Hi there! I’m so excited to share my review for a new contemporary M/M romance from Tara Lain. As you know I adored KNIGHT OF OCEAN AVENUE and KNAVE OF BROKEN HEARTS, so I couldn’t wait to read PRINCE OF THE PLAYHOUSE.
Catch the excerpt, my review and enter to win the $25 GC in the giveaway below!
About the book:
Driven by his desire to become a successful fashion designer and concerned with hiding his questionable past, Ru Maitland lets his obsession with action movie star Gray Anson on the big screen replace his social life. Then obsession and reality collide when Ru is asked to design fashion costumes for a special performance of Hamlet at the Playhouse in Laguna starring none other than Gray Anson. Gray turns out to be a compelling mix of shy and brash and, despite a high profile engagement to a female socialite, the signals Gray sends Ru have his libido doing the salsa.
Gray Anson has what most people only dream of—great wealth, huge fame, a job he loves. For that, he’s given up any semblance of privacy and the right to say no to the thousands of people who depend on him and the millions who love him. He sees everything he’s ever wanted just outside the bubble of his life, but how can he make the compromises needed to embrace it? When Ru’s shady past crashes into Gray’s paparazzi-haunted present, both men have to learn that sometimes the only acceptable compromise is the truth.
How about a little taste?
Food arrived. Ru had ordered the salmon, one of his faves, and Gray copied him. Merle had gone for Rick’s famous fish sandwich, as had most of the others. As the waiter placed the plates in front of Ru and Gray, Gray’s napkin dropped to the floor between his legs. He scooted back, spread his knees so he could reach between them, and managed to press the full length of his hard-muscled thigh against Ru’s. Perfect paralysis. Don’t move, don’t speak, don’t make him aware of what he’s done. Shocks of heat streaked into Ru’s balls, and he enjoyed the boil.
Gray snagged the napkin, scooted his chair back in, and—didn’t move his leg. From knee to hip, his long limb rested fully against Ru’s. Didn’t he notice? Was being pressed against another man normal for him? Maybe an action-star thing?
Forget about food, conversation, breathing. Don’t miss a moment.
Artie started talking to Gray about some entertainment industry thing. Gray ate heartily. Nothing abnormal or extraordinary going on in his universe. Ru pushed his salmon on the plate and gazed into near space, every ounce of his consciousness living in his tingling flesh.
Ru’s glance flicked up to find Merle staring at him. “Sorry?”
“Boy, you were a million miles away. Designing costumes?”
“Oh yes.” He liked Merle. He didn’t want to wish the guy would shut up so he could listen to the sound of his balls expanding.
Merle lowered his voice. “I wondered if you’d like to get that drink we didn’t quite get to have later?”
Gray shifted and pressed his knee harder. Ru sucked wind. “Oh!”
Merle cocked his head. “Is that an unexpected invitation?” He grinned. “I did everything except hire a billboard.”
“Oh no. Sorry. I, uh, have so much to do—”
“It’s not really late. We could go over to the Ocean Bar for a little while, and then you can get home to your designs.”
Gray turned abruptly to Ru. “Did you talk with Artie about your great design concepts for the Hamlet character?”
“Oh no, not yet.”
Artie grinned. “I’m all ears.”
Ru glanced at a deflated-looking Merle but launched into an explanation of his glamorized gangster costume. The more he talked, the more excited he got. “It immediately sets Hamlet apart from his family and everyone else. He has other allegiances, a different take on the world. When he says ‘to be or not to be,’ he’s not just depressed and melancholy. He’s seriously considering his options, and they’re violent.”
Gray started beating out a rap rhythm on the edge of the table. “To be or not to be. Yeah, to be or not to be. That’s the question in front of me.”
The others laughed, and Merle joined in.
Ru nodded. “Horatio would have some of the same gang colors as Hamlet, but we can see that he’s being sucked in by the man.”
Artie clapped. “Brilliant idea, Ru.”
“But remember, this will be fashion, not costume, so it will suggest the look but not be slavish.”
“Can’t wait to see it.”
Beverly nodded and sipped more wine. “Amajing. Ruj’s amajing.”
