Ashley Stevens has been a fan of actor Sebastian Grey for years. In fact, his zeal for all things Grey, coupled with the fact that the actor is in absentia on-line, lead to Ashley establishing social media accounts on the actor’s behalf. Over time, Ashley builds friendships with other fans and enjoys hashing out gossip about their favorite star.
Then, one day, someone claiming to be Sebastian Grey IMs Ashley.
When it quickly becomes apparent this is no joke, no rouse, but actually the actor himself, Ashley is beyond excited. It’s not every day you get personal attention from someone you admire. So when Grey assumes “Ashley” is a woman, Ashley makes no move to correct him. One little white lie—a wrongful assumption, really—couldn’t possibly matter. People like Sebastian Grey did not take note of people like Ashley Stevens. Not for real.
Except Sebastian continues to IM Ashley and the pair form a tentative friendship that evolves, one chat session at a time, into a more real friendship. Ashley never quite finds the right time to correct that wrongful assumption and soon, he starts fearing it’s too late. Owning up to his manhood after so many months would be surely be tantamount to a betrayal. Still, Ashley feels somewhat shielded, given the very different spheres of company they keep and timezones they live in—and the fact that one of them is a regular Joe and another is a celebrity.
That is, until Sebastian pushes the issue of meeting his number one fan—the very Ashley who played no small part in Sebastian’s rise to fame—by finagling Ashley into a meet-and-greet session. When the cat’s finally out of the bag, Ashley and Sebastian have to come to terms with the fallout of one simple, little, white lie…but is their friendship and even their professional relationship going to survive?
I really enjoy these kinds of stories and this one, although not phenomenal, hit the right spots. We start with unsuspecting Ashley getting blindsided by the very man he lusts after. Once Sebastian initiates contact, Ashley’s knee-jerk reaction is to try conforming to what it is he thinks Sebastian wants. Ashley’s lie-by-omission tactic starts off as a way to just keep that chat window with Sebastian open. One thing leads to another and so, the gender thing was on the back burner because the two of them were hitting it off. In that regard, I felt like I could certainly relate to Ashley. Who hasn’t pushed the envelope when acting behind the safety of a computer screen?
Sebastian, on the other hand, is less relatable. Understandably, most of the reader’s interaction with him is via Ashley’s chats with the actor. We don’t actually get to meet Sebastian in the flesh until late in the game, when Ashley’s about to reveal the truth about who he is. That is to say, without the benefit of first-person or omniscient narration, as a reader, I wasn’t sure what exactly I should have inferred from Sebastian’s typed messages (which, again, is pretty true to life). By this point, it’s clear that Sebastian has some trust issues that up the ante as we countdown to Ashley coming clean. But again, given how remote Sebastian is for most of the story, when the big reveal ultimately happens, found I had little sympathy for Sebastian’s side of things.
Despite what I felt was one-sidedness in terms of character/reader time, the book hits important plot points. The initial meeting is charmingly off-key and the snippets of developing relationship we get to read are sweet. We get to sweat it out with Ashley as he dithers about whether or not to come clean. At one point, he’s resigned to forever be Ashley the-lady-doing-the-social-media stuff and leave it at that—until Sebastian springs for tickets/accommodations for Ashley at the meet-and-greet (and we get to sweat it out some more).
One aspect I found a little disappointing was the timeframe. The entire story takes place over about 8 months PLUS nearly all the Ashely/Sebastian action happens exclusively in an on-line, text-based platform. Part of me feels like 8 months of that kind of interaction doesn’t justify how Ashley castigates himself. As tangential as the connection to Sebastian is, I found his reactions to the situations more realistic, but overall, I wasn’t entirely convinced there was enough time to them to get quite as invested as the drama that unfolds would have us believe.
All in all, though, if a case of mistaken-identities and long-distance get-together type scenarios are your thing, you’ll probably enjoy this story, too.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.