Author: Heidi Belleau, Sam Schooler
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase
Rating: 5.00 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 10/26/2015
Length: Long Novel (~ 100K+)
Genre: Gay Fiction, Historical, Romance
Brandon Ringer has a dead man’s face. His grandfather, silver-screen heartthrob James Ringer, died tragically at twenty-one, and Brandon looks exactly like him. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Brandon is unknown, unemployed, and up to his ears in bills after inheriting his grandparents’ Hollywood mansion. He refuses to sell it — it’s his last connection to his grandmother — so to raise the cash he needs, he joins a celebrity look-alike escort agency.
Percy Charles is chronically ill, isolated, and lonely. His only company is his meddlesome caregiver and his collection of James Ringer memorabilia. When he finds “Jim Ringer” on Hollywood Doubles’ website, he books an appointment, hoping to meet someone who shares his passion for his idol.
Brandon? Not that person.
But despite their differences, they connect, and Percy’s fanboy love for James shows Brandon a side of his grandfather he never knew. Soon they want time together off the clock, but Percy is losing his battle for independence, and Brandon feels trapped in James’s long shadow. Their struggle to love each other is the stuff of classic Hollywood. Too bad Brandon knows how those stories end.
This book knocked me on my ass – pardon my French – and I loved every second of it.
I have to start by giving props to both authors for the bracing bravada that carries Dead Ringer from page one. The characters’ actions and choices continually came off as right in a way that only confident writing ever does. Either Belleau and Schooler knew exactly where the story would go when they started, or they’re very good at faking it.
Actually, the concept of faking things (to varying degrees of success) is so central to Brandon’s and Percy’s lives before they meet that I literally sighed in relief when they began to realize they could be themselves together. From the outside, pairing a piss-and-vinegar hooker with nothing to lose…and a chronically ill academic with nobody to love…might seem a bit unfair, but Percy’s brain swiftly bests his body – thus calling Brandon out on being “all bark, no bite” – and it is in turns endearing and amusing.
Equally amusing and vividly written are the heroines I’ll call K and M, who (despite not meeting until the epilogue) keep our boys alive and sane enough, though sometimes barely, for their wildly thrashing ship to come to port eventually. My heart was warmed as well by an older male character introduced in the second half of the book. I honestly didn’t anticipate his turning up – but his presence added a beautiful family overlay to the many, many plot layers already in place before his arrival.
Speaking of sanity, I don’t want my enthusiasm for the quality of this work to obscure or dampen that its overall tone is fairly heavy. Brandon is working through a lot of s*** even before joining Hollywood Doubles, and Percy struggles with the most basic tasks under the smothering eye of his medical caregiver. The period of time in which they’re more than friends but not quite boyfriends is particularly brutal. Luckily, they have an incredibly lovely (and hot) physical relationship to lean on for comfort in the moments when they know how they feel – and it’s clear that they both feel a lot – and don’t know how to say so.
In summary, Dead Ringer is a thoroughly compelling and unique book I found difficult to put down. It’s definitely the best thing I’ve read in 2016 and I encourage everyone and their sisters to pick it up ASAP.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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