Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Jesse Ferelit is adorably insecure, antisocial, and a total control freak. He is awkward around others and generally terrible with people. But when he is stage managing in his beloved college theater department, Jesse is like a different person. In control, able to handle any problem that comes up, and lost in the world of the theater, this is where Jesse shines. So when his usual light board operator gets sick and he gets handed Simeck Whedon as an inexperienced replacement, Jesse totally freaks out.
Simeck has been warned that Jesse is a bit odd, but he is unprepared for the full extent of Jesse’s crazy. Especially because Jesse makes it clear he doesn’t think Simeck can handle the job. But right from the start, Simeck isn’t intimidated by Jesse and doesn’t let Jesse push him around when he gets into stage manager mode.
While Simeck has had a vague interest in the theater prior to working on the show, his experience running lights introduces him to a world he finds he really loves. The show performers and crew are like a family and he really fits in. And soon Jesse and Simeck not only stop clashing, but actually begin to like one another, and soon feel a strong attraction.
At first Jesse isn’t really sure what to do with the feelings he has for Simeck. Jesse is a perfectionist, obsessed with his job as stage manager, and afraid to open himself to real friendship, much less a relationship. He hasn’t had sex in four years and is a bit terrified of getting together with the more experienced and sexually confident Simeck. Yet the two guys turn out to be totally compatible in bed, their kinks fitting together perfectly as each man begins to explore his dom and sub tendencies.
In addition to sharing a love of theater, the two men bond over Simeck’s hobby of hula hooping. Simeck is quite an accomplished hooper, doing tricks and fancy moves. Jesse is a bit worried about letting himself go enough to try something so new and foreign, but it turns out he has quite an aptitude for it. Not only that, but hooping turns out to be a great stress reliever for Jesse, something he can turn to when he starts to feel out of control.
As the year goes on, the guys begin to grow closer and closer. But Jesse is looking for a job after graduation that will likely take him out of the area. He is still so self doubting, he has trouble accepting that he can have a real relationship. As the end of the year looms, Jesse and Simeck have to figure out if they can make it work between them in the long term, or whether insecurities will get in the way.
Ok, first off I have to say that I adored Jesse. He is neurotic, self-doubting, anti social, and a bit crazy. I’d probably hate him in real life, but I loved him as a romance hero (I sort of pictured him as a young Michael Emerson). I have a soft spot for those non alpha males who don’t always know the right thing to do or say, who are awkward and complicated, but try so hard and want that love and affection just as much as everyone else. I especially liked that although we see growth in Jesse throughout the book, he is not magically cured by his relationship with Simeck. He still says and does stupid things out of fear or uncertainty. And I loved how we get to see both sides of him. The one who is awkward and uncomfortable in real life, and then the calm, totally in control side that comes out in the theater and in the bedroom. When Jesse feels confident, his power just turns on and he becomes this totally strong guy who can take care of anything. Here Simeck has just had an upsetting phone call with his family and Jesse comforts him:
He put a hand between my shoulder blades and stroked absently. All my energy was gone. I lay there, hoping he wouldn’t stop.
It took about five minutes for me to get up the nerve to speak again. “Feels good.”
He trailed his fingers down my arm. Then he scooted down the bed and stretched out next to me. I didn’t want to look at him. Didn’t want him to see me feeling as shitty as I felt. So I put my face against his chest. His arm went around me, and he rubbed my back. I remembered how efficient Jesse was when he took care of theater crises. How prepared he was for anything anyone could possibly need from him. How briskly but gently he’d cleaned the graze on my cheek. Neurotic, anxious, awkward Jesse Ferelit knew how to take care of people. It was his secret power. And next to him now, I felt totally safe.
This book is a really intresting BDSM story in that both the main characters are new to dom/sub activities. I have read lots of books with one new and one experienced partner, but this is the first I can remember where both guys are discovering their interests and learning what works for them together. Both Jesse and Simeck have a dom side and a sub side and they spend a lot of time experimenting as they learn what they like, what their partner likes, how far they can go, etc. It is also interesting because while both guys are totally hot for this stuff, they are both insecure about it as well. Coming from a background of abuse, Simeck worries something is wrong with him that he likes pain. And Jesse’s insecurities act up, making him question why he is worthy of being a dominant partner, of making decisions about what is right for Simeck. As they continue to develop their interests, they really grow together, supporting one another and making it work for the two of them.
One of my favorite things about an opposites attract story is seeing how two seemingly very different people find those places where they mesh together and are totally compatible. For Simeck and Jesse, not only do we see that in the bedroom, but in their other interets as well. Simeck finds and unexpected home in the theater and a sense of family and belonging that he needs after his awful home life. And Jesse finds such peace and ease in hooping that helps quiet his frantic mind. I loved how each guy shares his special thing with the other, and finds that the other loves it just as much.
As with Rock’s fabulous Wacky Wednesday, the writing here is so lively and funny and crisp. The dialog between the guys is great and really gives you a feel for their personalities and the way they interact. It keeps the book humming along and helped keep Jesse on this side of adorable rather than annoying. Here is a passage where Simeck is taking a shower in Jesse’s apartment and Jesse freaks out about how to handle it. It totally captures Jesse’s anxiety as well as the humor in the writing.
I had Simeck Whedon in my shower.
No reason to panic.
Except what the fuck did I do next?
Did he want me—expect me—to get in there with him?
Was there any way, considering that I was an evolved, functional being with wide-ranging interests and enviable self-control, for me to spend the next ten minutes not thinking about Simeck naked and wet in my bathroom?
There had to be.
Dammit, there wasn’t.
I was going to have to make a decision here.
Was I or was I not going to have sex with Simeck Whedon?
Pros: it would take care of the boner I’d been sporting pretty much since we’d first kissed. Also, I’d be able to graduate college having gotten laid at least once. Plus I’d get to try the whole sex thing again and see if I liked it.
Cons: I didn’t want Sim to know how appallingly bad I most likely was at sex. My experience at eighteen was kind of a blur, but I didn’t recall being particularly savvy or graceful. Also, what would happen after we had sex? Would Sim bail on me, never speak to me again? Refuse to ASM Tartuffe?
Best to maintain a touchy-feely friendship, if possible.
I could deal with a long-term boner, if it meant I didn’t have to fumble through sex with someone who understood sex and liked sex and was good at sex.
This whole conundrum assumed that Sim even wanted to have sex with me. Had he ever wanted to? It had seemed like it when we were on the stage in the dark, making out on the soldiers’ bedrolls. But he’d never actually said, “Let’s have sex.”
“What do I do?” I asked Craybill. He stuck his nose between the bars of the cage, looking for a treat.
I sniffed my armpit. I really did need a shower.
As much as I appreciated how Jesse doesn’t have a magic recovery from his issues, my only slight criticism is that I wish things had been a bit more balanced between them. Because Jesse has more mental baggage surrounding the relationship, most of the problems stem from him as well. But as I said, Jesse is such an intersting and endearing character, I couldn’t help but love him.
Overall I really enjoyed this story. Great writing, lots of humor, and really interesting characters. Oh, and did I mention it is SUPER hot? For all of Jesse’s social awkwardness, the guys are scorching together (I never thought hula hoop sex could be so hot – or even possible!). I loved watching these two guys find their way, both at college and with each other. I thought Calling the Show was really great and highly recommend it.
P.S. Be sure to check back in a bit because J.A. will be here with a great guest post and is giving away a copy of Calling the Show!