Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary romance from Brad Vance and Elsa Winters. CONNING COLIN is a savvy new adult romance between a cash-strapped college grad turned sex worker and the newly-out, newly-divorced voice actor who wants to learn all about the gay sex from a cultured, sexy man–even if he is a high-dollar escort. It was sweet with interesting twists, and I haven’t read a Brad Vance book I didn’t adore. Catch my reviews for WEREWOLVES OF BROOKLYN, WOULD I LIE TO YOU? and STRENGTH IN NUMBERS to see why.
Drop down to check out an excerpt and get in on the book giveaway, too!
About the book:
Hamilton Dillon is a high class Manhattan escort, polished, well dressed, and cultured. Colin O’Neill is recently divorced, questioning his sexuality, and disappointed by his first fumbling gay hookups. So he figures, why not hire the best of the best to show him the ropes?
What he doesn’t know is that Hamilton Dillon is really Henry Davis, yet another New Yorker living on the financial edge, cobbling together several jobs to make a living. “Hamilton” has one great suit he can wear on an overnight date, but Henry’s got a good friend at GQ who makes a nice side income renting designer men’s wear for weddings, job interviews, and oh yeah, high end escorts on long weekend assignments. The “top agency” that represents “Hamilton” is really just a smartass lady in India with a Skype account, whose face Henry’s never seen. Oh, and Henry’s also the gruff and very unpolished New York Straight Man “Dillinger,” a solo porn star.
In other words, he’s not at all who Colin thinks he is. Which is just fine, until their relationship gets… complicated.
How about a little taste?
Colin O’Neill hung up the phone, dizzy with excitement and fear. He’d done it. He’d called the number, talked to the agency, and booked a “date” with Hamilton Dillon.
He’d looked at Hamilton’s Rentmen.com ad a hundred times, at least, over the last three months. He’d looked forward to new profile photos the way a kid keeps an ear cocked for the ice cream truck. Even though all the profile pictures had been beheaded for discretion, it didn’t matter. Hamilton Dillon had a way of posing that expressed more personality with his body than most other guys ever did with their faces.
The way he sat on a park bench in nothing but a pair of running shorts and Nikes, shirtless, manspread, his arms thrown over the back of the bench, his strong graceful neck taut, telling you that the face just out of frame was tilted up towards the Central Park sunshine, that the man was reveling in his easy beauty, the unique joy that comes from being young and hot and free in New York City…
Then the way he floated in the air in those same shorts and Nikes, leaping for a football, the camera capturing him from behind in the moment the ball touched his fingers, the imminence of his success apparent, ordained, the muscles in his back bunched, the mass of his shoulders gathered together, sweat flying off his brown hair, in the seconds before you knew he landed on the lawn, arms curled around the ball, surely to rise in triumph and be slapped on the back by all his equally hot and shirtless buddies…
The way he sat at a café table, in a slim fit navy blue polo shirt, one of his sculpted vascular arms holding open a well-worn copy of The Fortress of Solitude and the other just toying with a cup of espresso as if it was the back of another man’s hand…
Colin often did something that very few men did anymore, which was to masturbate furiously and successfully to a series of still photos. And with no penises in sight, to boot. He’d done it so often over the last three months that he’d stopped donating his old t-shirts, because he needed them for cleanup duty, at least until they became hopelessly stained.
He had been divorced for six months now, amicably, from a wife who’d pretty much always known he was gay but had decided to let him figure it out for himself. Elspeth was a career woman whose need for a husband was seasonal, from the company picnic in July to the company Christmas party in December, with various client dinners in between.
He was twenty seven years old, and had engaged in sexual intercourse with one woman and two men. Intercourse was pretty much the word for it, he thought. It sounded less like passion and more like, well, cars merging on the freeway, and all three partners had been just about that exciting. (Actually less so, since on the freeway there was always the thrilling risk of death at the hands of someone who’d rather kill you than let you merge.)
Then one night, half drunk and inhibitions lowered, he’d thought, Fuck it, let’s hire a professional and see how it feels when it’s done right.
He’d paged through the escort ads on Rentmen, hundreds of them in Manhattan alone. It was mind numbing, the diversity, and it was overwhelming, the number of choices. He knew he didn’t want to visit Master Bob in his safe and private play space, and he knew he didn’t want to party with Anaconda Joe. The ones who caught his eye were, well yeah, the ones who looked… classy. The one thing he knew he didn’t want was to get ripped off.
And he didn’t want it to feel… He didn’t want to feel like he’d got a burger in a fast food drive through. He wanted it to be special, if that was really possible with a paid companion and not just something that happened to teenage boys in Hollywood movies.
But even the upscale-looking ones, well, there was something about them that… He knew it was good business, to offer yourself up as “versatile,” and available for “mild to wild,” but… Well, the more he saw what he didn’t want, the more a picture began to form in his mind of what he did want. He didn’t want someone who looked like an investment banker but whose profile also said, “Hey I look classy but I can drop it if you just want a dirty pig fest and you’ve got the money for it.”
No. He wanted someone who was one thing. Who wasn’t whoever you wanted him to be. But who was what he said he was. Classy, for real. Not “up for anything.”
And then he found Harrison Dillon.
