Grant Jackson is from a small town in Northern California and has big dreams of moving to Hollywood and becoming a TV star. He’s full of wide eyed innocence many young men and women share when they come seeking their fortune. Unfortunately, Grant soon discovers all that glitters really isn’t gold. His youthful optimism is being tarnished quickly. He can’t get a face to face interview with an agent, and when he finally does get to meet one, he’s told he can’t help him without expensive head shots, acting lessons, or a decent resume. Before long, though, Grant has a job at a restaurant and is taking acting classes. However, he’s also going out and having risky, unprotected sex with strangers.
As time passes, Grant is still working at the restaurant and waiting for a big break. One night at his favorite bar, he runs into Kevin, one of his past sexual partners. Kevin wants to introduce Grant to his bosses at Hottie International, a gay multi media company specializing in porn and escort services. Yes, Kevin is a Hottie Boy (Fans of a certain porn site will get a bit of a chuckle out of this title. I did.). Soon, Grant is having a great time filming scenes, meeting clients, and making more money than he’d imagined. However, there is a lot of darkness in Hollywood stewing under the sex, smiles, and fun, and Grant isn’t left untouched.
I chose Frame of Reference from a list of books that might be appropriate for Opposites Attract Week. The blurb intrigued me. I’ve read several books where the main characters are porn stars and escorts, and have always enjoyed them, so this one seemed right up my alley.
I have to say, I thought this book was great! It’s all centered around Grant, a young man from a small town with stars in his eyes. He grew up loving television and wanting to be a television star. Note I’m saying a television star. He didn’t seem to want to be in the movies at all…unless it came along as a result of his television work. Christopher Stone has written a very solid character who is perfect to focus an entire book around. He’s interesting, and I fell in love with him. Certainly, because of his youth, he makes some sketchy choices. For instance, when he gets to Hollywood, he finds a bar and begins to go into the back room. That’s the place where guys who are only interested in a hookup hang out. Let’s just say condoms aren’t a priority, and Grant is perfectly ok with that. AIDS has been a real fear by then, but I got the feeling Grant thought he was young and untouchable.
There are a lot of background characters, and they all touch Grant’s life in one way or another. Rosemary is his next door neighbor, and he meets her on his first day in town. She’s larger than life, but there is a desperation about her, and we get to see just how desperate she becomes. Jim is a fellow actor Grant meets at a theater when they’re cast in the same play. Jim acknowledges he’s mentally ill, but Grant doesn’t seem to understand exactly what that means. Scotty is an AIDS patient Grant delivers hot meals to every afternoon (Like Meals on Wheels). In the mid 90s, Scotty was the toast of the town, owning a nail salon to the stars. Kevin is a casual friend. He and Grant are occasional sex partners. In fact, they met because Kevin and his ex partner, Curt, picked Grant up and took him back to their place for a threesome. Finally, there is Cam. He’s a huge gay porn star. Grant does a scene with him, and their attraction is instant and powerful.
As I read this book, I had a hard time figuring out why Frame of Reference would be considered an opposites attract story. Once I finished and had a chance to really think about it, it came to me. Grant is the opposite of every character and situation in the book. He’s optimistic. Hollywood is dark and heartbreaking. Rosemary is, as I said, larger than life, and Grant is still trying to figure out who he really is. Kevin is loud, brash, and somewhat arrogant, but Grant is a pretty good guy considering all that’s gone on in his life. Scotty has AIDS, but Grant doesn’t seem to take the threat seriously, even as he sees the horror of Scotty’s situation every day. Cam is a popular, in demand porn star, whereas Grant is just an unknown.
Now, I don’t want to give too much away because I really do believe this book is worth reading. I felt like it was a pretty accurate portrayal of what it must be like to be a small town boy thrust into the non stop life Hollywood has to offer. I will say, though, there are some issues I want to address. There are several plot lines that I thought were worth exploring, and they seem to have just fade into the background, or drop off altogether. Rosemary played an important role in Grant’s life at the beginning, but she made some poor choices, and something horrible happened. Then, her story was just dropped. No further mention of her. Scotty experienced something great that turned bad. He begins to withdraw into depression, but he’s never heard from again. Grant’s father seems to have figured out he was gay (and was not pleased, as he was a very religious, judgmental man), but after a medical issue, a tentative step toward a relationship is taken, but his folks go to the Holy Land on vacation, send Grant a post card, and are not mentioned any further. Grant and Cam become a couple and are very happy together, but the book ends without Cam even being mentioned as Grant experiences a life changing opportunity. Those issues troubled me a bit, but I have discovered there is a sequel to Frame of Reference called Frame of Reference 2: The Dark Side of Stardom. I’ve not read it yet, but my hope is at least some of these plots are resolved once and for all.
All in all, I highly recommend this book. There is a lot to absorb, but it’s written smoothly. Christopher Stone’s style is simple, but detailed. It was very easy to see what is going on. It played like a movie in my head, and it was all unique and fascinating. Even though I was unsure of the opposites attract theme, it wound up being perfect for this week.