Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars
Narrator: Joseph Morgan
Length: 10 hours, 45 minutes
Once upon a time there was a man called Oren, who wrote a very good book. A book so good they wanted to turn it into a movie and Oren said yes. When the handsome prince wooed him, flattered him, made him fall in love — all for the price of a three-movie contract — Oren said yes. When he was asked to change his name, change who he was, Oren said yes. And then the prince turned into a frog, leaving Oren heartbroken and under obligation to write two more books and to let his ex-lover produce them into movies.
Oren, now Troy Steele, left the limelight and hid himself away from the world, where he would have remained if it hadn’t been for the mechanic from Georgia, named Joey. A young, rough around the edges mechanic with grease under his fingernails, an accent so thick you could spread it on toast, and bad taste in men. Joey thought he, too, was in love. Only his prince was named Riker, and Riker was an actor who not only broke Joey’s heart, he did it on tabloid television while Joey, back home in his small Georgia town, could only watch as his life was destroyed with a few careless words.
Troy, with the help of his assistant Erika, hatches a plan. It’s a perfect plan, a plan to get revenge on two terrible men and maybe find a happily ever after for the young man who reminds Troy of everything he lost. His home, his roots, his name … and maybe it isn’t too late to find a little happily ever after for himself.
This story is a fun homage to My Fair Lady with a little more romance, a lot more smut, and a dash of revenge. It’s as light as whipped cream and twice as sweet. Like Eliza, Joey has a distinctive accent and could use a little tidying up, but other than the gym and a haircut, he doesn’t need any help turning from farmboy to hero. Joey may be from a small town, but he’s not willing to sacrifice any part of himself or his self respect, even if it costs him his revenge. While Joey wants closure, he doesn’t want to hurt Riker, he doesn’t want to ruin him or destroy him. He just wants … well, an apology would be nice.
Troy let the world change him. He let them change his name, let a publicist tell the world what music he liked, what food, what books and entertainment, and said nothing about it. He’s let himself become a character in a book, but only now is he deciding to do a little re-writing, especially when he sits with Joey and realizes he liked who he was before. He can’t get Oren back, but being with Joey helps him find his center, helps him find his heart again.
Troy and Joey have a slow, sweet chemistry between them. It’s not fireworks and drama. Instead, it’s a slow, warm fondness like the sun on a summer’s day. They have endless conversations, they share thoughts and moments and feelings, and end up being friends. When Troy makes it clear he’s uncomfortable with the boss/employee relationship they have (Troy is paying Joey to be a bit of an assistant, a bit of a research subject while he writes his new book), Joey says fine, I’ll quit. Because Joey would rather be with Troy than anything else. The things Joey wants from Troy aren’t fancy dinners, it’s walks on the beach. Joey doesn’t want the fancy car — okay, he does, he really does, but … c’mon, it’s a really fancy car! — he wants to work on the old pickup truck with Troy.
As I mentioned before, there’s not a lot of depth to this book. There’s no lengthy wallowing in angst, there’s no rage or arguments. When Troy and Joey have their fight, as all couples do, they don’t mesh perfectly because where Joey uses words, Troy uses actions. But once they understand what the other person wants and needs, they both manage to make themselves understood. Even the confrontation between Joey and Riker at the end is … well, it’s sweet. It’s not violent or vicious. It’s just Joey standing up for himself, and it’s perfectly in character. This is a wonderful little hug of a book, and I really enjoyed it.
However, I enjoyed the story more than I enjoyed the narration. Joseph Morgan has a slow, deliberate delivery that didn’t click with me and I ended up increasing the speed. One problem with the audio version — not a comment on the narrator at all, just the format of the book — is that there is no indication of when a flashback begins, leaving me to think an early scene of Joey visiting a gay club took place in present time rather than in the past. Inner monologues were also hard to pick out of normal conversation until I got used to Morgan’s style. He did the accents very well and managed to make Erika’s acerbity and humor come through as easily as Joey’s confusion or Troy’s cool reserve. I just, personally, think that I would have enjoyed this more as an ebook than an audio book.