Author ~ Jeff Erno
Published ~ 30th January 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
At twenty-five, Travis Sheppard knows all about taking care of himself. He’s been on his own since the age of seventeen, and he learned long ago how to use his assets and natural-born talent to get what he needs…and wants. Travis is a hustler, a male escort, and he caters to men of means who like to shower him with gifts and cash in exchange for his affection—sometimes for his mere presence.
When Travis accepts an overnight gig with a new client, he’s surprised by the fact the customer has pre-paid. When Travis arrives at the gentleman’s surprisingly modest home, he learns that his client is an accomplished, best-selling author. Darren, otherwise known as DJ Torrent, makes Travis a proposal. He wants Travis to accompany him to a gay literature conference. The catch is that for their five days together, Travis is to be more to Darren than just his escort. Darren wants Travis to pose as his husband.
This was my first Jeff Erno book and I had a lot of fun reading it. High-end escort Travis can’t believe it when he shows up for an overnight job, paid full in advance, and the youngish, nerdy looking Darren tells him he’s just looking for companionship, no sex. Seeing the wedding pictures inside the house and noting he resembles the man with Darren, he finds out that they are no longer together. The two talk about Travis’s past, his love of classic literature and his work. It’s then Darren aka author DJ Torrent proposes that Travis pose as his husband for five days at the Gay Romance Retreat. He’s never attended before and has social anxiety, so he’s hoping Travis will act as a buffer or distraction to his fans. He doesn’t even expect Travis to have sex, which definitely throws Travis who feels a bit rejected, although Darren does seem to like to look.
The story then moves right to the conference. As Travis and Darren navigate fans, parties, the swag room, readings and general conference mingling, the two form a quick bond. Travis quickly realizes he’s attracted to Darren but he isn’t quite sure what makes Darren so nervous about him. Darren has issues, but Travis is just the person to help him along. It’s only a matter of time before Darren falls for Travis’s many charms and their relationship moves to the next level. The two have more in common than either expected but knowing each other for such a short time, it’s no wonder they are keeping some things close to their chest.
As the two mingle and network there are an assortment of characters introduced, a fan who becomes a good friend, a blogger/aspiring writer with questionable intentions, the authors who both admire and disdain Darren and others all within the m/m community. With a crew that large, that nosy and that adept at navigating social media, you know it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out their story isn’t quite what they say it is.
This was a really sweet romance. Although time-wise the relationship happens quickly, it didn’t feel rushed at all to me. Darren doesn’t want more than companionship to start, but Travis quickly becomes someone he relies on and likes. The two are so lonely and both fear what will happen after their five days is over, but of course they can’t control how attached they become to each other. I thought they had great chemistry and enjoyed watching them slowly open up and be vulnerable with each other. Although Darren is 20 years older than Travis, the age-gap wasn’t a stumbling block at all. I loved that Travis was such a nurturer and Darren was more than happy to have him in that role when he needed it.
Part of what made this book so enjoyable is the setting within the m/m community. As part of the building relationship, Jeff Erno takes on the m/m genre’s penchant for scandal. There is a foreword noting that this story was inspired by GRL conferences he attended in the past and explaining what is fictionalized and which events actually have occurred. Although I’ve never been to GRL, I have seen the posts and blogs and social media and anyone following those, or having attended, will definitely recognize events and the atmosphere of the fictional GRR conference in the story. I think he took quite a chance with this, but it worked for me.
The epilogue was perfect, where everything comes full circle for the characters including the villain, who gets his in a way that made me laugh out loud. Ultimately, The Escort a really sweet story between two men who are more similar than their outward appearance and careers would suggest.