Stage Fright

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stagefright_pendermackieTitle: Stage Fright
Author: Pender Mackie
Cover artist:
Publisher: Loose id
Amazon Buy Link:Stage Fright
Genre: contemporary mm romance
Length: novel
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

A guest review by Sirius.

Summary: Romance between a stripper and bartender in Las Vegas.

Blurb:

After six months dancing in a Las Vegas all-male revue, Jesse Snowe is used to being groped by enthusiastic females, but he’s more interested in Val, the sexy new bartender. Jesse’s tired of the closet, but when he thinks of coming out he gets stage fright. The thought of telling his fellow dancers he’s gay makes his palms sweat and his heart race and not in a good way. Dating Val under the watchful eyes of the dance captain could reveal Jesse’s secret and might be more of a gamble than Jesse’s willing to take.

For Val Tremain the glamor of Vegas is wearing thin. He’s even less enamored with his new job, but knowing he’ll see Jesse’s beautiful body makes it easier to go to work. When Jesse hints he’s interested Val can’t believe his luck. But Jesse’s latest dance routine encourages a little too much audience participation and Val struggles with jealousy.

Jesse knows his job’s hard on their relationship and being closeted doesn’t help. Strangers slap his butt every night, yet he’s afraid to touch his lover in public. If he wants this relationship to work Jesse may have to reveal more than just his body.

Review:

I have read several short stories by this author and really liked them, so I was curious to see what she would do with a full length story. I will admit that I groaned when I saw that one of the MC was a stripper as I almost completely gave up on reading about strippers some time ago – too many “mostly sex and no or very little plot” bad experiences. My curiosity, however, won and I asked for the book.

I have to say that I was  pleasantly surprised in that regard. This is one of the few stories that I have read that treats stripping like work. No, I do not doubt that it is very hard work and not for everybody. What I am saying is that I mostly have read stories which used the MC being a strippers as an excuse to put more and more sex scenes in the story instead of telling a good story where MC just happens to be one. I really liked that Jesse’s job in a sense moved his developing relationship forward – both good and bad things that came with it. In fact I really liked Jesse ; I thought he was strong, fun to get to know and an interesting character.

I also thought that Val was annoying as hell. I thought he made way too much of a deal of Jesse being in a closet. Jesse was closeted at work only, he was out to friends and family, and who the heck says that you even have to let your coworkers know about your personal life in the first place? I thought his jealousy was not warranted by anything (either you trust your boyfriend or you do not, no matter where he works IMO) and that everybody gave him a pass on that, and I wished that Jesse would have kicked him to the curb and never came back.  I also have to say that I found Val’s character to be not as rich as Jesse’s. I am talking about knowing very little about him as a person besides him being a very jealous one. At the same time I thought Val was drawn very consistently.

And I really liked the way their separation was handled in this story. It made perfect sense to me and this is from someone who found the mandatory break up/separation in romance novels annoying and tacked on plenty of times. Here the separation came because of Val’s jealousy which he showed pretty early in their relationship.

I wanted Jesse to be happy and for his sake I cheered at the end.

I really enjoyed the writing overall, but you will probably ask me why not a higher grade then?

At first I actually thought about keeping quiet about this issue completely as  I was worried that I would start ranting because a lot of the readers have some hot button issues and this has been one of mine for a while. I figured that if I am afraid that I would not be able to address it professionally, I may as well not say anything at all.  After I finished this review, I went to check out Goodreads to see what other people were saying. There was only one review there which called it as the reviewer saw it and I decided that ranting or not, I should say it, because that was exactly how I felt about the issue. I was incredibly unhappy with the portrayal of *all* women who go to male strip club. I am not kidding – it is as if the author took a very broad brush and portrayed all women who come to enjoy themselves as how to put it? Well, as if they were absolutely incapable of controlling themselves. I was having a very hard time with it.

If that does not bother you, I think you will enjoy the story more than I did.