Thoughts from Author Brad Vance on his new book and more…
Tell us something about your character’s friends.
Henry Davis has some great friends. He’d never manage his high end escort career without the help of Benjamin, who works at GQ and loans Henry the designer suits he can’t afford on his own. And Cameron, who runs the website Straight Guys of New York, where Henry picks up a little extra cash pretending to be rough-and-tough guy “Dillinger.” I really wanted to highlight how many people are dependent on a side hustle, just to make ends meet in an expensive city.
What is your character’s favorite meal? Favorite dessert? Favorite snack food?
Henry loves to curl up with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, especially Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream. He snuggles on the couch and watches White Collar for the seventh time, and doesn’t worry about dripping ice cream on his Mets t-shirt. As “Harrison Dillon,” he’s got to be immaculate, but as Henry, he can be a slob.
What activity does your character absolutely hate?
Well, dressing up! Henry’s not really a suit and tie guy. Only watching Matt Bomer in White Collar taught him how to wear those clothes comfortably, naturally. In normal life, he’s just a dude, in cargo shorts and a T.
What’s your character’s secret fantasy?
Henry’s always wanted to be a screenwriter. Becoming an escort was a way for him to literally “buy time,” to escape the hamster wheel of Cubicle City and write. He’s found that time alone isn’t always enough, but without the time, well, it would be even harder.
What’s your favorite decade and why?
This one. Because I’m still alive, I’m still engaged in what’s going on around me in art, culture, style, humor. I’d hate to be stuck in the past! Once you start rattling on about how much better things were in Decade X… you’re old. I don’t plan on getting old, I mean, what’s in it for me?
Henry Davis is a recent college grad with a degree in English and writing, and no desire to work for peanuts in the cube-world. He aspires to be a screen-writer, if only he can find his muse. In the meantime, being an escort paid all his college debts, and he’s supporting himself and a family member in need with his earnings. That is a really awesome part of his story, but I don’t want to spoil it–so trust me! Henry’s pretty much as selfless as they come. And boy, do they come!
Okay, Henry has two personas he adopts for his sex worker roles: Hamilton Dillon is a cultured and stunning man in thousand-dollar suits he rents from a pal who works in the fashion pages of GC magazine. The other, “Dillinger” is a “straight” Queens bro who jacks his junk to make bank in solo porn shoots. It’s quite the interesting juxtaposition. Henry tends to lose himself in his roles, and is baffled when his interactions with his newest client, Colin O’Neill, blur the lines between his professional persona as Hamilton, and Henry’s own need for intimacy and connection.
Colin is a newly divorced voice actor who doesn’t have a lot of disposable income. He gets an allowance from his ex-wife, with whom he had an amiable, mutually-beneficial arrangement. She wanted a husband because it helped her image at work, and he accepted her proposal, mostly because they got along. He’s never had a passionate relationship and they barely shared more than a few sexual encounters over their six years of marriage. He took acting classes and bonded with a classmate, however, and it was the beginning of Colin recognizing that he is likely gay–something his wife had long suspected, and wasn’t the least bit upset over. Thing is, Colin has crippling stage fright, and he’s a timid man by nature. He missed out on telling his pal how he’d felt, but he’s not going to waste too much more time in the “figure out Colin” phase of life.
Buoyed by a big payday for a voice-over spot, Colin FINALLY dials the number for Hamilton Dillon’s escort services. He’s stalked Hamilton’s web advertisement for several months and has definite fantasies that the cultured, attractive man he sees online will be the best tutor for Colin’s fledgling bedroom skills. He’s only tried to date a couple guys since his divorce and both were abject failures. So, Colin’s willing to pony up the fee for expert Hamilton’s tutelage.
And, naturally, Henry is ready to be his very best Hamilton for Colin. It’s a heady experience for both men, even when it isn’t physical. Colin is more than a little gone for Hamilton, and the lines are increasingly blurred the more “dates” they arrange. Henry is captivated by Colin’s vulnerability and the intimacy they continue to develop. It’s really so very sweet, and so very inspiring–Henry has found his muse, in the combination of Hamilton and Colin’s developing relationship. Meanwhile, Colin’s sessions with Hamilton leave him feeling elated and confident enough to try live auditions for the first time in years.
What comes next is something they hadn’t planned for, and it brings moments of heartbreak and rejection, but that’s just reality. The fun part of reality, as opposed to the fantasy they had been experiencing, is that Colin and Henry can find a common ground that actually exists and build something true and real. Which, I was happy to discover, they do. I’m used to the grand, twisting plots of Brad Vance, and I wasn’t disappointed here. Henry is a complex man, with his debts and his desires and his personas. Colin isn’t complicated. He wants a true partner, even if it isn’t convenient. They each grow a lot in the time they spend together, and that was awesome to experience as a reader. They also have some yummy hawt sexytimes, and some incredibly tender moments, times that have both men confused about the roles they are supposed to be playing. That said, the HEA exists, and it felt genuine. Highly recommend.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Brad Vance writes romance stories and novels, including the breakout hits “A Little Too Broken” and “Given the Circumstances.” Keep up with Brad on his website, Facebook, twitter or email him. at BradVanceAuthor AT gmail (dot) com.