Author: Tara Lain
Narrator: KC Kelly
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: DSP
Received from Publisher
Blurb: A Love in Laguna Novel
How can you be twenty-five and not know you’re gay? Billy Ballew runs from that question. A high school dropout, barely able to read until he taught himself, Billy’s life is driven by his need to help support his parents as a construction worker, put his sisters through college, coach his Little League team, and not think about being a three-time loser in the engagement department. Being terrified of taking tests keeps Billy from getting the contractor’s license he so desires, and fear of his mother’s judgment blinds Billy to what could make him truly happy.
Then, in preparation for his sister’s big wedding, Billy meets Shaz—Chase Phillips—a rising-star celebrity stylist who defines the word gay. To Shaz, Billy embodies everything he’s ever wanted—stalwart, honest, brave—but even if Billy turns out to be gay, he could never endure the censure he’d get for being with a queen like Shaz. How can two men with so little in common find a way to be together? Can the Stylist of the Year end up with the Knight of Ocean Avenue?
Review: The engaging main characters of Billy and Shaz sure burned bright in this sweet, fun, sexy story of unlikely love. A marvelous performance by narrator KC Kelly brought them to life beautifully, with deft conviction. I had not read this book before listening to it, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the story play out.
Meet Billy, the unassuming, self -professed non risk taker. He is well liked by everyone, coaches a kids ball team, works construction, basically keeps his nose down while living the life he feels is “expected” of him by his “traditional” family and co- workers. Apparently the ladies like him well enough too, he’s been engaged more than once, and called it off every time, yet has never seemed willing to analyze the whys of this behavior. I warmed to Billy immediately as well. He’s a handsome hunk of a guy, who is utterly uncaring about his looks. With all this going on, he doesn’t come across as Mr. Perfect, or too good to be true. He is simply Billy. He has foibles, he has dreams, he has secrets… perhaps even ones he keeps from himself. When a wedding necessitates Billy dress in something other than jeans and a T-shirt, he finds himself caught in the whirlwind that is Shaz.
Shaz, to put it mildly, is out and proud. With long red hair flying, the flamboyant stylist/designer takes to the challenge of spiffing Billy up like a fish to water. He can’t help but be attracted to him as well, and getting his flirt on is akin to breathing. Experiencing the two of them become friends, then more, was a treat. Shaz was patient, understanding, and sweet. He also had no problem taking the reins when Billy needed some convincing and acceptance of his own sexuality. I applaud the author’s honest portrayal of Shaz: unapologetically, and flamingly obviously gay, but light years away from coming across as a caricature. Nailed it.
Billy might seem like the obvious slow on the uptake character here, however the fact that both men were doing a fair amount of “settling” in their lives- were perhaps buying into their own societally “expected” stereotypes – was a clever, well- crafted element I really appreciated. There are several secondary characters in this story that shine. Billy and Shaz complemented one another perfectly, and ultimately were stronger together than they had been apart.
At times I was derailed by some of the author’s descriptives, especially during the sex scenes, and some of Shaz’s remarks to Billy’s family – even though plausible for his character’s background – seemed a bit over the top. That being said, this story overall features a whole feel good, mostly low anxiety scenario which was easy to run with. A well written, feel good story, featuring wonderful characters which left me grinning.