Every year, Kennedy and his circle of friends take a holiday cruise. This year, they are going to Southeast Asia, with stops in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bali. Kennedy always hires a handsome young man to come along as his … date. The young man is expected to be polite and friendly, with occasional displays of boyfriend-like affection. The men must be clean, handsome, and young. It’s strictly a business arrangement, since Kennedy isn’t interested in paying for sex, but he is interested in not letting his friends know he’s still getting over his ex, who, on occasion, comes along on the cruises.
Kieran is hardly the young man Kennedy is looking for. For one thing, he’s not blonde. For another, he’s almost 30 and certainly more articulate and (if he does say so himself) more intelligent than the young man he hears Kennedy interviewing in the coffee shop. Taking a chance, because he needs money and has a passport, Kieran introduces himself to Kennedy. After all, he has no job, has been recently dumped by his girlfriend, and living on his sister’s pity — and her couch — is getting old.
I’ve recently been on a fake boyfriend kick, and this is the first one that I think I really believed. The set-up isn’t whimsical or cliche; in fact, it’s so very fitting in with Kennedy’s character. Kennedy is not an impulsive man. He’s methodical, patient, driven, and ruthless. It makes perfect sense for him to put out an ad, to write up a contract, and to control every aspect of the fake boyfriend situation. He’s not looking for love, or even a lover. He’s looking for a distraction, something — someone — to keep his friends from feeling sorry for him. To keep Patrick from looking at him as a pathetic old man (even though he’s only 45) who can’t stop living in the past. And it’s not like he’s planning on keeping Kieran locked up in the room the whole time. Instead, he offers him money, encourages him to enjoy the vacation, to see the sights, and to enjoy himself, even if it’s not with Kennedy. Just so long as he’s there for dinners and social events.
Keiran enters into this arrangement with open eyes. He’s here for the money and for the fun and, in part, because he has a bit of a crush on Kieran the CEO, a man who took over his uncle’s business and turned into a thriving company. Kieran’s intellectual abilities and business acumen are what catch Kieran first, followed by his generosity, his kindness, and his sense of humor. He likes Kennedy’s family, he likes Kennedy’s friends, and more important, he likes the man himself. The two of them become friends long before they have their first kiss, and it’s part of what makes them work so well as a couple.
“So what’s dusk?”
“Officially, dusk is the transition from the darkest phase of twilight, just before night kicks in.”
“What is it about the human race that we have to categorise something as lovely and natural as sunset?” asked Kieran, still observing the horizon.
“Sunset. Twilight. What-the-fuck-ever.”
“Back before television and the Internet,” explained Kennedy, “people had a lot of time to kill. Man had to do something with all those spare hours. Apart from reading, writing and masturbation.”
The two of them talk, and not just about Kennedy’s ex or the fake boyfriend scheme. They talk about each other, about business, about anything and everything. And more than talking, they communicate. They fit each other like right hand and left, coming together easily and naturally. Kennedy has gotten so used to accepting people at face value — and being accepted, himself, at face value — that he’s stopped making any effort to see past the surface, to see his father or his ex or even himself as who they are, not who they were or who he simply expects them to be. But Kieran, coming into this with fresh eyes and a lack of any need to prove himself or earn anyone’s approval is able to help Kennedy see things in a different light.
The writing is so very good, especially in the conversations between Kennedy and Kieran, and even between Kennedy, Kieran, and the extended friend group. This is one of those warm, fuzzy stories where everyone gets what they deserve in the end, in the very best possible ways. It’s a story about relationships — both romantic and platonic — and very little drama or angst. If you need a pick-me-up with fair amounts of steam, humor, and compassion, give this book a try.