Title: Public Lives, Private Pleasures
Author: Adrianna Dane
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Length: Short Novel
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
A guest review by Buda
Summary Review: The damages secrets and lies inflict on the body and mind are explored in this short coming-out novel about the scion of an ultra-conservative political family in Washington, DC.
Descended from an old, very influential Virginia family with conservative views, Adrien has no desire to carry on the family’s political tradition. Still, he’s forced to hide his gay identity to protect the budding political career of his younger twin brother, Marsh, who wants to take up where their father, Senator Douglas Langtry, left off. There’s no room for mistakes, no matter how much Adrien hates living that lie.
It’s not until Adrien meets sexy Latin choreographer, Frankie Raphael, that his apathy evaporates, and he begins to question his choices. Beautiful, passionate Frankie offers Adrien a glimpse into a world he’d only ever dared experience through the safety of the lens of his camera. Desire for Frankie makes his personal sacrifices seem suddenly unacceptable.
Dare Adrien jeopardize his brother’s political aspirations for a chance at his own happiness or will forces beyond his control slam the door shut on a life he’s only ever dreamed of? If he chooses to come out, their public lives be forever altered by the shocking revelation of their private pleasures.
Adrien Langtry is the older of twin brothers, a man wounded physically from a high school football accident that left him with a bum knee and a permanent limp. He’s scarred emotionally from years of “reparative therapy,” through which his ultra-conservative family tried to cure him of his homosexuality, and a dependency on mood-stabilizing prescription drugs, with which his cold, controlling mother has kept him on a very short leash. Now, with his younger twin Marsh beginning a political campaign of his own, Adrien is expected to toe the party/family line even more strictly than before. Adrien is also a photographer, carrying one camera or another with him everywhere he goes, and decorating the walls of his home/studio with images of men together.
Francesco Raphael, a dance instructor and the son of a former Ambassador, knows all about the secrets political families keep. Luckily for him, though, the Ambassador and his wife have been able to accept their son’s homosexuality and love him without reservation. He is immediately drawn to Tad (the name Adrien gives him) when he sees him at a public function, but that chance meeting ends with only a kiss.
When next they meet, Frankie has just engaged in some hot sex with his dance student, Kurt, in the dark corner of a bar. Frankie sees Tad/Adrien in the bathroom and gropes him, trying to get the man to admit he wants him. What Adrien admits to, though, is that he is celibate and has been to bed neither with men nor women. Frankie gives Adrien his card and tells him to call when he’s ready, because the “one thing you don’t want to do is lose your cherry to somebody…thoughtless.” Of course Adrien does eventually call and the two meet for some very thoughtful sex, which is more than enough to convince Adrien that he has, indeed, been missing something.
As Adrien progresses along in his relationship with Frankie, we realize that Adrien has taken steps to protect himself from another forced hospitalization, including getting himself off the drugs his mother’s doctors prescribed, and seeking out his own psychologist, Harvey, with whom he meets in a park on Sundays and plays chess while debriefing from the latest Sunday Family Dinner. I wasn’t ever sure Adrien realized this would also help him come out, or that he ever would have considered such a thing, if it weren’t for Frankie’s presence in his life. Frankie, for his part, realizes that this is Adrien’s first taste of sexual freedom and, therefore, Adrien might crave exploring some of the very sexy men available to him now. For all of Frankie’s life, his main focus has been his dancing, so he hasn’t done serious relationships, hasn’t needed to; he’s had occasional, casual flings with his dance students, including the aforementioned Kurt.
When the press gets wind of Adrien’s sexuality, his aren’t the only secrets to come bursting out of the closet. Like in seemingly all good conservative political families, Marsh has his own demons. Coming Out does a body good. Period. And both Adrien and Marsh, and even Frankie, learn that in their own ways. Adrien learns to love himself and Frankie, learns that who he is and the sexuality he was born with is not wrong, no matter what sick and twisted ways the “reparative therapy” tried to convince him it was. Frankie learns that perhaps it is time in his life to change focus from career to love and life. Marsh, well, his lesson is best left for you to discover yourself.
A warning for some readers: The sex in this book isn’t had only by Adrien-and-Frankie. The two engage in a crazy hot threesome with Kurt, with whom Frankie has a bit of pubic-place sexual contact (no intercourse) before hooking up with Adrien.
What Did Not Work For Me:
Frankie begins the “babe” thing right from the first sex scene. I know this is my own pet peeve, but I cannot remember a time I’ve ever called a trick by such a name. And at that point, that is all Adrien is, because they don’t know one another well enough for it to be anything else.
What Did Work For Me:
Adrien likes a little pain with his pleasure. Just a little pierced-nipple twisting or ass slapping, nothing serious. I loved the way the author made the connection between the physical pain and Adrien feeling alive, that he had dwelt in the black hold of repression, depression and medication for so long that in order to feel at all, it was through transferring that emotional pain and emptiness into a physical feeling.
The underworld of conservative politicos was once again exposed, something that seems to be happening on a weekly basis here in the States. It was very timely.
Public Lives, Private Pleasures is definitely a worthy addition to the terrific Coming Out Day 2010 Special Collection. Adrien is a character whose past experience, told through memory and discussion, is one with which too many gay men can identify–reparative therapy, suicide attempt, repression/depression/medication. When he finally frees himself from the bonds of family and closet, a Adrien actually becomes a new and better man, something that is reflected in his art. If you’ve enjoyed the collection so far, or want a political story, or like threesomes with two hot dancers, pick up this book.