Ru sat back and smiled. Even while he’d been rapping, Gray had never moved his leg. If anything, he’d pressed it harder against Ru. Jesus, he wanted to pull Gray to his feet and press more than their legs together.
Penelope leaned forward and looked toward Ru. “I agree, you’re amazing.”
He nodded. “Why, thank you, lovely lady.” It made him feel a little squirmy to think he was lusting after this woman’s boyfriend, but maybe she and Gray had some kind of agreement?
She put a hand on Gray’s arm. “I think I should ask him.”
Gray frowned. “No, not now.”
“No better time. Ru, I’m soon going to be looking for a designer for my wedding gown, and I’d like to invite you to submit a concept. It’s not right away. I know you’re working on a collection, but I wanted to tell you, so you can keep my needs in mind.”
Ru didn’t move. Even his heart must have quit. He couldn’t hear it beating over the rushing in his ears.
This is the third book in a series, but can be enjoyed on its own.
Ru Maitland is a man of fashion talents, and the right-hand designer to stylist Shazam, MC of the first book in the series. Ru has an unhealthy obsession with action movie star Gray Anson. Gray is a bit of a beefcake, but that turns Ru’s crank. Life and love collide when Ru agrees to make the costumes for a charity run of Hamlet at the local playhouse…starring Gray Anson.
Gray Anson feels like he got lucky, in many ways. He was picked out for a role in a film when he was 19, and has had several hits in the following six years. He’s a hot commodity, with a horde of hangers on that his “enterprise” supports. He’s also deeply closeted and practically despondent over his lack of love. Meeting Ru in the playhouse makes Gray want more than he can have–namely the honesty that Ru lives in. (Spoiler Ru’s hiding some dark secrets!!)
Between Ru and Gray there is a definite attraction, and Ru won’t even entertain the idea of dating someone else–and there are suitors. Merle, one of Gray’s out co-stars in the play is smitten with Ru. Oh, and another man from Ru’s past would like to be open with him.
This book took a few turns I didn’t expect, dealing with topics I don’t often read. One was police profiling, which happens and is unpleasant–in real life and the book. I also found the street gang issues to be unexpected and interesting. I don’t feel like there is enough representation of gay life in the Hispanic community, and I liked how Ru and his buddy came from very poor backgrounds to achieve critical and monetary success in their lives. That’s a powerful message, and it’s seconded by the fact that these men live an out-gay life, as well. I feared that the gang aspect would drift into caricature, and was grateful when it did not.
I liked Ru and I liked Gray, but I didn’t like the way Gray treated Ru, much of the time. Mostly, Gray had problems with Ru’s many admirers, and hoe he felt like it was okay for himself to have a “beard” but not for Ru to have a boyfriend. Ru didn’t want anyone besides Gray, but felt being true to a man he’d barely see and could never publicly acknowledge would be too difficult. I can only imagine the pain in that scenario, and Ru certainly felt some of that pain, which was hard for me as a reader to forgive, if you will.
There are moments of the book that felt a little silly, for me, and much of that had to do with Ru’s hand-to-hand combat skills which were hard to comprehend, even with his childhood. I couldn’t reconcile the button-counting mama’s boy with the switchblade-toting gang member–in the given context. That said, it was an interesting attempt, and I loved the depth of character. I also had trouble with the ages of the characters–they are barely mid-twenties. They have accomplished SO VERY MUCH in such a short adulthood, that I’m almost shamed by my lack of success…it seemed to me more believable if they were just a touch (five-ish years maybe) older, because they would then have a bit more gravitas and emotional maturity, which would have made their banter fit their characters better.
There are some serious elements of mortal peril, and bad publicity, and a tender coming out, for Gray. That was far lovelier than I had expected, in truth. I really enjoyed all the play aspects, and how Ru and Gray built a love quietly and privately–all while balancing Gray’s life in the public eye. Those fame aspects felt very true, and a bit sad. I’ve really enjoyed this series, and I’m anxious now for sweet Merle to find himself a man to love. He seems to deserve one.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her bestselling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft.
She lives with her soulmate husband and her soulmate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!
You can find Tara at: