Jimmy Porter is a beloved and successful character actor (stage name Allan Porter) in London. He’s known for his short, tubby appearance and presumes he’s not an attractive man, compared to other, more sexy actors. Jimmy is approaching 60 and has had mishap after mishap in the romance department. He’s always chased after beautiful young men who have broken his generous heart. So, he’s given up on finding a true love.
Peter Clarke is Jimmy’s painter. He’s a friend of a friend and jovially painting Jimmy’s exterior window sashes while singing loudly and badly and Jimmy is woken out of a dead sleep. He shouts at Peter, who up and leaves in the middle of the job. Only later does Jimmy realize that Peter was working in the middle of the day and his rant was totally rude, so he tries to make amends. And Peter is amenable. And kinda sexy, if Jimmy was interested in falling for a man. Which, he is NOT. Not anymore. Jimmy has never had a fancy for a man near his own age, though, and Peter’s a couple years his senior. It’s a novel experience. Besides, Pete has a lady friend…at first. No need to get interested in something that could be unrequited.
Turns out Pete has had a failed marriage in his past and an attraction to men that he never allowed to develop. In his life experience, being an out-and-proud gay man was tantamount to death, and so his true inclinations were buried in his youth. But, being around Jimmy—who has now become a friend—is both confusing and liberating. He has a definite attraction to Jimmy and through very slow steps, Jimmy and Pete become more than friends. It’s scary for both of these men, as Jimmy is falling hard again and Pete’s in the closet. Another big change for Jimmy is that Pete is a successful man in his own right. He had a profitable home remodeling business that he sold after suffering a heart attack. He still has plenty to live on and doesn’t want charity from Jimmy—unlike Jimmy’s other gold-digging partners in the past.
This is a fun and sweet story. The construction of it was a little odd, for me, however. It reads almost like a journal, with Jimmy narrating his experiences and recounting his foibles directly to the reader. There is zero effort made to describe setting or attitude, without Jimmy directly speaking about it. So, it’s really thin on those sorts of story parts. We don’t get any subtext, though Jimmy does drop foreshadowing hints from time to time. I didn’t warm to this jarring style of prose at first, especially because I often struggled to figure out who was speaking, and to whom. This was particularly troublesome when more than two people were part of the scene. I think I would have been really frustrated, honestly, except that Jimmy is an extremely lovable narrator.
I don’t see enough romance for older generations, so Jimmy and Pete are a rare treat. They are feisty and grumpy and mad about one another—and scared to ruin it all or to come out and lose loved ones. Pete is cagey at first, but his happiness grows as he learns to love himself first. I liked that bunches. There are the usual plot conflicts, though they are happily resolved. The subtitle of the book mentions the little brown dog, Pete’s companion animal, Jerry. He’s a good pal to both Pete and Jimmy, and we get to see him be a part of their lives together—and connect Jimmy to Pete’s friends, in a way.
This is a happy ending story, so don’t fret the curveballs. For all the secret moments that Jimmy divulges to his audience, there aren’t much in the way of sexytimes. Just a lot of tenderness and some kissing, for the most part.