Closeted mechanic Joey Nichols' life is good. His boyfriend landed a major Hollywood role, and is well on the way to superstardom. Joey's bags are packed and soon he'll leave small town Georgia and join the man of his dreams in California, to live out, proud, and together. Days before his planned departure, his lover outs Joey during a televised interview and announces that they've broken up, leaving Joey to face the bigotry of the locals alone.
Bestselling author Troy Steele knows all about having life turned upside down by the media. Now a recluse, Troy shuns all the trappings that come with writing books made into blockbuster movies. He spends his time exacting revenge on a former flame via his novels and hiding out in rural South Carolina, watching celebrity gossip shows. Joey's fifteen minutes of fame bear an eerie similarity to the plot of Troy's latest work in progress. What if Joey could be transformed into everything the fickle ex wanted, as Troy is writing for his fictional hero, and secretly wishes for himself? Once polished, could a diamond-in-the-rough good ole boy confront his ex, then walk away, pride intact? These are Troy's questions, and he's counting on Joey for answers.
I had to read this one twice, once because it was just such a good time and once to be able to talk about it.
I am completely in love with the entire ensemble -- Joey, the small-town mechanic who gets taken for a ride and being a trusting soul who has to find out if he can do it twice, Troy for being the sort of plotter who gets carried away and has to find a way back. These two work together and at cross-purposes, and every time they get it right, whether it's getting into a workout routine together (Troy had planned to take notes on the torture) or when Joey finds a way to honorably get what he wants so badly, it's another 'aw' moment. And when someone screws it up, it's nail-biting time until things are made right.
The secondary characters are wonderfully well drawn too, one of Ms Winters' trademarks. Joey's family is staunch and loving even in the face of some uncomfortable truths and the grief other people give them, and a real hoot when they are pressing the point. (Big Joe and the moonshine, oh Lord!) And Erica -- omg, Troy's assistant is a little powerhouse, and I never, ever, ever want to cross her or anyone faintly like her. She pulls a lot of strings, even if she's not quite sure what they're attached to.
Even the villains of the piece, Joey's and Troy's untrustworthy ex's, have some charm, and it's a pleasure to see karma come home to roost. Joey, too, gets a piece of his own back in other quarters and without Troy's help, and it's a great piece of character growth.
After his actor lover, 'Riker', plays Joey for a fool and dumps him in the most awful way imaginable, Troy brings him on as an assistant, for research in a book and for Joey to get a chance to get even. There's a lot of history in Riker's direction, though, since he dumped Joey in a career enhancing move, for Ian, a Hollywood producer. He's also Troy's evil ex who obtained control of Troy's projects, changed them beyond recognition, and left him.
Books and screenplays were the only children he[Troy] ever hoped to have. Ian dressed them in skimpy clothing and stood them on a street corner.
Troy should be forgiven for seeing, about halfway through the story, that there is a bigger piece of 'even' to be gotten at the same time. Without stretching his hand one inch farther than he already has, Troy can get some of his own back against Ian, and if Joey thinks that's been Troy's motivation all along, he'll have to find out for himself how wrong that is.
Unfortunately for both men's sense of honor, this employee/employer relationship has some minefields, so getting the two through UST territory needs some time. The tabloid interest in all four men is a lot to cope with for any fledgling relationship -- Joey gets more spotlight than he ever had nightmares about. And when the final showdown happens, Joey is every bit the Hollywood shark he'd feared would eat him.
None of this sounds particularly funny, yet I found myself laughing aloud every few pages, when some delightful image or situation came along. I have pages of wonderful little quotes that wilt out of context, but they keep what could be a heavy dramatic piece lighthearted and yet pointed. It's kind of hard to narrow it down to 'best of' quotes, so just go read the whole danged thing for yourself, you'll be happier than the possum eating briers. 5 marbles