Review: Dead Ringer, by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler

The Blurb:

Cover-DeadRingerBrandon Ringer has a dead man’s face. His grandfather, silver-screen heartthrob James Ringer, died tragically at twenty-one, and Brandon looks exactly like him. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Brandon is unknown, unemployed, and up to his ears in bills after inheriting his grandparents’ Hollywood mansion. He refuses to sell it—it’s his last connection to his grandmother—so to raise the cash he needs, he joins a celebrity look-alike escort agency.

Percy Charles is chronically ill, isolated, and lonely. His only company is his meddlesome caregiver and his collection of James Ringer memorabilia. When he finds “Jim Ringer” on Hollywood Doubles’ website, he books an appointment, hoping to meet someone who shares his passion for his idol.

Brandon? Not that person.

But despite their differences, they connect, and Percy’s fanboy love for James shows Brandon a side of his grandfather he never knew. Soon they want time together off the clock, but Percy is losing his battle for independence, and Brandon feels trapped in James’s long shadow. Their struggle to love each other is the stuff of classic Hollywood. Too bad Brandon knows how those stories end.

The Stats:

October 26, 2015
Riptide Publishing
Contemporary, M/M, GLBT+
453 e-book pages
3rd person
Dates I read this:
Edition I read:
November 18-20, 2015
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

The Review:

✮✮ Two Stars

I don’t look at other reviews when I sit down to write my review. But this time I had to take a gander at the ratings because I was not a happy girl after reading this book. I needed to see if I was the odd one out. It appears I’m somewhat in the minority.

Also, my attitude right now might be the result of a head cold that settled in on the eve of nine days off work and the Thanksgiving holiday—me being THE cook and all.

I’m feelin’ a mite bitchy.

The blurb totally sold me on this book. And the cover. That cover, folks, is smokin’.

I’m a huge fan of James Dean, the young Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, Montgomery Clift…need I go on? I’m a total sucker for the brooding bad boys of 1950s movies in their white t-shirts and leather jackets. I thank my mom for that. As a kid she wrote fan letters to all her heartthrobs and has a fat scrapbook of autographed photos from most of them, including Marilyn Monroe and quite a few of the bombshell beauties. She shared that with me when I was a teen; and we spent many rainy weekends watching old movies. That was our thing.

So this book? This should have been right up my alley.

For something so long, it fell way short.

Look, I typically like longer books. I like something meaty I can settle in with and enjoy for a few days, savor it, feel like I’m a part of it, live in it, be sad to go when it ends. The thing is, it’s gotta BE something worth living in. It’s got to have a good steady pace with some ebbs and flows. It’s got to have something compelling to say that continues to grow, twist, and lead me willingly down a path with some surprises along the way and a rewarding conclusion.

However, this dragged and I was bored out of my mind more than I was engaged. Our heroes didn’t meet until around 28%. So much back story and setup was unnecessary to this degree.

I kept with it because, eternal optimist that I am, I kept hoping the pace would pickup and some big questions I had would get answered.

But nope.

Ranty Spoilers for those inclined:

For real, stop reading if you don’t want my f-bombs.

And really, this gives away a lot of book details…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Percy. Now, I liked him just fine. He pulled at my heartstrings, sort of. He’s definitely got the shit-end of the stick in a lot of ways. What I didn’t like, at all, was there was no satisfactory explanation or resolution with his fucked up family or evil caretaker. There was some seriously dark and nefarious business going on in that big old house that I thought was going to get a bit more attention and exploration—and I think should have; after, of course, cutting out some other parts that didn’t propel the story.

Brandon. The Dead Ringer of his grandfather. I was most excited about him. But there was no real transformation there, no real growth of character—except the bare minimum he had to do to be mildly successful as a rent-boy. Because, ya know, its all about the five star ratings on his profile and repeat customers. Otherwise, he didn’t seem to care about being a better person. The weird thing is, he knew his flaws, knew he was an asshole and a bit of a fuck-up loser. But the little bit of doing better and growing he did was not for the right reasons or any sort of authentic redemption.

Percy and Brandon are John and Escort, a business arrangement that isn’t entirely about the sex because not much of that happened between them. Okay, I could buy that. They don’t have a many encounters—but we get lots of Brandon’s encounters with other Johns. I wasn’t a big fan of that at all. They felt like sex scenes for the sake of sex scenes sprinkled about willy nilly.

These guys didn’t become a *thing* until much, much later…in the last 30% when they’re spouting the “L” word but hadn’t really been around each other much. I was so puzzled with that—almost to the point that I wanted to flip back through the book and count how many times they were actually together. I don’t think it was quite often enough, or the encounters quite profound enough, for such declarations. That kinda made it insta-love that took an inordinate amount of time to reach.

And while it was trundling and fumbling along they have a Big Misunderstanding that was colossally immature. Sorry, but that felt like a lazy way to toss in the obligatory conflict.

Okay fine with the immaturity. Brandon is 19, Percy is 21. They’re young. And I think it’s time I stop reading books with characters this young because, at 42, apparently I can no longer relate. Except, I’m all for “coming of age” IF THERE’S SOME ACTUAL GROWTH AND MATURITY. But, for all the possible words that could have gotten them there, it fell horribly short.

I think it’s pretty typical in whore-falls-in-love stories for the whore to, well, stop doing that when they find their one-true-love. But Brandon keeps his escort job. Because he likes it. And they’re typically old men, so that makes it okay and not really cheating.

So let me get this straight, NINETEEN YEAR OLD BRANDON LIKES GETTING PAID TO BE BONED BY WRINKLY OLD MEN WHO HAD STAR-CRUSHES ON HIS GRANDPA. Because, why now? It’s a public service? He’s fulfilling life-long dreams for old men? And Percy is okay with this? He says he is. Is it because he thinks he doesn’t deserve better? Can’t get better because of his disability? I can’t for the life of me grasp onto any good reason why Percy is okay sending his man off to work with a kiss and a pat on the ass to go be a rent-boy. Or why Brandon really wants to stick with this after he fills his bank account and has Percy living with him.

I needed something better to make me believe Brandon’s career choice was really okay for them.

The epilogue…I found no reason for it. It was a bit messy, a bit confusing, not redeeming, and didn’t exactly tie up any loose threads—other than showing that after some time had passed the boys were still together and found a way to capitalize on grandpa’s memorabilia.

This review also posted on GoodReads / partial review on Amazon.

Tell me what you think!