Author: Allison Cassatta
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 2.5 stars
Type: Standalone Novel
Received from Publisher
Blurb: When Hollywood comes a-knockin’, a young, small-town Mississippi photographer named Sawyer Taylor packs his bags and heads to the West Coast. He’s been hired to photograph for a romantic comedy in San Francisco and looks at the opportunity as a chance to rebuild and reclaim his life. But a quick, drunken handjob behind a bar in the Castro might prove a horrible mistake.
Film director Miles Eisenberg isn’t a man who wants to commit. He has a daughter who means the world to him at home, and he worries over how his decisions might affect her. He comes up with a million good reasons not to give Sawyer a second look, but sometimes the heart is determined to love, and the brain can’t convince it otherwise. His affair with Sawyer becomes a whirlwind romance worthy of the silver screen, but life doesn’t always imitate art, and imperfect heroes don’t always get their happy endings.
Warning! This review contains spoilers!
Review: This story presented as having many ingredients I look for in a potential read. Small town guy meets up with a Hollywood hot shot during filming of a movie in the vibrant city of San Francisco. I started out liking Sawyer Taylor quite a bit, and looked forward to traveling along on his adventures as he left his lifelong home in Mississippi to take on the position of set photographer on Miles Eisenberg’s new film. Would worldly Miles change his free- wheeling ways after falling for the handsome southern man? Unfortunately as I read, I became disenchanted.
**This review contains spoilers.
Miles is a Hollywood producer, indeed he is a player behind the scenes in more ways than one. Ever since the death of his daughter Zoe’s mother during childbirth he has been fiercely dedicated to Zoe. She was his everything. Early on it is established, quite heavily, that Zoe is a perfect princess in the eyes of Miles. I frankly thought this point was pressed home in excess of what was necessary to make the point of Miles’ state of mind – and heart – during the course of the story. In his personal life, hook ups are fine, but no way is Miles letting his heart out to play with any of the men he takes to his bed. He had loved Zoe’s mother and did not wish to chance such heartbreak again.
Sawyer was happy, he thought his future was set until Elijah, his boyfriend of 8 years, decided to call it quits four months previously. A spread of Sawyer’s photographs had been featured in a magazine that had captured the eye and interest of Miles, who then asked him to be set photographer on his new film. This all seemed like perfect timing for the suddenly single Sawyer – who had never left the south – to expand his horizons. Through the course of the story Sawyer came to realize a lot of disconcerting facts about Elijah. He wonders how he hadn’t noticed them while he was with him. For eight years. So did I. Off he went to San Francisco.
A small inn near the city was to be home base for Sawyer, Miles and some others working on the movie for the next three months. Sawyer was immediately charmed by the owner of the inn, Martin. He wasted no time heading into the city to sightsee, with plenty of tips and suggestions from Martin. His final stop of the evening was in the Castro. He was pleasantly drunk and working up the nerve for a potential hook up – something he had promised himself and his best friend he would do – when a handsome stranger appeared, and before long Sawyer was in the back of said stranger’s town car receiving an earth shattering hand job. This foray was quite hot, and I was looking forward to how things would play out once Sawyer found out who this stranger was.
Both Miles and Sawyer were honestly attracted to each other beyond their initial clandestine moment, and it was going to be interesting indeed to see how their relationship would unfold. But, Miles “needed” to keep away from Sawyer. Yet, he could not – he really see-sawed back and forth with his “no strings” convictions and over the following days his behavior sent mixed messages to Sawyer. Sawyer got angry. Sawyer pouted. Sawyer basically rolled over and exhibited no resolve. At one point he stayed locked in his room at the inn brooding for an entire week – pretty immature behavior on his part. Sawyer had a job, and an assistant, as well as other people at the movie set who would have been wondering where he was. The only person aside from Miles who seemed to notice was Martin, who figured out what was going on between Sawyer and Miles and took pity on Sawyer. Meanwhile Miles fumed and told himself Sawyer would be better off without him while at the same time he was still craving the man. Eventually Miles relented to these cravings, and Sawyer found he was powerless to refuse.
For me, the behavior of both Miles and Sawyer seemed to drift in and out of character, based on how each man was initially presented in the story. There were several continuity errors in the writing. One that really struck me was this: Sawyer had revealed to Miles that he had discovered Elijah had been unfaithful to him for three years before they broke up. Elijah had been Sawyer’s first and only sexual partner and Sawyer had never bottomed. When Sawyer and Miles decided to have intercourse, Sawyer pushed for bareback: After all he said, “I’m clean, I’ve only been with one guy…ever.” Ah…what? Sawyer’s “one guy” had been with who knew how many other men. I had to page back and double check what I had read about Elijah fooling around for three years. Plus, it was also Sawyer’s virgin experience at receiving anal sex, and Miles had a long, recent history of hook ups. Generally I don’t fret about condom/no condom, however, given what we already knew in this story, I found this whole section jarring.
I liked Martin, the Innkeeper. He had known Miles for years and was hoping that he would get his head out of his rear and get together with Sawyer and allow himself to fall in love again. He worked to help smooth the way for it to happen. His background, and his stake in the success of such a relationship, was revealed at the end of story. Until then it was somewhat of a mystery as to why he didn’t just throw Miles out.
I got frustrated with the back and forth uncertainties, the “are we in a relationship or not” status between Sawyer and Miles. The men also had plenty of notice about getting back to regular life after the movie wrapped, and how to approach introducing Sawyer to Zoe, yet they floundered badly and I wanted to scream for Sawyer’s sake for Miles to buy a clue. There was also the tiny detail about Miles not being “out” in Hollywood, which became an obstacle as well. I’m sorry to say, at no point in the story did I warm up to Miles, but Sawyer did and I really hoped Sawyer was going to be happy with him.
Zoe’s on page role became practically non-existent after the first chapter, other than a walk on which served only to precipitate a misunderstanding between Miles and Sawyer. She also became directly important again in the epilogue. The story pretty much existed in the vacuum of Miles and Sawyer’s interactions. I found myself wanting to see them interact with the world they walked in every day. The movie set, the actors, the rest of the crew, the city of San Francisco – all were non-entities. The movie the men were working on was never even referred to by name. Sawyer, a handsome “new kid in town”, apparently never got hit on by anybody else on set. Lots of thoughts like that came to mind as I was reading.
The writing style, which features an intense focus on the building romance, but with lack of interesting sub plots and ambiance, didn’t work for me. Continuity issues and characters behaving in ways I construed as not plausible, took me out of the story.
The actual romance between Miles and Sawyer is quite lavish once Miles is able to unlock his heart. Even though I had major issues, other readers who love drama within a romance, watching a cynical character become pliant via good loving from the “right” man, and a very definite HEA, may definitely enjoy this story.