Title: Calling the Show
Author: J. A. Rock
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: Short Novel
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Young, vulnerable and complicated explore love and kink backstage in this clever and funny show with sexual hula hooping as additional extra – a heart warming hit.
Blurb: Senior stage manager Jesse Ferelit and sophomore light board operator Simeck Whedon meet while crewing a college theater production. Jesse hates everything about Sim — his lack of theater experience, his obsession with LGBTQ politics, his infatuation with, of all things, hula hoops. Well, he doesn’t hate everything. He doesn’t mind Sim’s eyes, or hair, or his surprising ability to be cool in a crisis. But Jesse is graduating in just a few months, and if there’s one thing he does not have time for, it’s a relationship.
Sim knows exactly what he likes: civil rights, the circus, and sex. And he knows what he likes about Jesse. In the control booth, Jesse is exactly Sim’s type — a natural leader, collected and confident. But outside the booth, he seems reclusive, acerbic and uptight — hardly Sim’s type at all. Is a relationship with Jesse a real possibility, just a fantasy, or a hopelessly lost cause?
When Sim offers to teach Jesse how to hula hoop as a way to relax and loosen up, the lessons ease the two men out of their individual circles and into an unexpected shared world of sex, kink, friendship, and eventually love.
Written in alternate first person chapters, this book displays the unusual personalities of the two main characters, Jesse and Simeck with skilful intimacy. How these young men get over their initial dislike of each other and build a strong and intuitive relationship forms the backbone of the story. This is set against a fascinating background of a vibrant college theatre, with a well written cast of interesting cliche free secondary characters.
Primarily it seems as if Jesse with his idiosyncratic mix of limited social skills, psychotic control tendencies, nervous tension and surprising kindness is going to dominate as the character with ‘issues’. This description by Sim of an early shared meal together delightfully reveals some of Jesse’s particular peculiar qualities,
We ate in the costume shop. We had to make sure we were at least seven feet from any costume at any given moment – Jesse had used some algorithm to figure out splatter potential.The beef stew wasn’t the dog – foody stuff from a can. I was pretty sure Jesse had actually made it.
However as the book progresses it becomes clear that Sim is far from what his crowd pleasing smile suggests.Their exploration of each other’s personalities is revealed with a lovely, light and very funny touch. Jesse has created various mechanisms that help him cope with his problems. Working as stage manager for the theatre dept’s productions helps him painfully to accept that he can’t control everything given the unpredictable nature of drama. Sim superficially seems an easier and more settled character, however his own well founded insecurities are also gradually teased out.
Their sexual relationship is placed within an imaginative display of their personal inclinations toward BDSM. This tentative exploration of their individual kinks is done informally but they are both aware of the labels of the more formal manifestations of BDSM. Their discussions and worries about their sexuality is very well done and added to the effective way we become part of their continually developing relationship. As they consider who really is ‘calling the show’, I really liked this insight of Sim’s,
The whole concept of doms is just another way society’s obsessed with hero making.
There are no easy labels to fit what they enjoy together and BDSM is not used here as some kind of therapy.
Sim’s mad hula hooping skills were an unexpectedly enjoyable addition to this story. It gave another unpredictable, fun……. and did I mention very hot……element to the relationship.
This was an unusual, thoughtful and funny book, focusing with great depth on the main characters. I had an occasional problem with the changing personal point of view, but in the main, the device only enhanced the level of close involvement with these two amazing young men.