Author: L.A. Witt
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Rating: 3.5 stars
Buy Links: Riptide and Amazon
Type: Standalone Novel
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Hollywood is full of dirty secrets, but Carter refuses to be Levi’s.
Retired action star Levi Pritchard has made a quiet life for himself in the sleepy logging town of Bluewater Bay, Washington. But then Hollywood comes to film the wildly popular television series Wolf’s Landing, and Bluewater Bay isn’t so sleepy anymore. His retirement doesn’t stick, either, because he’s offered a part on the show—exactly the kind of complex role he’d always wanted, one that would prove him more than a glorified stuntman. The only catch? He has to stay in the closet—no matter how attractive he finds his co-star.
Carter Samuels is the critically-acclaimed male lead on Wolf’s Landing. And now, the man who inspired him to take up acting—and made him realize he’s gay—is joining the cast, and sparks fly between them instantly. But Carter is out and proud and determined to stay true to himself.
Remaining just friends is the only thing to do, as both the studio and Levi’s disapproving, dysfunctional family keep reminding them. Except their friendship deepens by the day, tempting them with what they can’t have but both desperately need.
Review: Starstruck is the first in a series of books set in the fictional Washington town of Bluewater Bay. Each book is written by a different author.
At thirty-eight, movie star Levi Pritchard is living a quiet life in Bluewater Bay having left the bright lights of Hollywood, tired of all the game playing that went on behind the scenes. That quiet is broken when Hollywood unexpectedly comes knocking on his door, tempting Levi out of retirement with a dream role in the highly successful TV series filmed right there in Bluewater Bay. Best known for playing the lead in the action blockbuster Chad Eastwick movies, the constant scrutiny of the media and demands of management and producers all became too much for Levi. Add to that the ever present fear that someone would discover his sexuality, thereby forcing Levi out of the closet to not only his fans and potential employers, but also to his hypocritically conservative and disapproving alcoholic parents. Based on an acclaimed series of books called Wolf’s Landing, the role would finally give Levi the chance to break away from being typecast and show he was capable of playing so much more than the stereotypical action hero he’d been relegated to. The downsides were having to deal with Finn, a typical bloodthirsty Hollywood producer, and the strict instructions to under no circumstances step out of that closet.
Out and proud, Carter Samuels has played a main role on Wolf’s Landing for the last two years. Levi Pritchard is the man who inspired Carter to take up acting himself. He’d had a crush on the handsome and talented movie star since forever, having seen all of Levi’s earlier movies. Catching a glimpse of him when Levi visits the set just serves to confirm the attraction. And the admiration is mutual. Levi has followed the younger man’s rising star and been captivated by both Carter’s gorgeous looks and his acting ability. When Levi decides to take the role and they meet, they find that they enjoy each other’s company and quickly become friends. A strong connection grows between them but being together would threaten Levi’s role in the series. It seems Levi must abandon either the chance at the role of a lifetime or the possibility of finding love with his perfect man.
This story never quite got there for me. I struggled at times to feel the chemistry between the MCs and neither of the two main sex scenes contributed to establishing their connection. Levi and Carter are fairly two dimensional and waffle all over the place in terms of their characterisation. I couldn’t even say that they fell out of character at times because I’m not really sure who their characters even were.
I did enjoy the story for the most part, but there were real pacing issues where it dragged at times and I started to get bored and tempted to skim. Along with that were quite a few little niggles and inconsistencies that stopped me from sinking into it. For more than half the book, Levi was identified as being a closeted gay man with nothing mentioned to make the reader think otherwise, then suddenly we are told that he’s actually bisexual but there was never any point in muddying the waters by bothering with the distinction because it was all too difficult to explain. Then it’s stated in the narrative again that he’s gay. Then bi again. With the backup explanation that it just confused people to say that, so, gay. It also would have been nice to have more going on story-wise, given the length of the book, and less re-hashing of what I had only just read about.
There were a couple of times where I was drawn in and finally shown a lot more of who the characters were. The scene where Levi realised what was important and what he stood to lose was both heartfelt and strong. The dance around each other leading up to their first kiss, that delicious anticipation, literally had me holding my breath. Most of the book consisted of ‘no, we can’t, but I want to, no, we’re friends, just friends, damn it’ and the constant repetition of this refrain just ended up becoming frustrating. A good third or more of the book was the characters pontificating in their own minds on how they couldn’t possibly be together. However, as much as I got frustrated that well into the book they were still prevaricating, the fact that it didn’t all suddenly become sunshine and roses after they finally did have sex was probably the most realistic and believable thing that happened in their whole relationship. Their reactions to the situation, and the heated discussion was the best sense I got of their individual characters, with Carter’s refusal to be Levi’s secret and Levi’s refusal to see any other view than the one he has held all those years; that he would lose both his career and his family if he were to ever come out.
Even though Starstruck didn’t completely work for me, there was enough interest for me to want to know more about Bluewater Bay and its inhabitants. I look forward to meeting more of them in future books in the series.