Tag O’Rourke is no stranger to hard work, serving as a barista, a barman, a laborer, and any other odd job that pays, just as long as it keeps him afloat as he chases his dream of becoming an actor. Jay Warren, on the other hand, has had opportunities galore thanks to having theater royalty for a mother and being the much-sought-after star of TV’s hottest vampire drama. These two first meet at an industry event and the sparks fly almost instantly–half from mutual attraction and half from blindly believing the worst of the upper-class/lower-class stereotypes each of them represent. Be that as it may, Tag and Jay still stumble their way into an amazing night of passion together. Too bad their steamy hook up ends unpleasantly when they just can’t let go of their preconceived notions of a starving actor and a nepo baby.
All that gets thrust aside, however, when Tag and Jay are cast as the dual leads in a new, highly anticipated two-man play. Despite girding their loins in preparation for spending weeks in each other’s pockets during rehearsals, Jay and Tag soon learn how wrong they were about each other. Jay is more than a spoiled rich kid, and Tag proves he’s not willing to step on others to advance his career. As rehearsals continue, Jay and Tag build an amazingly intimate working relationship. That closeness ends up extending to their personal and eventually physical relationships, as well. Yet neither man is ready for anything beyond casual and comfortable. Too bad their hearts don’t get the message. As they struggle to keep their feelings under wraps, the past begins to creep up on Jay and it risks ruining everything he and Tag have worked so hard to build professionally, while Tag’s reaction could spell the end for the most fulfilling personal relationship either man has had.
Best Supporting Actor is the third book in the Creative Types series by authors Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm. Like the first two books (Total Creative Control and Home Grown Talent), Best Supporting Actor takes place in England and, as far as I can tell, unfolds concurrently with events in the other two books. Even though the setting and themes are closely linked with the first two books in the series, this installment would be very readable as a standalone (even with Mason from Home Grown Talent making a big cameo at the start).
Personally, I loved this gentle take on an enemies-to-lovers/opposites-attract story. Jay and Tag embody the rich kid/poor kid dynamic so well, while thoroughly demonstrating appearances are not always what they seem. Our authors do an amazing job creating scenes and situations where it’s easy for Tag and Jay to have their myopic views of each other reinforced. Tag is ever aware of Jay being a nepo baby; Jay is oblivious to Tag’s struggle, even as he takes action to directly confront some aspect of it (like buying dinner when Tag’s been living off of office snacks at the theater). Even so, with the alternating narrative, the reader knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that these stereotypes for our two main characters are absolutely not true.
The dynamic between Jay and Tag is also wonderfully consistent. In addition to the wealth gap, their interactions mimic a roller coaster with alternating ups and downs. The highs are high; the lows are low. We see this dynamic play out in big and small ways throughout the story. For me, that commitment to reinforcing these swings was delightful. For example, Jay and Tag first meet face-to-face at a Halloween party hosted by Jay’s TV station. This is where they engage in a little one-upmanship against each other with the help of a friend, Mason. Basically, Jay and Tag compete against each other for social media likes as they fake-date Mason. From the start, these two are low-key fighting with each other. At the height of their bickering at this party, they decide to see if there truly is a fine line between love and hate and choose to test that theory by engaging in a little casual sex. This opens the door to a high where each man senses the potential for something much more satisfying than a single night. Before the night is over, however, their first impressions of the other come roaring back as they leave with harsh words about being an entitled diva and fame fucker respectively.
With that up-and-down dynamic so clearly established, it was a real pleasure to read the journey they go on as the play rehearsals start. The forced proximity of living and working in a small country town makes them realize that their first impressions were not entirely accurate. At the same time, they come to understand each of them is a truly gifted actor. Inevitably, personal details come to light and help reveal where their differences come from. With that understanding comes a deeper personal connection to bring them closer together. At this point, they make a serious stab at a physical relationship while promising not to get their hearts involved but…well, the best laid plans and all.
In addition to wonderful characters portrayed so beautifully on the page, the pacing of the action was equally superb. The alternating narratives gave each character ample time to develop their voice and for the reader to understand who they are. The story also follows a very comfortable path of enemies to lovers. At the same time, events unfurl in ways that prioritize the characters’ journey, so I never felt like Jay and Tag’s feelings were just conveniently slotted into the appropriate developments of bringing a play to stage. For example, opening night of the big play is not the big finale/resolution for Jay and Tag’s romance.
My only quibble is that I didn’t understand how these two tipped over from a night of trading barbs at that industry event to hooking up. I wish I had a better understanding of how that switch was flipped. The scene is pivotal, in some ways, as it establishes the mercurial nature of Jay and Tag’s connection at the start. And yet, I didn’t feel like the meaning of the whole book hinged on that scene. Still, every now and again it was weird to see them fighting thinking about what a mistake that one night had been and I would pause and wonder how they got that one night in the first place.
If you liked the first two books in the series, if you enjoy theater, or if you enjoy richly developed characters falling deeply in love with each other without even realizing it, I think you would love this story. Ten out of ten, would absolutely recommend!