Trey Donovan is a survivor. He’s remade his life in the wake of his ex-husband’s near-lethal abuse and is happily doing handyman jobs in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. He has loving family, close friends, and panic attacks about entering his garage–his incarcerated ex’s former “man cave.”
Trey is also a bit lonely and is all too eager to bring home the sexy man he meets while hanging out at his sister’s bar. Ryan seemed so eager after the jalapeño margaritas, but in the cold light of day he rushes off so fast he literally leaves his pants–and gets caught in the buff by paparazzi. Because Ryan isn’t any ole Joe–he’s an actor who regularly makes the tabloids with his “girlfriend” Ali, a party girl now in rehab. Ali and Ryan aren’t a thing, but they pretend to be to keep Ryan’s bisexuality out of the news. They are besties and roomies, but Ali’s been dating a power producer for a long time and they would have gone public if Ali hadn’t gotten wasted, wrecked and rehabbed.
Ryan came back to tiny Banker’s Shoals to the only family he’s close with, his cousin Caro. Caro is a strong gal who owns a piece of a Shakespeare dinner theater in their tourist town. The theater’s been struggling, but Ryan’s attempts to raise publicity are all rebuffed by Caro–she doesn’t want to exploit Ryan while he’s vulnerable.
Okay, whew! I think those are almost all the relevant stakes for the book. There is a lot going on, and yet I never felt confused. Ryan and Trey develop a sweet attraction, but Ryan keeps everything on the down low, at first. It’s a giant closet snafu, or two, with these guys. I loved how Ryan continued to mature and consider others before his own needs. He’s not a bad guy, but he is short sighted and occasionally oblivious. Ferdinand, Trey’s giant dog, was such a great companion, and there’s a lot of humor that comes from his shenanigans. The plot is a bit heavy on shenanigans, half-truths, and misunderstandings, but no more than any other contemporary romance. The story is loosely built on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play Ryan is performing in, which has rumors and misdirection as part of the plot, and is subtlely mirrored in Summer Stock. Much of the misdirection and drama stem from Ryan’s chested status; it also includes all the nonsense Ali brings, too.
Trey wants a fair and loving relationship; he’s unsure if he deserves one, though. It was empowering to experience Trey’s therapy, and see his bravery for making fresh start after years of surviving. Expect some gags, some sweetness, and some truth to win the day in the end. I had feared the story with all its plot lines and the added twist on A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be silly, but it felt real and I really enjoyed it.