bond with his father and Hugh has suffered over the years but with self-discovery comes healing and forgiveness.
The storyline is so complex. It is much more than a romance, although it is a wonderful romance with plenty of steamy scenes. It’s a story of family. It’s a story of friendship. It’s a story of self-discovery. And it’s also a story of starting over and of new beginnings. It’s a wonderfully complicated story with many threads that interweave and eventually all come together to form a very engrossing, entertaining book.
I will admit that I have not read the books that this title parodies, and I expected this to actually be a parody of those stories. And while the books are mentioned – not by name but as “mommy porn” – from what I’ve heard of that series, this story is not a parody. The only similarity I do find is the self-discovery theme. Again, I haven’t read the “mommy porn” trilogy, but someone who has read them may find more similarities.
I should probably let readers know that there is some prostitution in this story. It’s not a hustling or rent boy type of prostitution. It’s more subtle and consensual, but, alas, it is prostitution.
This is the first book I’ve read from this author, and if wonderful characters, entertaining storylines, humor, drama, laughter and tears are what I have to look forward to, I can’t wait to read another. I highly recommend Fifteen Shades of Gay (for Pay) by T. Baggins.
Cover: I’m not in love with this cover by Fantasia Frog Designs. Cormac is older than the character portrayed on the cover, and I feel like the “spider-man kiss” image has been overused on covers.