7 thoughts on “Stage Fright

  1. Val Kovalin

    Sirius, I’m glad you mentioned this:

    the author took a very broad brush and portrayed all women who come to enjoy themselves

    Female villains with complex motives are okay and so is portraying womens as regular humans with some bad and some good.

    But I’m getting less and less willing to tolerate books that give negative portrayals of women in general or that include a pointlessly, irredeemably awful female character.

    I’ve liked what I’ve read from this author in the past, but I’ll gratefully take your feedback and avoid this book.

    1. Sirius

      Val if you have read some of my reviews (I know you did read some of them I just do not want to generalize :)) you may have noticed that I am more often hesitant rather than forceful when I try to decide whether person will like the book. I mean the way I interpret certain things may be different from the way you do it, etc – and unless I know your tastes perfectly I would usually suggest you err on the side of trying the book. Not that I can make a decision for you of course. I am going to make a rare exception here and say that if the negative treatment of women in mm romances bothers you you absolutely should avoid the book. The strange part of it that none of those women are even named in the story as far as I can remember – they are part of the settings. But the way they are portrayed – none of them respecting dancers’ privacy, most of them being delighted to sleep with the dancers, just made me very unhappy . I keep using the word unhappy because I am tempted to use stronger ones. And by the way the only negative connotations I picked up from the story were about women throwing themselves on the dancers. If the dancer happily chooses to sleep with them, that was quite ok. I also love complex portrayal of female characters – they do not have to be good or perfect, but so tired of caricature villains and especially evil exes.

      I loved every story I read from this author too and I loved the writing here. I however was staring at my kindle when I finished and it was not a happy stare :(

  2. Val Kovalin

    I hear you, Sirius. I think it would bother me.

    I’d have to read this book to know for sure if it has that feeling I dislike… but in general I’ve getting a misogynistic feeling from many gay romance books written by women, and I’m finding it super irritating.

    It’s as if some women (maybe not this author but authors of various books I’ve read) want to vent their frustration at specific other women in their past or present (e.g., the woman who stole their high school boyfriend), and so they pour their resentment into a nasty female character or a group all acting badly, and then it comes across as an overall condemnation of women. And much of the time, women are shown to be pathetically oversexual, which is SO annoying because it’s fine when male characters are like that.

    So I’d better stay away even if this book is not so bad in that regard. (I do like the cover art!) I really need a break from those kind of books I just described to you. I’ll keep this author’s future work in mind, though.

  3. Sirius

    Mind melt again Val with everything you said :). You know though every time I encounter another evil ex – because you know the Romania apparently not allowed to feel some bitterness over the fact that her marriage is ending without being turned into evil shrew whose only purpose is now to further destroy her ex- husband’s life – I keep reminding myself that there are books with decently written female characters in mm genre. There are may be not nearly enough of them in comparison to other books, but there is Magic mansion where Gia wins the competition , there is Stephanie from Kate Sherwood’s story who tells her former husband when he comes out to her that she does not need his permission to be angry but that does not give her a right to be an asshole ( or something along those lines). There are great women supporting characters in Tamara Allen’s, Ann Sommerville’s , Josephine Myles’ stories and I am sure I forgot others. I just keep hoping that one day we will have more characters like those :)

  4. Val Kovalin

    Ha, ha! I was wondering about “Romania” :D

    But, yes, total mind-meld! I’m glad you mentioned all those good examples.

    I just read a good book Black Hawk Tattoo with a female character Alice, the sister of one of the main characters.

    Alice was far from a positive portrayal of a woman with her abrasiveness, her temper, her chain-smoking, and her cursing — and one reviewer on Goodreads couldn’t stand her.

    But I thought she was a strong supporting character and a very believable human being. She loved her brother and she feared for him and found him immensely frustrating. She was struggling as a single mom and not handling her life all that well, but at least she was three dimensional. She will stay in my memory for a while.

    1. Sirius

      You just reminded me about what an idiot I was in regard to Black hawk tattoo Val. Somebody loaned it to me and I forgot to read it. Sigh. Going to buy it because only heard good words about it and I totally agree with you that I love the characters as the fake character that you described.

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