Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Length: Short Story
After serving in the Marines, Andy Finnegan works as a go-go dancer in a club. He is hopeful that he can break into porn to make some real money, since he is struggling to make ends meet. Tonight a porn producer is coming to watch him dance and this could be Andy’s big break.
When dancing that night, he spots a man in the crowd who reminds Andy of his former lover from when he was a Marine. Andy can’t take his eyes off the Stefan, even when he knows he is ruining his chances with the producer. And when Andy’s temper flares at the wrong time, he is sure he is not only losing his job, but also any chance at being with Stefan. Andy is not sure he deserves happiness with Stefan, but he hopes the man will be willing to give them a chance.
Andy, Go-Go Boy is the second of J.P. Barnaby’s Working Boys series, and Andy himself is really the primary focus of the book. We see him early on, strutting around the gym and engaging in some anonymous sex. But as the story continues, we learn that there is a lot more to him, that he has a difficult past that affects his temper and his opinions of himself. I liked the way Barnaby slowly gives us a sense of what is going on behind the scenes with Andy. I also think she does a great job showing the difference between the random gym hookup that means nothing to him, versus the much more intimate and personal sex his has with Stefan. We don’t get to know Stefan very well in this short story, but he is a likable guy and we get some nice sexual tension and connection between the two men.
I think my issues with this story really center around Andy though, because as I said, he is the primary focus of the book. I found it somewhat difficult to get a real handle on him and the way he is initially presented is so different from what we learn about him later on. We first meet Andy in the gym where he is preening about how incredibly attractive he is and analyzing others based on their appearance as well. He dismisses those who don’t have good enough bodies as not worth even bothering with. And he enjoys people watching him and appreciating his body, going as far to walk around the locker room naked and start showering with the curtain open in hopes of someone noticing how hot he is. Here are a few quick examples:
He liked the gawkers, the ones who would stop mid-sentence as he walked by… Stripping down, he tossed his workout clothes into the locker, grabbed a towel and his mesh bag, and strode, naked and glorious, to the showers. Without closing the curtain to the shower cubby, he hung his bag on a hook and threw the towel over the door. Still no one. Too fucking bad, they were missing a show.
When he sees two guys in the bathroom, he notes:
…this one spent too much time behind a desk and not nearly enough time in the gym. Andy didn’t even have to look up from the lack of definition in his abs to see his face.
And as he is having sex with the guy with the better body:
The buddy by the door jacked his cock slowly, one eye on them and one eye on the door. Andy liked an audience. Maybe he’d even get applause afterward.
There is just so much arrogance here, such total narcissism about his own appearance, combined with judging everyone else based on theirs. Honestly, I found him really unlikable during the first quarter of the book and kept expecting some sort of redemption where he stops focusing on looks so much. But when he meets Stefan, his attraction to the man is initially based completely on the fact that he looks like his former lover who died in battle.
What I found even more confusing is that once we get to know Andy, we see he has some real demons. And I think Barnaby does a nice job of showing them to us – Andy’s temper and anger problems, the lack of direction now that he is out of the service and isn’t quite sure what to do with his life, and the pain of losing Vinnie to an IED. But we end up with this formerly cocky guy who cares only about appearances earlier in the day who suddenly has all this self loathing and doubt in the evening.
I think Barnaby has a thread of something here, the darkness that Andy feels inside despite outward appearances, and the toll his time in the military has taken on him. With a longer story, perhaps there would have been more time to really explore this duality, this sense of heightened confidence on one hand with this feeling of darkness and lack of self worth on the other. I can understand how someone with Andy’s experiences could end up this way. But with such a short story, we really don’t get this explored in enough detail, and the story seems to leap from this arrogantly self-obsessed man to one who is hurting and in pain without giving us enough of a connection between the two extremes.
I do think we get enough here for an enjoyable story, and Andy grew on me over the course of the book. I appreciated seeing there was more depth to him than we first think, and I enjoyed the emotion and intensity between he and Stefan. But I just never really felt like I had a handle on Andy enough to really understand him or become as emotionally invested in his happiness as I wanted. So while I adore J.P. Barnaby’s writing and will continue to pick up everything she writes, I don’t think this one totally came together for me as well as I hoped.
Cover Review: Another really lovely cover by Barnaby’s go to artist AngstyG. Model Ryan Rose is perfect as Andy and it is really nicely done.