Title: Appearing Nightly
Author: Cat Grant
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novella (108 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Summary Review: An unlikely romance between a drag queen and a former hooker, and the drag queen steals the show.
Come back to the Icon Bar and bump into some of the guys from The First Real Thing.
You can call me Mike-or Diva Michelle on the weekends, when I perform at the Icon, a bar I own with my good friend Cameron. But just because I strut onstage in an evening gown and high heels doesn’t make me a sissy. I’ve still got a man’s body, feelings and desires. I’m also a man who knows what he wants-and that would be Ryan. One look at our new employee, with his hot physique and boy-next-door face, and I was lost-falling hard and fast. It broke my heart each time he rejected me until the night he finally fell into my arms, desperate for the comfort only I could provide.
Each night our passion burns up the sheets, but Ryan’s holding something back. He’s been hurt in the past, leaving him scarred both inside and out. He won’t let me reach that secret part of him. I’d be willing to give him anything, but if he can’t trust me with the pain of his past, is there hope for a future?
Appearing Nightly while it’s not exactly a sequel, stars some of the characters that I met in The First Real Thing reviewed last September which I have linked.
A brief recap if you haven’t read TFRT. Cameron was a high priced hooker, and while staying at the St. Regis with one of his clients he met Ryan who was a doorman at the hotel. Fast forward, Cameron and Ryan get it on in the hotel gym one night but are unaware that it’s equipped with cameras, and Ryan is fired immediately. Ryan can’t find another job due to the recession. Because he is so good looking he’s courted by Cameron’s former ‘manager’ and becomes a hooker, but he is badly beaten by one of his clients while on a cruise and is saved by Cameron who was on the same cruise with his client.
Appearing Nightly opens a few months later. Cameron is now the joint owner of The Icon with Mike, the bar where Mike performs as drag queen Diva Michelle every Friday night. Ryan who was unemployed and was almost at the point of living in a homeless shelter because he was flat broke, is offered a job at the bar by Cameron, but Mike wants to be more than Ryan’s employer, he wants to be his lover.
Life as a bus boy and waiter at The Icon is not easy for Ryan. The work is back-breaking especially since everything is new to him, and it doesn’t help that Mike comes on to him every chance he gets. Cameron is having his own troubles because he has no time to spend with his lover Trevor, who is not happy; and Mike feels under-appreciated by Cameron as his business partner because Cam doesn’t consult him about the day to day running of the bar since his money financed the purchase. This state of affairs is exacerbated by the bar not making enough to cover the bills and Cameron has to keep re-investing his scarce funds for operating expenses. Everyone’s nerves are frayed and the only bright spot is Mike’s performance as Diva Michelle every Friday night when he brings down the house and brings in the customers. Ryan, meanwhile, is staying as far away as he can from Mike because he doesn’t want an ugly confrontation even though Mike has never made him feel threatened but makes it obvious that Ryan turns him on.
One night when Mike was getting into his Diva Michelle persona Ryan was in the room and became aroused when he saw Mike in his new outfit. Was his arousal because Mike looked like a hot woman or was he turned on by the man under all the makeup, hair and high heels?
I had a couple of niggles about Appearing Nightly and the major one had to do with Ryan’s characterization. Here’s his character’s description by Mike
With his freckled cheeks, blond hair and tight, adorable butt, Ryan looked more like a California surfer boy than a refugee from the wilds of Queens—no pun intended, of course. Practically every guy in the place, with the exception of Cam and me—okay, with the exception of Cam—had tried hitting on him at one time or another, only to be rebuffed with a fire-engine blush and a quick dash toward the nearest exit. The same blush spreading across his cheeks this very second. Either the kid was a virgin, or straight as a steel ruler. With that hot body and sweet boy-next-door face, I considered the former highly unlikely
I had a hard time buying the blushes and quick exits. This is a man who had been a hooker, albeit for a short time, and certainly knew which end of the male body to pleasure, so while he might look the part of the shy, innocent virgin, his frequent blushes throughout parts of the book weren’t consistent with the character I knew from The First Real Thing.
Appearing Nightly is told from Mike’s first person POV supplemented by Ryan’s third person POV. Ryan was one screwed up individual with some major personal problems. His life was in the toilet and he was in so much emotional pain at being a failure and living in a dump that he couldn’t afford, with a roommate who was a deadbeat and a drug addict, with no way out. He used to be a drug addict and alcoholic and was concerned that working in a bar was the worst place for his alcohol addiction, but he couldn’t find another job. If he thought his life was in the dumpster, it got worse when his roommate set fire to his apartment and Ryan was evicted. He had no place else to go and slept at the bar one night while trying to figure out what to do. When Mike discovered what he was up to he offered him a place to stay until he could find another apartment. Of course sharing Mike’s apartment brought out intense emotions between them and the sex was hot as well as tender but Ryan was in denial about his sexuality, which almost led to a breakup with Mike when he found out about his past. Hurting Mike was the last thing Ryan wanted to do, but he still could not admit he was gay even though he had no problem having sex with men and apparently enjoyed it. As for Mike, he genuinely cared for Ryan but would Ryan make him feel that he was important to him or would he end up feeling used? Also, how long could Cameron hold out if the bar was not paying its way, and what about the love of his life, Trevor?
As you can tell, this is a pretty complex story with many layers and characters whose lives depended on each other. Cat Grant did a very good job on Appearing Nightly and I liked the characters who were all well drawn, (except for my one niggle about Ryan’s characterization), including Ryan’s ex fiancee and best friend Alexa. Above all I loved Mike, or Diva Michelle, who I thought was an outstanding protagonist and the heart of the book. Even though Mike dressed up as a woman on Friday nights for his performances he was definitely all man, and anyone who forgot that paid the price.
Appearing Nightly is a very enjoyable book, high on angst but really funny, with great characters. Highly recommended.