Rating: 4.75 stars
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Chase Summers has the perfect future mapped out. He goes to college, lives with his beautiful girlfriend Mercy, and is saving for a house and planning marriage. Yet beneath the surface, Chase is full of pain and self-loathing. After a traumatic childhood and lifetime of blame and guilt, Chase must cling to that future rather than accept the truth about himself – that he is gay and that he can never be truly happy with Mercy. Because if he accepts that reality, then all the horrible things he has always been told about himself might actually be true.
But despite his unwillingness to acknowledge he is gay, even to himself, Chase can feel that yearning for men deep inside. So he takes a job at a gay porn site, claiming it is all just gay-for-pay, even though those opportunities to touch another man just light him up inside. While working at Johnnies he meets Tommy Halloran, who works for the site as well. The two men meet at a shoot in Florida, spending the whole week together and forming a close friendship that over time develops into more. Chase loves Tommy, needs him desperately. Those stolen hours with Tommy are what hold Chase together. Lying to Mercy is killing him, but he feels like he must stay with her, must give her the future he had planned. As much as he loves Tommy, and knows that love is returned, Chase just can not let himself have that true happiness. So instead things spiral out of control. Chase leads a double life – a few weeks with Mercy, then a week with Tommy while he is supposedly out of town for work. But the lying and the pain he is causing everyone takes its toll, not just on Chase, but on Tommy as well as on Mercy who has no idea her perfect future is in jeopardy. Chase must decide if he can finally face up to the truth, let down that wall inside of himself, and reach for the future he really wants before everything falls apart.
So yeah, this one is intense guys. I thought it was wonderful and rewarding and so heartwarming at the end, but you definitely need to make your way through a lot of angst and heartache to get there. Poor Chase. Despite the fact that he is cheating, lying, and leading poor Mercy on, your heart breaks for him all the same. Everything in his life has made it clear to Chase that he can not be gay, that if he really is, than everything horrible his father ever said to him, everything he secretly feared was his fault, all of that would be true. So no matter how much he wants that life with Tommy, and no matter how much he knows what he is doing is wrong, he just can not stop the path he is on with Mercy. Maybe if he weren’t so caring, so worried about others, so good underneath all the lying, I would have hated him. Or maybe if he wasn’t so clearly damaged, so obviously in need of therapy and psychiatric care to address the horror of his past. But this is a guy who so desperately needs help and just can’t see the way to get things right, that my heart just broke for him instead.
So this is definitely not an easy book, but at the same time I think Lane did a great job balancing this story. As much as parts are painful, we also see the good, and as the story goes on, the good things slowly start to outweigh the bad for Chase. He finds the help that he needs, he realizes he has good people around who love him, and he begins to see that tiny bit of light that will take him on the path to a happy future. So I finished this book feeling excited for him, knowing he was going to be ok, and feeling such a sense of victory along with him and Tommy that they had made it through the darkness and were coming out the other side.
There is just so much richness here, with wonderfully well developed characters who are layered with both great qualities and flaws. Chase and Tommy are so sweetly and intensely in love, I could really root for them, at the same time I could feel for Mercy. And I loved meeting the whole Johnnies gang and the way the other models looked out for Chase, and became such close friends and almost a surrogate family. They provide such great support for Chase and Tommy throughout the book and I am really looking forward to reading Dex and Kane’s story in the next installment in the series.
My only real complaint here is the way the timeline of the story is structured. After the prologue, we go back in time one year to when Chase first starts working at Johnnies. From then on the story is told roughly in chronological order, but with lots of small jumps in time. So we may see the guys filming a porn scene, then jump to them a day later watching the rushes, then jump back to earlier the day before where we get backstory on what is going on. Sometimes it takes two or three scenes told in different time periods before an event is fully described. I did find this a bit distracting, and at times confusing. Mostly I could figure out what was happening, but sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was just wasn’t remembering information, or if it was because the lead up scene just hadn’t happened yet. I can see there are some stylistic reasons why this makes sense, especially the way the filming scenes are shown. But from a reading standpoint, it made things difficult at times.
Overall I really loved this one though. It is not always an easy read, and Chase is a guy who is full of pain and badly in need of help. But it is also an uplifting story, as we watch this guy who is a total mess find his way to love and happiness. And while it is not the perfect storybook future he thought he should have, it turns out to be everything that he wants. Wonderful story, highly recommended.
P.S. Although I don’t think it is officially part of the series, we first meet Chase in Super Sock Man, his best friend Donnie’s story (and Donnie plays a big role in Chase’s story too). You can definitely pick this one up without that first book, but they are loosely connected.
More P.S. If you want to enter to win a copy of Chase in Shadow, along with a ton of other great prizes, stop by our Young Love Week giveaway!
Cover Review: I liked this one even before I read the book, but the symbolism is so perfect here with the red water that I am even more impressed after finishing the story. It manages to be attractive and incredibly powerful at once.