What’s the opposite of writer’s block? Whatever it is, Reese Kelsey has it. Ever since he was a young man, he’s shared his thoughts and life with a variety of characters ranging from heroes, victims, and, of late, a serial killer and the detective out to catch him. Reese’s only lifeline to reality is his publicist, Chad, who is something of a friend. He cleans up Reese’s messes, gets him to book signings and publicity stunts on time, and makes certain he’s clothed and fed and clean when he leaves his apartment.
That’s not to say Reese doesn’t have real friends. He does! William and Sammy are his best friends and fellow artists who understand the Reese’s muse is a demanding one, often inviting him to dinner with others of their artistic circle. It’s at one of Sammy’s dinners that Reese meets the hottest man in the world… who happens to be someone else’s boyfriend. In order to avoid doing anything more than looking, Reese retreats deep back into his latest book.
It’s Chad who drags him away from wrestling with killers and cops to attend a concert, using tickets given to him by his mother for his birthday. A birthday Reese missed, but that’s beside the point. At this concert, Reese meets the second hottest man in the world, Owen. Owen the cellist who just happens to need a ride. And fancy that, Reese has rented a car for the night.
Somewhere between one drive, a late night concert at a coffee shop, and a walk to Owen’s apartment, Reese finds himself falling head over, er, head in lust with the young man. A young man who doesn’t know who Reese Kelsey is (other than the man he’s kissing) and hasn’t even read one of his books! It’s a chance for Reese to be with someone interested in the man, not the author, and as one night leads to the next, Reese and Owen have to deal with the past, the present and prepare for the future.
This was a charming book with a charming couple and even charming side characters. I found myself enjoying it far more than I thought I would, and I found Reese and Owen to be really quite adorable together. Reese has Issues, with a capitol “I.” He’s obsessive about his work and prone to vanishing into his office for days at a time, caught up in his created worlds and spending more time with his characters than his lovers. He’s driven, prickly, and prone to drink, and has so far driven away every boyfriend before they’ve had a chance to leave him. The only ones who’ve stuck with him have been William and Sammy, who have their own lives, and Chad, who relies on Reese for his paycheck. His last boyfriend left him only a year ago, and he lost his mother not long after. Reese is a fragile man who has relied far too long on having other people take care of him. And yet… after a fight with Owen, Reese cleans his own apartment as an act of silent apology.
Owen gets him to look outside himself, to let someone in. When Chad comes to take care of Reese as is his habit — and to give Owen a once over — Owen firmly kicks him out of the apartment, and asks Reese to make certain Chad understands there’s a new man in Reese’s life: his new boyfriend, and he can take care of Reese on his own, thank you very much. Owen may be submissive in bed, but he’s no pushover. He’s determined and driven and has worked hard to gain a seat in the orchestra. He, too, has issues with a past lover, though his cheated on him, and seeing Chad take care of Reese hit a little too close to home. Asking Reese to stand up for him was both a sign of his insecurity and his trust, asking Reese to choose him over someone else.
What I like about this couple is that neither Reese nor Owen ask the other person to change for them, and while both of them settle into this new relationship, they don’t compromise. Owen doesn’t give up his dreams or his friendships even as he’s accepted into Reese’s artistic company, and Reese has a partner who understands that he needs privacy to get into his head space… and that sometimes that head space is deep and dark and overwhelming.
But the part of this book that I really enjoyed was the book within the book. Too Close For Comfort, Reese’s latest — though not his last — story is a dark and twisted police procedural that is written in a very different style than Creative Process. It’s a neat trick for an author to be able to do, to write their own work… and within that work have their own character write something stylistically and tonally different.
When I chose this book — based on its cover — I expected something light and maybe a bit cheesy, an opposites attract story. Looking at the cover, it seemed to hint at it: Light versus dark, standing versus sitting, one character mostly hidden by the other. I looked at two happy men and thought “this will be a candy-sweet story with a happily ever after.” Instead I found a charming story about two high-strung people with issues who managed to use their words, behaved like adults and had a happily ever after. Now I just hope Jodi Payne is kind enough to publish Reese’s books for us, because based on the snippets in this story, I’m really curious about what happens with Detective Harris and Detective Turner.