Summary Review: A poignant story about an upscale male escort whose life straddles two worlds, and the compromises he makes as well as the consequences when he falls in love.
My name’s Cameron. And I’m a male escort. I’m the best, and most expensive, at what I do. I have one rule-never let anyone in.
In five years of hooking I’ve never picked up the wrong guy. But when I met Toronto ad man Trevor Barclay in a Manhattan bar, his soft green eyes and shy smile drew me right in. When I discovered the error I had made, I should have written it off as a mistake and moved on. But memories of the steamy encounter we shared in his hotel room continued to haunt me.
I never should have agreed to see him again, but from that very first night he worked his way under my skin and into my heart. I can’t stop thinking about him. But how can I tell him the first man he’s been with in sixteen years sells himself for a living?
I thought this would be the usual trite story about a male prostitute, where the characterizations would not be fully fleshed out and there would be no real story other than the sex. Well, there was sex and lots of it because Cameron is an escort and a high priced one, but the author humanized him. I liked his character, understood why he does what he does, how he feels about his job, and his devastation when the man he fell in love with walked away.
Cameron started a blog to document his feelings after Trevor left him, but said he didn’t understand why he wanted to write his thoughts down, it was not as if Trevor would ever read his blog — he was out of his life. Here’s how he introduces himself in the beginning of his blog – down on himself but also not ashamed of what he did in order to make a living:
I’ve been hooking for five years—that’s a long time in this business. First thing you learn is to turn off your feelings, turn on the charm and get the job done. All those hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold stories are bullshit. You can’t afford to have a heart, not in this line of work. Can’t afford to let anyone in.
Prostitute. Whore. Rent boy. Call me what you like, I won’t be offended. I enjoy sex, and I’m good at it, but it’s not the only service I provide. Most of the guys who hire me are just plain lonely. I’m there to fill the void for an evening or a weekend. Why shouldn’t I get paid for it? It’s a hell of a better living than waiting tables or slaving away in an office.
The first time Cameron saw Trevor, an advertising executive from Toronto, he was in a high end hotel bar waiting for his next trick and he made the mistake of assuming that Trevor was his ‘date’ because he fit the profile — alone in a sea of couples and there was a white envelope next to him, the usual discreet payment in advance. Cameron introduced himself, they exchanged names and surprisingly Trevor invited him to dinner — surprising because the usual thrust of his dates was to get off, not have long conversations. Time was money and Cameron’s fees were very expensive for the usual 2 hour appointments. There was an obvious spark between them and Trevor confessed that he was recently divorced after 15 years of marriage. He was sad at the break-up but relieved because he hadn’t been happy for most of the marriage. He was looking forward to exploring his sexuality with another man to satisfy his craving and Cameron would be his first male lover.
Soon they were in Trevor’s hotel room and his initiation into man on man sex was everything he had dreamed of. He was nervous, but once he got over it he made the most of the opportunity to experience something he had wanted all his adult life. Unfortunately all good things must end, but before Cameron left he gave Trevor his card in case he wanted to get together the next time he was in New York. It wasn’t until he checked his calls when he left Trevor that he realized he had chosen the wrong man in the bar and he had a very angry client to satisfy.
Two weeks later Trevor called him. He was back in New York and wanted to see him. Cam was in a quandary. Trevor obviously did not know anything about his line of work and the date would be unpaid time, cutting into his very lucrative weekend business. But on the flip side he liked Trevor so he agreed to meet him again, which started a train of events, and soon his feelings became engaged. Whenever Trevor came into town Cam would invite him to his trendy apartment where no one else had stayed, cook for him and entertain him in bed, and they would act like any other couple getting to know each other and falling in love. Cam had to do a balancing act with his regular clients so that he wouldn’t lose them even though he was no longer available for weekends, and he had to ensure that the man he loved and who loved him back didn’t find out what he did for a living. He was so in love that he even made plans to retire within a few months rather than the 5 years he had originally planned, so that he and Trevor could be together because he was being transferred to New York.
This juggling could only go on for so long before things started to crumble and the first crack was when Trevor brought his teenage son (who was going through his own sexual identity crisis), to meet Cam. Everything blew up in Cam’s face and he realized that his dream was over.
This book is told from Cam’s first person POV — his ‘voice’ is very distinctive, and the character is quite likable and intelligent. He recognized that he had, at most, 5 good years left in the business because by then he would be 35 years old. The competition was fierce as there were younger and better looking guys entering the market every day and before very long he would be a “has been”, so he planned on leaving when the timing was right and was saving his money for the next phase of his life. We don’t know as much about Trevor’s thoughts obviously, although he was just as three dimensional, but what I learned made him into a well rounded person.
The First Real Thing was complex and it was further complicated by a couple of sub plots, but they were integrated into the main story. I was very impressed with the way Cat Grant handled each element and brought them all together into a cohesive whole.
The characters were well drawn, from Charles, Cam’s former ‘pimp,’ if you could call someone who made his kind of money a pimp. He initiated Cam into the business and they actually lived together for a couple of years before parting. Charles had all the negative traits one would expect from someone in his line of work but I was pleased that he redeemed himself. Other characters of note were Mike, Cameron’s good friend who was a female impersonator at the Icon, a bar where he hung out. Garrett, the owner of the Icon, was another interesting personality in addition to Ryan, a recent recruit into the escort business.
I predict you will really like Cam’s story – I thought it rocked.