Desert Isle Keeper
You know that marvelous feeling you get when you connect with a novel on every level; the characters, the setting, the dialogue..? Well, that’s how I feel about Deal Maker. I enjoyed Ms. Morton’s previous books, but OMG, I loved this one. Deal Maker is a charming, funny, romantic and just plain lovely story featuring two men unlucky in love who go-big and love hard nonetheless. There’s a significant age gap, a child (gasp! usually a big no-no for this romance reader) and a nice slow burn build up to a passionate and intense affair. I gobbled it up – giggling and sighing – and I can only hope more readers find this terrific book. It’s refreshing, delightful and – had it been released earlier in the year – would easily have made my Best of 2017 list.
Jude is a successful model and pretty much all-around great guy. In the author’s previous book, Rule Breaker, we saw glimpses of his sharp and witty sense of humor – and his deep love and affection for his best friend, Dylan. But as that book came to a close, we also discovered he hasn’t been so lucky in love and instead flits from casual hook-up to casual hook-up, pushing away anyone who tries to get too close. Jude doesn’t believe he’s worthy of love and affection – but reader, we do. WE DO. He’s awesome.
Anyway, when Deal Maker begins, Jude has just hooked-up with his fairly regular fuck-buddy Dean, when a bathtub from the flat above crashes through the ceiling and nearly lands on them. Oblivious, self-absorbed and perpetually stoned, Dean barely registers the disaster… but it sends Jude into a panic. Money is tight (though it isn’t clear why) and he doesn’t have the resources to go somewhere else while his landlord spends the next three months repairing the damage. Dean – mid-yoga pose – offers a surprising solution. His step-brother, a successful British actor, is between assistants and could use some live-in help. He leaves Jude with the address and a time to show up and departs.
Asa Jacobs, a talented and world famous actor, is newly returned to acting after taking time away to raise his son. Easy-going, big hearted and warm, Asa is beloved by his loyal staff and friends – but wary of outsiders looking to take advantage of his fame. When Jude shows up he’s caught by surprise – Dean failed to mention he was sending someone over – but Asa is curious about his handsome visitor, whom he mistakenly assumes is Dean’s boyfriend. The two hit it off and agree Jude will move-in temporarily and work as Asa’s personal assistant until he can find someone else. Asa can’t help being attracted to his gorgeous new assistant, but reminds himself he’s Dean’s boyfriend and keeps his manner brisk and businesslike. As the informal interview winds up, Asa asks Jude for references and discovers he’s a model. Asa, scarred from a previous relationship, assumes he’s just as vapid and shallow as his former lover and freezes up. He’s cold and dismissive as they part and Jude… well, he’s hurt by Asa’s assumptions about him. So he wickedly decides to prove Asa right by becoming the worst personal assistant ever.
Oh, reader. Jude as Asa’s clever, naughty, and mischievous PA is the bomb. He’s the best at being the worst. Asa’s response to Jude’s shenanigans – variously bewildered, furious, outraged and amused – is similarly priceless. I laughed out loud reading this section of the book and I dare you not to. Ms. Morton opens each chapter with Jude’s written responses to Asa’s fan mail and OMG he’s so bad and the responses are so spectacularly awful and funny… but the whole thing is made even more delicious because Jude’s antics secretly reveal to Asa how clever and smart Jude really is. Asa’s quick to realize that all of his assumptions about Jude are wrong – and to recognize he’s falling hard for his quick-witted assistant.
I shake my head because this is like some fucked up dance we’re doing now. I know he’s not stupid. He knows he’s not stupid. I also know he’s starting to realise I know the truth, but he’s still doing his level best to appear like a moron. He’s a contrary motherfucker – never what I expect. I sigh. Always what I want.
When he finally reveals he’s onto Jude, he can’t help laughing about it. Jude is funny, smart and a perfect match for Asa… but he tries to keep his feelings under wraps, still convinced Jude is Dean’s boyfriend and therefore off limits.
Meanwhile, Jude finds himself irresistibly drawn into Asa’s world, and reader – it’s a good place to be. Generous, kind and beloved by all who come into his orbit, Asa’s home is a bit of a bohemian paradise. Jude, who majored in history at university and is a not-so-secret romance fan, discovers the home of his imagination and dreams. Intellectuals, artists, actors, plumbers… they all find a place at Asa’s table. Days and nights are filled with great conversation and lively discussions… and Jude tries and fails to convince himself he’ll be ready to go when his apartment is repaired. Folks, he’s fighting a losing battle.
Ms. Morton always includes wonderful secondary characters in her novels and Deal Maker is no different. Asa’s staff includes several memorable ones – Peggy, a cheeky grandmother-like figure who keeps his home and makes delicious cakes; Amos, his driver, who never met a good mood he couldn’t spoil (I dare you not to laugh at his dreadful prognostications); and finally, Billy, Asa’s five-year old son. He’s delightfully mischievous and Ms. Morton catches the nuances of this age perfectly. The words, the mannerisms, the devotion he feels to his daddy and to Jude. He’s epic. Even minor characters – stoner Dean, awful Phillip (Asa’s ex), Dylan, Jude’s family… elevate this already wonderful novel.
It’s hard to review a book I love as much as Deal Maker because I want to tell you every single reason I love it. Space constraints (and my editor) prevent me from doing so, but reader, there are so many reasons it’s worth your time and attention. From the idealized settings – London, Cornwall, Devon, Mallorca – to the terrific secondary characters, hilarious fan letters that mark the start of each chapter, and finally, the charming, passionate, sexy slow-burn love affair between its two charismatic principals… Deal Maker is THE REAL DEAL in contemporary romance. It will be hard for Ms. Morton to top it.