Title ~ Fair in Love
Author ~ Jerry Sacher
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 18th May 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Travis McAllan is one of America's top country music stars—loved by fans, he lives the dreamed-of life of a country boy who has made it. The lifestyle of a star, however, comes at a cost, and Travis keeps his sexuality a secret until he meets Geoff Randsell. The attraction is immediate and jolts Travis from his life of pretense.
Geoff has a secret of his own—he’s in a rocky relationship, and he’s not impressed by Hollywood glitz. When he falls for Travis, Geoff is swept off his feet, and he is both dazzled by and apprehensive about the celebrity lifestyle of private planes, mansions, and travel.
When a photographer sells a picture of Travis and Geoff to the tabloids, their courtship and private world comes under fire. Travis must risk his music career to be with the man he loves, and Geoff has to make the difficult choice to accept a life in the public eye.
In the face of increasing pressure, Travis and Geoff must stay true to themselves to get to the altar and say “I do.”
Fair in Love is the story of a Country-Western superstar, the lead singer and songwriter of the chart-topping group, The McAllan Brothers Band, three Texas “good-ol’-boys” leading the high life in Los Angeles in between touring, recording, doing publicity and appearing at charity events throughout the South. It’s also the story of a truly regular guy, a gay guy, in West Hollywood who works in a bank.
The two men meet-cute when Travis McAllan sneaks out, incognito, to grab a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks. The place is packed and the only vacant seat forces him to share a table with two strangers: Geoff (the hot young banker) and his BFF, Lu. She is always trying to set Geoff up with available men, even though he’s lived, for more than a year, with his boyfriend, Doug. She hates him.
Lu is quite a character, and not always a very admirable one. She is a self-admitted “fag hag”, clubbing and partying with her permanent entourage of gay boys. Once the star of a popular sitcom, she has married and divorced well, four times, leaving her wealthy but still lusting for the limelight she’s been denied for a couple of decades. She takes a really creepy pleasure in making her boys tell her the intimate details of their assignations, and cares, apparently, only for celebrity, money and the things that money can buy. Somehow, she’s managed to become Geoff’s best friend, despite the fact that he has no particular interest in any of those things.
Lu makes herself scarce to leave Geoff alone with his new anonymous and gorgeous friend. Their conversation turns to music. Geoff tells him how much he hates Country music and how his “roommate” is obsessed with the McAllan Brothers Band, and he has no idea why. Of course, sitting incognito across the table is Travis McAllan, the Country-Music Man, himself. Talk about foot-in-mouth!
Geoff doesn’t have a clue. The interaction between the two strangers is electric, but neither thought to trade contact information as they both pass alone into the night. It’s only the next day, when Lu drags Geoff backstage to a charity meet-and-greet after a McAllan Brothers concert that, much to his embarrassment, he discovers that the man he sat with at Starbucks is none other than the superstar he was there to meet. The two drift off together to a nearby dressing room for a bit of privacy where they share their first, barely there, kiss. That’s it: “insta-love” - or at least Kismet.
They spend some chaste time together (Geoff is still with his boyfriend, Doug) and they grow closer. There are issues. Don, Travis’ younger brother (one of the band members) is a raging homophobe and the band’s manager is constantly trying to foist one more bubble-brained star-struck woman on Travis in the vain (and stupid) hope that he will become straight just by the proximity of a pair of breasts.
Much of the rest of the book is about the day-to-day life of dating a closeted celebrity, wherein Geoff doesn’t get one moment of peace or privacy, survives the public outing of the couple (which goes quite well, actually), all while enduring the constant machinations of Travis’ brother, Don, and his Uncle Jim, one of the top right-wing fire-and-brimstone anti-gay preachers in the South.
Throughout it all, Geoff vacillates. He told Doug that he was seeing someone else, and Doug, graciously, gave him his freedom. Doug is actually the better man here, willing to sacrifice his own love for Geoff to see his lover happy, even if it is with another man.
Just a few months in, Travis asks Geoff to move in with him - into his mansion in the hills - but then immediately goes a step further, asking him to marry him. This is a lot, perhaps too soon, for Geoff to deal with. Does he love Travis? Yes he does. Or at least he thinks he does. But then again, isn’t something missing? He barely thinks of Doug any more, but still…
This is where Fair in Love went a little bit off the rails for me. The author, I believe, just wanted to lead the reader into fearing (or hoping) that perhaps, at the last minute, Geoff would run back to Doug. What with all the cameras, their wedding filmed for a reality show, the mad preacher trying to buy him off, and when that fails, threatening to stop the wedding, there’s a huge amount of manufactured angst going on. But I never, once, felt any kind of honest, authentic, emotional connection between the two men. I think the ongoing cliffhanger defeated its purpose, leading to less investment by the reader in this love conquering all. Why should we be deeply invested when one of the two main characters doesn’t appear to be? Yes, they say the words, “I Love You”, but it’s flat, and often used as an excuse for acting depressed or disinterested, not as a passionate, spontaneous commitment to one another. I don’t know about other readers, but I was sort of hoping they wouldn’t get married, and I doubt very much that that was Mr. Sacher’s intent.
Perhaps the issue was not enough sex? Coming from someone who usually complains of too much repetitive, unnecessary sex in gay romance, that’s saying a lot. But there’s absolutely no sex until the very last pages of the book, and even that is brief and not even slightly erotic.
Which brings me to the writing. I was fascinated by the inventive premise of this book. It’s not a unique theme, but it’s one that has great potential. And the main characters also had great promise. The problem is that the writing was good, but neither subtle nor evocative. Mr. Sacher did way too much telling, and not near enough evoking.
The wedding scene is huge fun, though. Between the two men trying to get married with the stars of the Country Music firmament in attendance, Uncle Jim and his religious hate-monger minions crashing the ceremony to try to stop it, and Doug, the ex, racing to the pulpit amidst the insanity, there is more than enough mayhem to go around. Is Doug trying to stop the wedding, too? You’ll have to read the book to find that out.
If Mr. Sacher had paid a little less attention to keeping the reader’s interest, and a little more to moving the reader’s heart, this book might have worked much better – at least for me.
Still, if you’re looking for a light, fun read with a few grins and not much in the way of tears, Fair in Love may work just fine for you.