Jackson Young was the celebrity at the top. Being a celebrity was all he ever knew and he was part of the machine that made him famous. After a night of partying, Jackson woke up to his girlfriend murdered and he was arrested for the crime that he did not commit. Spending six months in jail plummeted Jackson even further and, when he’s released, it’s only because there is insufficient evidence against him. Jackson now has no one and nothing as everyone has turned on him. His so-called friends don’t want anything to do with him, his parents won’t let him stay with them, and Jackson is out of money. The only thing left to do is to convince rookie journalist, Fletcher, to write Jackson’s biography. But Fletcher doesn’t like Jackson too much, as was evident from a scathing review Fletcher once wrote.
Fletcher came to London from a farm in Ireland to make a name for himself as a writer. He then fell into a relationship with Heston, a man almost twice his age, and Fletcher is still trying to convince himself he could love Heston, but the man doesn’t respect what Fletcher wants from a relationship. Approached by the last man he thought would want to hire him, Fletcher starts to unravel the mystery that is Jackson Young. The men have no business falling for each other, as they are not even sure they can trust one another. But Jackson has lots of secrets and there are a number of people that will do anything to keep him quiet.
There were so many things I liked about Fade to Blank and it was one of those books that hit a lot of high notes for me. The book opens with Jackson in prison for a murder he did not commit. Jackson was the celebrity that everybody knew and rarely a day went by where he wasn’t in the gossip pages. His parents pushed him into the career and he was part of a management team where every move was calculated. He made everyone a lot of money, but has nothing left himself and now no one wants to talk to him and everyone thinks he is guilty. Jackson knows he needs to prove his innocence, and he needs to get the media back on his side to do that.
Fletcher once wrote a poison-filled review trashing Jackson’s stage performance and the men had a fateful meeting right before Jackson was arrested. Fletcher wants to do more than write gossip, but he’s really not sure about trusting Jackson. Fletcher lives with his older boyfriend, Heston, and Fletcher knows he could never afford to live in London without Heston. Their relationship is problematic as Heston was never monogamous and, while he said he would try for Fletcher, that is not going at all like Fletcher wanted it to and Fletcher really feels trapped.
This book was character driven, as we get a great sense of both Fletcher and Jackson and even a bit of Heston, and it was also plot driven, with the murder and a look into the celebrity machine that Jackson had no way out of. The relationship here is a slow burn for many reasons as the men are hesitant to like each other, let alone trust each other. The author kept the tension at the perfect level most of the way through as the race is on to try and prove Jackson’s innocence, to unravel the depths of deception all around them, and for the men to be able to start to trust each other. I knew this book started a trilogy, but I was not aware that it would end on a cliffhanger, as there is much more to uncover and much more to come for Fletcher and Jackson. The chemistry between the men is intense and, at this point, they have no choice but to stay together. The book is set in 1999, and except for one reference to Y2K, it didn’t really feel so much like 1999 and I did wonder at the choice to set it in that time.
I loved the feel of the atmosphere the words created in this book and I am truly looking forward to the next part of the story. If you are looking for a slow burn between two men who don’t particularly like each other to start, well-placed side characters, with some hurt/comfort in a suspense-filled atmosphere, definitely pick up Fade to Blank.