shipped coverRating: 3.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Mackenzie Jones is a beautiful, Oscar-winning actor, brilliant and talented. Mackenzie is playing one of two male love interests for the latest teenager girl with power show. Kit is playing the other; light to Mackenzie’s character’s dark. At the table reading, Kit and Mackenzie had hit it off and planned to add a bit of, ah, subtext to their roles, playing on the idea that their characters had had a tumultuous love affair. It’s a great idea and Kit’s all for it. The only problem is he can’t quite tell where his character ends and he begins, because it’s not just his character drawn to the fire in Mackenzie’s blue eyes, not just the character who wants to know what those lips taste like. It’s a little alarming for Kit to realize that he may not be as straight as he thought he was, but it’s all playing well to the cameras. In fact, so well that the studio decides to not only pick up the show for a second season, but to focus on the two lovebirds, going so far as to encourage Kit and Mackenzie to set up a fake relationship off camera.

Being in constant contact with Mackenzie, the bitingly cold misanthrope, will either cure Kit of his infatuation or end up breaking his heart. Because there’s more to Mackenzie than a diamond hard shell, and that vulnerable, fragile, and lonely man might just be worth falling in love with.

Primarily told in first person point of view, the entitlement, wounded pride, and insecurity of Kit’s ego and self esteem all ooze through the page. For a good part of the book, he doesn’t even seem to see Mackenzie as a person, but a thing — something to lust after, something to pity, a stepping stone to advance his career, a victim to save. It also makes Kit a very unreliable narrator, as he assumes things about Mackenzie constantly He’s also a jerk, making cruel and joking comments only to be shocked when they’re taken at face value, when people respond to what he said, rather than what he meant. Even so, while Kit’s as clumsy and oblivious as the proverbial bull in a china shop, Kit isn’t an asshole. He isn’t even a bad guy. He’s just very much involved with himself, his career, and his fame, and struggling with the idea that he’s attracted to another man. I will admit, there was a long stretch of the early book in which I did not like Kit as a person (as a character, he’s very well written), but once he started seeing Mackenzie as a person, once he started seeing the repercussions of his thoughtless actions and starts trying to make up for them, to be a friend rather than a fan, his relationship with Mackenzie took a turn into something real. It was at this point I started really liking Kit:

[Mackenzie] nods and I reluctantly release his chin. I’d love to kiss him, but I don’t want to take advantage. He is clearly all kinds of vulnerable right now.

The story takes place over two seasons of the show, but time isn’t really a character in this book, so the moments where Kit calms down and matures aren’t readily on page. However, he does grow, and his behavior towards Kit becomes more respectful, more supportive and more present in his life.

Mackenzie’s story shows up eventually, though he mostly frets. Frets about displeasing his mother, about risking his heart, about getting hurt. Mackenzie’s mother is his manager and his financial advisor, treating him like a workhorse and a golden goose all in one. Mackenzie’s already won an Oscar, but she’s still pushing him to do more, work harder, be better. She also slut shames him, holding both his sexuality and his childhood sexual assaults against him even as she whores him out for more roles. It’s heavily implied that she’s been doing this since he was a child. She also keeps sex tapes of him and married men in order to blackmail him into obedience. Mackenzie’s lack of agency and passivity is something forced upon him. He has been groomed and shaped to exist a particular way, to view himself and his sexuality a certain way, has learned to survive by being obedient and aloof, and it leaves him feeling fairly static and one note through much of the book but — as with Kit — that’s his character, and it’s a well written one.

I’m going to be honest, this is a slightly cold and chilly book — a little like Mackenzie himself — that glances briefly at some difficult topics, but never actually explores them; like the fan service Kit and Mackenzie are indulging in on set, the book simply offers the idea and lets the reader fill in the blanks themselves. It is never explicitly gone into what Mackenzie endured as a child star but, other than serving as a reason for Mackenzie’s reluctance to make friends or enter into an emotional relationship with someone he is physically attracted to, the focus isn’t on that part of the story. Likewise, the suggestion of fans and their entitlement to actors, their fantasies and shipping of real, living people who may not be (or want to be) anything like the characters they portray on screen is a light mention and then gone.

I enjoyed this story, but I think it may be hit or miss for some readers who expect either more romance and roses, or for readers who want a more voyeuristic look into Mackenzie’s thoughts and childhood trauma. Taking it as what it is, a romance between two people who fit one another — Kit’s need to be a hero and Mackenzie’s desires to feel and be worthy of being loved — it’s worth the read.

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