Brandon Ringer wears the face of a dead man. He is the spitting image of his famous Hollywood grandfather, James Ringer, a man Brandon hates, despite never having met him. And now Brandon, a high school drop out and general loser at the game of life, has inherited his grandmother’s home. While he adored the woman, the house comes with with a debt he cannot pay and he is surrounded by the memory of James Ringer. Rather than lose his grandmother’s beloved home, Brandon decides to use the only thing James gave him of value – his face. He hires on with an escort agency that deals in Hollywood look-a-likes.
Percy Charles has spent most of his life in pain. His diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis has meant years of dependency upon others and a nearly housebound existence. He finds escape in old films, especially those of James Ringer. In a moment of desperate rebellion, he hires an escort who looks very much like the long dead actor. When Brandon and Percy meet, a spark of immediate passion ignites between them. But if passion has any chance of evolving into love, then Brandon will have to accept the truth about his grandfather and learn to love himself. And Percy must be willing to forgo safety and embrace all that life has to offer.
I was utterly blown away by Dead Ringer. Aside from being an extremely well written novel with amazing characters and an intriguing plot, Dead Ringer contained a vast amount of emotional depth that really caught me off guard. Most of us have had a film crush or two, especially when we were younger. Mine was Steve McQueen and I was 13. I was utterly entranced by his films, but ostracized from my peers because everyone else was swooning over New Kids on the Block. Like Percy’s adoration of James Ringer, I read everything I could about McQueen and watched every movie a dozen times. Though I left most of that particular preoccupation amongst the detritus of my childhood, I absolutely understood Percy and his devotion to the long dead James Ringer. I understood that for Percy it wasn’t about obsession so much as finding freedom from isolation and an escape from pain. Percy was such a sweet character and despite the limitations his disease has placed on his life, he was truly eager to experience the world around him. His parents and caretaker were not interested in him as a person and refused to allow him any measure of freedom. While they came off as rather outlandishly cruel, I still adored Percy for finally standing up to them.
Brandon is just as complex as Percy and perhaps more so. He has hated his grandfather for years because of the way he treated his beloved grandmother. When he looks in the mirror, he sees the man he loathes and that, combined with a less than pleasant childhood, has left Brandon angry and quick to self-destruct. But when Brandon starts work at the escort agency he finally has a chance to do well, to succeed, and he finds that nearly as crippling as his familial legacy. Thanks to Percy, Brandon discovers a new side of his grandfather and himself, and it is this journey that the authors have made so captivating. As a reader you can’t help but feel his pain and root for him when he starts to think of himself as something more than a screw up and a whore. Brandon and Percy accept one another absolutely, yet neither is willing to let the other think less of himself. They both carry pain but together they are stronger and the natural balance they find is realistic and beautiful. There aren’t a lot of magic fixes for either of these men, but there is just enough hope to make us believe they might have a chance.
Dead Ringer was a wonderful read. I could relate to both Brandon and Percy for different reasons, which made their story all the more enjoyable. But I think anyone who loves a great plot and engaging characters, will like Dead Ringer. I highly recommend this one!