This is going to be a review in two parts and I’ll start with Mike and Tommy’s story.
As love stories go this one is sweet and mesmerizing. At first glance these two characters have little to nothing in common. Innocent, young and naive Tommy stems from a very religious family living in rural backwater. While studying away from home has more or less allowed him to come to terms with the fact he’s gay, he is not the type to go out partying and searching for new experiences.
Mike on the other hand is experience personified. Not only is he confident in who he is, he’s not ashamed of his almost twenty-year long career in porn either. If he has an issue with his chosen profession it is that the men he has dated in the past couldn’t deal with it and left him over it.
Despite the differences between them, the attraction between Mike and Tommy is instant. In fact the attraction on Tommy’s part is so strong that despite his shyness he continues to visit the club where Mike works as a bartender every Saturday night, just to be able to admire the man from a distance.
When the two men at last do come together it is a thing of beauty. The intimacy between them is as hot as it is tender. It almost makes you feel every virgin should have the opportunity to receive their introduction into sex at the hands of an older and very considerate partner.
While I wouldn’t call this an angsty book I have to admit that at times it was hard not to read this book with tiny knots in my stomach. When Tommy thinks about sex in these terms: “There are just some things you don’t talk about”, it’s impossible not to hold your breath and wait for trouble to arrive. I mean, if he can’t bring himself to talk about it, how on earth is he going to deal with Mike’s career in porn. In fact, the certainty that a crisis was awaiting these two characters I’d gotten so very attached to, kept me on a knife edge while reading. And yet when the issue of Mike’s career does explode between them, Tommy managed to surprise me. I don’t want to say too much about this because that would constitute a major and unforgivable spoiler but I would like to add that I love originality in my characters and Tommy certainly doesn’t react like the vast majority of characters in other books I’ve read.
Both Tommy and Mike were very easy characters to love. Tommy’s innocence when the book starts borders on being too much of a sweet thing. Watching him grow into himself and his relationship with Mike is a thing of beauty though and by the time the story ends he may have lost some of his innocence, he hasn’t lost any of his sweetness and his inner strength took my breath away. And before you think this makes him sound like a too good to be true character, let me reassure you; while he may be sweet he is never less than human and believable.
Mike, the more experienced person in this relationship both due to his age and his chosen career, is not always the more sensible of the two. And that gave the story a wonderful depth. It would have been so easy for Tommy to be the cause of the trouble they run into, but he isn’t. While he is younger in years, Tommy turns out to be one with the more sensible and level head on his shoulders when push comes to shove.
And that’s it for the first part of my review; an awful lot of words to tell you how much I adored this story.
Everything I wrote above would have been more than enough to rate this book five stars. What raises this book to the level of ‘extra-special’ is the way it deals with and the insight it gives us into the workings of the porn industry.
Gay for pay and bareback sex are not subjects I’d given a lot of thought to before reading this book. Obviously I’d heard about both, I just hadn’t paid much attention to them, other than to totally disapprove of bareback sex under almost all circumstances.
I’ve read stories set in the world of porn before but this was the first time I felt I got a real insight into that industry, where it has been, where it’s at and where it is going – and the picture isn’t always pretty. I walked away from this book feeling I had a better idea of what working in that industry is like on levels you could never get from ‘just’ watching a porn scene. The reflections on the porn industry in this book felt at times personal and that added an extra level to the reading experience. I usually rush my way through KC Wells’ books because she captivates me in the first paragraph and keeps me hooked until the very last word. And that was true for this story too; when I’ll re-read First, it will be in a reading marathon. But I forced myself to slow down for this book. I wanted to think about things and read between the lines. And that’s what made this book extra special.
Well that and Tommy and Mike and the wonderful secondary characters in their lives. Tommy’s adopted family and Mike’s colleagues were fun and enriched an already wonderful story. And then there is the cover. I rarely, if ever, remark on covers. While I like beautiful covers as much as the next person, they rarely influence whether or not I’ll take a closer look at a title. This cover speaks to my heart though. For the first time ever I may have to buy a printed copy of a book I already have on my Kindle because the image on my reader is too hidden for my liking.