Title: Summer Stock
Author: Vanessa North
Artist: L.C. Chase
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release date: 5/15/2017
Rating: 4.25 stars
Warnings: Description of domestic abuse (past), recreational drug use (past), brief mention of biphobia
Tabloid scandals have driven TV star Ryan Hertzog to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where he’s hiding out doing summer stock at his cousin’s seaside theater. When a hookup with local handyman Trey Donovan results in Ryan being photographed butt naked, he vows to keep his pants on and his hands off Trey. How was he supposed to know Trey would turn out to be the summer stock set builder? Trey isn’t looking for a relationship; he’s still recovering from the emotional fallout of an abusive marriage. But Ryan’s laughter draws him in again and again, and he’s not about to say no to fooling around. As the summer heats up, the paparazzi catch Ryan in increasingly compromising situations. Ryan might be too much drama for a summer fling—and Trey might be just an intermission from Ryan’s Hollywood life. But if they take their cues from Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well.
This was my first time reading an author’s work *after* becoming acquainted with them on social media, and I’m pleased to say it was a good experience. Ms. North infuses a relatively simple plot with an appealing mix of diverse characters who no doubt have some issues – but they’re working through them together.
Although the blurb focuses more on Ryan, it was the understated strength of Trey, a Carolina transplant, that drew me into the early stages of the book. At first, he seems like a personification of the phrase “speak softly and carry a big stick,” (where the stick is a freaking gigantic dog); later, as he begins to flourish from a combination of professional success and Ryan’s attention, Trey is established as a smart, hard-working guy who is loyal to his friends and trying to recover himself in the wake of a disastrous divorce.
In direct contrast to Trey’s gentility, Ryan – known to Hollywood as the slutty party boy Bryan Hart – comes home to Bankers’ Shoals a bit like a firework with a faulty fuse; it’s pretty, and the novelty is interesting for a second, but the trick just doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. Ryan struggles to adjust to the change of pace his temporary relocation brings about. He doesn’t understand the dynamics of his summer peers at the theater or the weird aggression he gets from his erstwhile boss, Mason. With his best friend in rehab back in California and therefore unreachable, Ryan quickly realizes how isolated he now is in the town where he grew up.
Enter Trey (duh). He’s dazzled by Ryan’s laugh and energy, and Ryan soaks up Trey’s wit and steadfastness with a neediness that reads as charming, not icky. They become friends-who-occasionally-kiss and it’s just…great. Honestly, I really liked their relationship. The way it progressed and the way those around them reacted to its various developments seemed natural and real. Trey and Ryan both make mistakes, of course, but Ms. North’s competent and responsible writing style results in a satisfying overall story that I am happy to recommend to any/everyone.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and truthful review.