Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 7 hours, 39 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
When irresistible force meets immovable object, either one of them has to give way or both of them will break. For Dustin, (the immovable object), it begins as any other day. Do the thousand and one things his boss, talk show host Ari, asks him to do — make him breakfast, get his clothes ready, get his ride ready, order flowers for last night’s fuck, prepare Ari for the day’s show (and that’s just the morning) — and go home to recover. Between today’s surprise guest, one who gets on Ari’s last nerve, and news that the show’s ratings are going down, Dustin knew it was going to be long day. He didn’t know it was going to be his last.
Ari doesn’t lose; he smiles and he charms. With his past as an investigative journalist, Ari can be quite the irresistible force when it comes to getting guests to either open up or back down. But when today’s guest, Jesse, espouses the foolishness of marriage, and how the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t need gay marriage, Ari loses his cool. And it’s then that Jesse pounces. If Ari does believe in the importance and sanctity of marriage for gay men and women … is he looking to get married, Mr. New-Day/New-Lover?
Hoisted on his own petard, Ari looks at the one person who’s always gotten him out of trouble: Dustin. Who, he announces — live and on air — is his fiance. His, ah, secret fiance! For Dustin, who values his privacy, this is a nightmare. Especially since he knows he has to go along with this cruel joke or cost Ari his job. In order to salvage something, Dustin offers up an idea to the producers: a new reality show based around Ari (and Dustin’s) wedding.
It’s genius. It’s rating’s gold. And Dustin has no idea how he’s going to get through this without strangling Ari.
Dustin was a rather well-known child star and a model whose parents used emotional and financial abuse to keep him docile. With help, Dustin was able to declare emancipation from them and untangle them from his life, but the entire affair — that and the sleazy ex boyfriend who wanted to make and sell a sex tape of Dustin— has left him with self-esteem issues, trust issues, and a phobia of being in front of the camera. Even a crowd makes him nervous. Because one asshole director mocked his neck, Dustin has taken to wearing scarves to cover them up, which leads to a surprisingly sweet and sensual moment as Ari asks him to take the scarf off for him.
Dustin may be a brilliant PA, but for so much of his life he was nothing more than a body, a tool to be used by other people for their own gain. Ari, handsome, powerful, rich, and famous in his own right, needs nothing from Dustin (well, in theory; he has no idea how to get his own laundry done, or how to order his own flowers … ) and more than that, Dustin knows everything about him. They’ve been hand in pocket for over three years, and when Ari looks at him — at him — Dustin realizes that he’s more than a little bit in love.
Ari has had Dustin at his side for so long he’s almost forgotten what it’s like to not have him, so when Dustin comes up with a plan to save his ass, Ari takes it in stride as a given. But when Dustin informs him he can’t be his PA — the human resources nightmare of Ari dating his PA? — he’s in shock. The new guy, whatever his name is, is nowhere as good. Never mind the kid’s been his assistant for less than a week, Ari refuses to learn his name until it occurs to him (okay, until Dustin tells him) that he’s more than a bit of an asshole. Ari has to come to terms with who he’s become over the years, sitting on his talk show with no one to say boo to him. Everyone in his life either works for him, is a guest there to be on his show, or a one-night stand who wants to fuck someone famous. But is that all Ari is? Some polished questions, some performative smiles, and perfunctory moves? Is he so empty and hollow? Without Dustin to poke at him, chastise him, and challenge him, Ari finds himself not entirely liking the person in the mirror.
It’s nice to see Ari not so much change as start putting effort into other people, paying attention to them rather than expecting them to dance on him. It’s also nice to see Dustin go from hiding to slowly, bit by bit, allowing himself to not be invisible. There are good moments in this book — a TERF is firmly put in her place, bisexual and enby contestants are introduced for the reality show — and when there’s banter, it’s sharp and crisp and well written.
I think a large part my enjoyment of this audiobook is due to Greg Boudreaux, the narrator. He manages to not only clearly showcase both characters with strong voices and delivery, but side characters, as well. The jokes all land, the sarcasm oozes off the page, and even the soft moments of heartbreak, the drunken slurring, the shouting and angry sniping are all handled so well. If you’re interested in this book — and I hope you are — I highly recommend the audiobook. It’s only 7 and a half hours long, and well worth the listen.