Author: Cat Grant
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Rating: 4.00 of 5 Stars
All three books in Cat Grant’s EPIC Award-winning series, available together for the first time in this special edition boxed set. Set in the glittery world of Manhattan nightlife, the men who work at the Icon bar share friendships, family, laughter and heartache on their way to happy endings.
The First Real Thing
Cameron is the best—and most sought-after—escort in New York. He has only rule: never let anyone in. But when he picks up ad man Trevor Barclay in a hotel bar, Trev’s shy smile and soft green eyes have Cameron forgetting all the rules. Their steamy encounters leave Cameron shaken, breathless – and falling in love for the first time in his life. But how can he tell Trevor the first man he’s been with in sixteen years sells himself for a living?
Diva Michelle is the hottest drag act in the Manhattan bar scene. But behind the diva is Mike, a lonely man nursing a crush on the Icon’s hot new employee. Ryan’s not just another pretty face – the skittish, fearful young man’s holding back secrets. He may find comfort in Mike’s bed, but he’s not sure if he can trust Mike with the pain of his past.
A Fool for You
Brian Barclay is trying to make it in the New York music scene, but he doesn’t count on his boyfriend Kit stealing all the songs they wrote together. Kicked out of his own band, Brian has no choice but to ask his estranged father Trevor and his partner Cameron for help. Brian and Cameron quickly clash, and when tensions at home escalate, Brian finds himself leaning on sexy blues guitarist Chase Aubrey. Chase and Brian make beautiful music onstage and off, but when Chase’s past threatens their newfound happiness, Brian fears he’s about to be played for a fool yet again.
Originally published as single titles by Ellora’s Cave
The First Real Thing—Icon Men #1—5 stars
Mistakes happen to the best of us. That’s how Cameron, professional male escort, happens to pick up Trevor instead of his intended client. When he discovers the mix-up, it’s already too late. Cameron has done what he’s vowed to never let happen: he’s fallen for another man. But how will Trevor react when he learns what Cam does for a living? Drawn deeper and deeper intp the torrent of lies and misunderstandings, Cam tumbles headlong into disaster.
This book is written in form of Cam’s blog, so Cam becomes the 1st person narrator. His voice is witty, bitchy at times, laced with a refreshingly acrid humor, and honest to the point of painfulness despite the way he keeps pretending with Trev. Cam’s personality and story are perfectly believable, although the client/ date mix up in the beginning comes across a little clichéd. Yet, Cam’s voice makes it still worth wile, and afterwards – it’s just great. The way the author makes the sex scenes an integral part of character development and plot forwarding is gratifying.
Everything else, I’d totally buy, too, from Trev’s lifelong hiding and explosive openness after his coming-out, first to himself and then to his family to Cam’s fear of rejection and his desperation when he discovers he can’t simply stop doing what he does. The supportive cast was equally fine, particularly Mike the Drag Queen and Trev’s son Brian, the sour, nosey teenager.
A fine, character – driven story with a dry, no-nonsense narrator’s voice and some heartwarming moments of angst, heartache and sweet emotion. Highly recommended.
Appearing Nightly—Icon Men #2—3.5 stars
Drag Queen, singer and performer extraordinaire Michelle has been the star of the Icon Bar for more than five years. Mike, the man under the make-up and wig, jumped at the chance to own his performing venue with the help of his friend Cameron, a former male escort. But things didn’t look overly rosy lately; between the current recession and some mildly catastrophic evenings, the Icon seems faced with its ruin.
The difficult financial situation puts a strain on Mike and Cameron’s friendship. And if that weren’t enough, there’s Ryan, the Icon’s only employee—a sweet young man with a penchant for getting himself into trouble—who jumps and runs at the smallest, most innocent flirtations on Mike’s part.
Only when Ryan hits rock bottom after being evicted from his apartment in the middle of winter and suddenly has to rely on Mike’s help, the two form a tentative connection that soon turns into more.
And once that happens, all bets are off.
This book is written in alternating 1st (Mike’s) and 3rd (Ryan’s) POV, a narrative style that, while allowing deep insight into Mike’s person, keeps Ryan at a distant arm’s length. I’m not sure if this was the reason, but I just couldn’t connect with the two main characters. I loved Mike in The One Real Thing, but being inside his head wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped for. Ryan I didn’t warm to at all, despite the tragic price he had to pay for the one little mistake we saw him making in the first book. Thus the connection between them seemed elusive to me.
Taken by itself, this was still a well-written story with a hefty dose of angst and a satisfying happy end. It just paled some in comparison to the other two.
Recommended as part of the trilogy.
A Fool For You—Icon Men #3— 4 stars
Brian, Trevor from book one’s son, is a talented musician with a major handicap: he’s dyslexic, especially when it comes to musical scores. So his deceitful boyfriend Kit has an easy job of stealing the songs they wrote together. Betrayed, homeless and facing criminal prosecution for assault after he got into a fistfight with Kit, Brian has no option left but–however reluctantly–turning to his father for help.
In Brian’s view, Trevor chose Cam over his own son. And even though both Trevor and Cam go out of their way to help him, Brian resents them both, still bearing a grudge against them. Along comes Chase, a musician Brian admires, a man he’s attracted to and the friend he so desperately needs. No wonder he falls head over heels for Chase, and the feeling seems mutual. Being in love helps Brian gain a different perspective on his father and Cam’s relationship, which in turn helps him pull his head out of his ass and become reconciled with the couple.
But Chase harbors secrets of his own. When Brian gets at the truth, the repeated feeling of betrayal drives him away. Will two conspiring dads and a couple of determined fairy godfathers be enough to fix the rift between Brian and Chase?
This book is written in 3rd person POV, almost entirely from Brian’s perspective. Brian is one of those characters which I normally can’t stand at all—a supposedly adult man of almost twenty-one years with all the self-centered, egoistical entitlement of a teenager. Good thing he came to his senses thanks to Chase and turned into a reasonable human being eventually. And good thing that happened rather early in the story.
Most of the conflict in this book stemmed from Brian’s problems with Kit and with his father; once that was solved, the focus of the story shifted to the burgeoning relationship between Brian and Chase. Sweet, emotional and hot, those two made a beautiful couple until—well, until Chase’s past came back to haunt him. I found the balance between sweetness and angst a bit off here, although I greatly enjoyed watching Chase and Brian grow, together and toward each other. But all in all, I really liked this story. A bit coming-of-age, a bit hurt-comfort, this was a very pleasant read that I can warmly recommend.
Overall, these three stories, centered around the eponymic Icon Bar, make an almost seamless whole despite the different subject matters, main characters and narrative styles. I found it a good idea to bundle them all together, and even though I liked one part less than the other two, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on it. So a definite recommend for all three stories.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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