Desert Isle Keeper
Though romances starring rock star heroes or heroines aren’t usually on my list of favorites, I may have to make an exception after reading this latest romance by Jenny Holiday. On the strength of my enjoyment of previous stories of hers, in particular the 49th Floor series of romantic comedies, I ended up reading Famous earlier this year. It’s a terrific story about a pop star princess who takes a break from the spotlight by staying with an old acquaintance. While Infamous is indirectly linked to that novel (the main character here is friends with the heroine of that one), it’s a very different story. In Famous, the heroine was trying to escape the spotlight; by contrast, the hero of Infamous is an up and coming rock star seeking it out. Sometimes you start a new book and you know within the first few pages that you’ve found a winner. Infamous is that story.
Jesse Jamison doesn’t discriminate when it comes to hooking up with fans, though the ones with males have been restricted to a few make out sessions. When a paparazzi photographer catches him kissing someone in a dark alley, only Jesse and his manager know the ‘someone’ is a guy, which is not at all in keeping with the image Jesse is supposed to be presenting to his mostly teen girl fans. It just so happens that a stranger on a train, Dr. Hunter Wyatt, is present when Jesse finds out about the existence of the photo. Hunter has just had his own bad news, a result of his work as a pediatrician with kids who require long term care. The two share some simple confidences (though Jesse keeps the gender of the person in the photo a secret) that mark the beginning of their friendship. But it’s one that’s put on hold for the next two years, an exchange of email addresses put aside but not forgotten.
For two years, Jesse has faithfully followed all the dictates of his new manager. No drinking to excess, no public scandals, and above all else, no hint that he’s bisexual. It’s women only, enough to cement his rock star image, until out of the blue, he gets an email from Hunter. One of Hunter’s patients, an eleven-year-old girl with a heart defect has a poster of Jesse and the Joyride on her hospital room wall and, hoping Jesse will remember their meeting, Hunter asks if he will consider a visit to buoy her spirits. Jesse does remember Hunter, and is happy to make the time for the girl. It’s the start of a very rewarding philanthropic relationship between him and the hospital.
Hunter is out as a gay man and has no interest in being hidden out of sight, his last relationship having failed because of his partner’s reluctance to go public. And as far as he knows – as far as Jesse has ever said – Jesse is straight. But meeting each other again rekindles the spark they’d felt at their first meeting and they have something worth nurturing. As Hunter becomes an integral part of Jesse’s life and vice versa, the subtle feelings they are developing for each other become stronger, leading to a more intense and intimate relationship. But things can only go so far before they must come to the crossroads and decide whether or not to make their feelings for each other public. Will Jesse be willing to risk his career for the man he’s come to love?
This story is set in Canada, with Hunter and Jesse initially meeting on a trip between Toronto and Montreal. Jesse has a cabin in a popular cottage area outside of Toronto where he and his band can relax and brainstorm song ideas. The author lives in this area of Canada and is able to showcase the setting authentically (plus, it’s a nice change to have a story set outside the US).
What is interesting about this story is how believable Hunter and Jesse’s friendship is, despite their very different lifestyles. Hunter is a competent, dedicated doctor who sometimes struggles to keep his emotions in check when it comes to his young patients. He’s a workaholic since his last breakup, spending most of his time at the hospital or bringing work home with him to his modest apartment. Jesse has a loud, exuberant and brash personality, and he brings this with him to the hospital, delighting the young patients with whom he quickly develops a rapport. He keeps these visits away from the press, quickly realizing how shallow his lifestyle is when compared to the life and death situations faced by the children.
Hunter and Jesse are opposites, but find they can bounce things off of each other, including Hunter’s desire to find a new partner. Jesse isn’t sure quite how he feels about that (and questions why he feels anything about it at all). Jesse has a sister who is in an abusive relationship and Hunter is an invaluable help to them as they figure out a way for her to get her life in order. Hunter becomes someone Jesse can rely on, someone he can text while away on a tour and can introduce to his bandmates as a friend without suspicion. And even if he refers to Hunter in his mind as ‘Dr. Baby Silver Fox’ on account of Hunter’s prematurely gray hair, he keeps it to himself.
This is a slow burn romance, setting the stage for some steamy scenes once the couple realizes there could be something more there. Jesse is inexperienced with men and in this avenue Hunter can take the lead, which he quite enjoys. But he’s wary of becoming the man Jesse will come home to from a tour, but not take as a date in public. The conflict is fairly predictable and is set up from the start, but the fallout and how they deal with it leads to intense scenes (and yes, I cried). The eventual happy ending is immensely satisfying and Infamous is one of the best romances I’ve read this year.