Title ~ Saving Liam (Saving Liam #1)
Author ~ D.P. Denman
Publisher ~ North Shaw Press
Published ~ April 2014
Genre ~ M/M Contemporary Romance
You do what you have to do to survive. For eighteen-year-old Liam Newman that means living the life of a gay porn star, a job he loathes. He isn't a star. He's a prisoner and his warden is the man who saved him from the cold Vancouver streets.
Justin has been Liam's next-door neighbor for two years and has had a crush on him for just as long. Oblivious to Liam's porn career, he 's content to mind his own business about Liam's turbulent relationship until the truth stumbles drunk into his apartment one night and he realizes something must be done.
When Liam's boyfriend turned producer decides rent boys make more money than porn stars Liam's nightmare takes a horrible turn. Justin must find a way to rescue him before it's too late.
I suppose when I first read Saving Liam's blurb I was more or less convinced that what I was going to get was the usual "sexy, reluctant porn star controlled by bad boyfriend, gets saved by gorgeous neighbour who has admired beautiful young twink from afar" type of story and in a roundabout way that's pretty much what happens but what did surprise me greatly was the way the plot was structured to arrive at that conclusion because most of my expectations and assumptions were actually way off the mark.
Liam is eighteen but was kicked out of his home by his father at fifteen for being gay, ending up on the streets, trying to survive, until Cord an older, manipulative guy takes him in, and using unfair influence and false declarations of love persuades him to star in his homemade porn movies that he makes twice a week in their apartment, subjecting Liam to hours of filming with the typical beefcake type stranger who he picks out to star alongside 'Angel' (Liam's porn name) in his 'virginal twink gets taken by guy with a big dick" fantasies. During filming, to cope with what's happening to him, Liam disassociates by imagining himself on a secluded beach, away from the manhandling and the smell of sex and sweat...after filming, his only other escape is a trip across the hallway to visit his handsome, kind hearted, understanding neighbour Justin, where he plays video games and for a few hours gets to leave behind the life he's now tied to with a boyfriend who may not be abusing him in a physically violent sense, but whose "There's no such thing as a free ride" mentality and twisted sense of love, guilts him into agreeing to do anything he suggests. God I hated that man!!
Justin is very taken with Liam but has no idea of what's going on over in the other apartment. He does know that Liam has a long term boyfriend though, so admiring the sweet young man and having a bit of a crush is as far as it goes for him. So, no questions asked, no flirting, just a general neighbourly type of friendship between them, until one night, after Liam has had a particularly upsetting interlude with Cord, he arrives home to find his neighbour, waiting for him in the corridor, drunk and clearly dismayed... that's when he gets to hear the whole sordid story of poor Liam’s life with shitty Cord.
Following usual plot lines, this would be generally be where the attraction between the two MC's starts to take off and their relationship to solidify. The underlying desire that's been simmering, coming to the surface... pulling them closer together. But that's not the case in this book. In fact at this point Justin has already started a new relationship with a guy called Rich, who he's met through a blind date and they're starting to get closer as a couple. So I must say I was really starting to wonder where DP Denman was taking the story, because it certainly wasn't going in the direction that I was expecting. Liam finds solace in his visits to Justin and Justin still feels protective towards his lovely neighbour, who he does find alluring, but they both carry on with their own lives and complicated relationships, Justin and Rich's not without some hitches but still becoming more concrete the more they continue to see each other. Then one fateful night Cord sends (or should I say pimps) a very reluctant Liam to the hotel where Justin works, under false pretences, and something dreadful happens that pushes Liam right over the edge. On duty that night, Justin steps in again, taking Liam under his wing in a bid to help finally pull him out of Cord's nasty clutches forever. They get closer after getting rid of Cord , which leaves Liam more or less homeless again, having not a lot of money of his own so he offers to take Liam in while they try to find him a job, accommodation he can afford and a sense of self again.
So, I'm thinking is this the part where Liam and Justin start to become a couple? Because I know that ultimately this is where the story is going to go in the long run...but no, once again even though the story does alter course, it still doesn't conform to what I thought would happen after this change in Liam's life.
I have to say this really is a completely different take on the usual porn star/protector trope and I mean that in more ways than one. If you're expecting oodles of explicit sex scenes then you're going to be disappointed because that isn't what it's all about. There are love scenes scattered in there but they serve more as stepping stones between the hurt/comfort storyline because the heart of this story is all about the emotional impact and not the sexual one, despite its porn related thread. When they do finally drift towards each other, quite late on in the story, after things change for both of them, their tentative relationship is also put under strain as Liam's past comes crashing down on him, causing him to pull away sexually. Wanting, but unable to give himself to Justin in that way and scarred emotionally by everything he's gone through up to this turning point in his life. However they do settle into a partnership where Justin patiently and tenderly waits for his skittish, damaged partner to heal. Kisses and cuddles being the only thing Liam can offer Justin...my heart bled for him.
"The porn star was dead, and all that was left was a kid who had no idea what love was or how good sex could be with someone who didn't see him as an object to exploit."
I loved the fact that the author didn't take Liam and Justin down the regular route of insta attraction and Insta sex, I also loved that when they did get together she didn't make it all conveniently go away...at this stage this is a HFN relationship in the true sense of the word. No magic wand solutions for these two guys but Justin's character has such a warm, patient and tender personality that you know at least Liam is finally in a safe and loving environment and luckily there's a book #2 that I'm going to straight away (and will also be reviewing for the blog) to see how they are settling into their life together and what other trials they will have to go through before they get their HEA; which I hope with all my heart they do, especially after all they've gone through!
"I have no idea what you want from me or why you even put up with this." Justin blinked in surprise. "I thought that was pretty obvious. I want you." "Why?" Justin smiled a brilliant smile that lit up his eyes and leaned closer. "Because you make me smile." Justin kissed him.
If I have any quibbles in my overall thoughts of the book, it's that this really is slow burn and there are times when the pace of the book does dip slightly because of that. The other thing is there's definitely a different feel to Liam and Justin's romance, that at times makes it a little bit harder to feel their chemistry but I could accept that because this isn't a conventional love story that relies on heavy bouts of sexual tension to fuel their relationship, so I still found myself fully immersed and invested in seeing them finally reach the destination in their partnership, that the situations they were placed in, drove them to.
DP Denman brings to light the awful truth about the many young gay children and teens, forced onto the streets and put into the same situations that befall Liam and at the end of the book she gives contact information to two organizations dedicated to helping these young people. Thank you DP...:
National Runaway Safeline - www.1800runaway.org
The Trevor Project - www.thetrevorproject.org
Buy it Here
About the Author
DP Denman writes character-driven m/m romance about survivors. Her stories are real and intense but always resolve in the type of ending that makes readers want to start the book all over again. She is from the Pacific Northwest and bases all of her stories in Vancouver, British Columbia, a city that is dear to her heart.
In her spare time she is a dedicated gay rights activist fighting for those who have been marginalized and abused. To that end, 25% of the royalties from every book go to support LGBT charities.