Dress Up

DressUpTitle: Dress Up
Author: Joel Skelton
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Buy link:
Length: Novel (266 pages)
Genre: contemporary M/M romance
Rating: 1 star out of 5

A guest review by Leslie

In a nutshell: A lying main character completely ruined this mediocre story for me.


Broadway director Wyatt Stark’s smash hit, Dress Up, a free-spirited, spaghetti strap of a tale set during New York’s legendary fashion week, has played at full capacity for almost two years. Wyatt is taking his wildly successful musical to Hollywood with the help of his business partner, Murphy. But Wyatt is on the edge, overworked by the industry and overwrought by a terrible breakup, and so he agrees to spend the summer before production starts recuperating at Murphy’s secluded beach house in Maine.

It’s there that Wyatt meets and falls for Ryan Taylor—but Ryan isn’t who he portrays himself to be. Distressed and desperately in love, Ryan weaves a web of lies in an effort to secure Wyatt’s heart, hoping and praying that their romance can survive the deception. When Wyatt discovers the truth, will their love be there to stay, or will it be, like a worn-out fashion trend, yesterday’s news?


This would have been an ordinary 2 star book, full of pointless scenes, silly dialog, and cartoonish characters, except for the fact that the main character, Ryan, lied. He didn’t just lie a little bit and tell a foolish fib every now and then, he lied a lot. He built lies on top of lies. When he had the opportunity to come clean, he didn’t but instead, told more lies. After doing this, he had to go off and throw up which (I guess) was supposed to show how remorseful he was. But did he change his behavior and tell the truth? No. In fact, when Ryan’s deceit is exposed it’s not because he has suddenly grown a backbone and decided to be honest, it comes through another character’s inadvertent spilling of the beans.

For this reason, I knocked the book down to 1 star.

Maybe other readers wouldn’t care so much. Maybe someone thinks lying is an endearing character trait. But that’s not me.

If you can see your way past Ryan (described endlessly as “the hot young stud”), it’s still a mediocre book with very little to recommend it. Let me give a few examples of the myriad problems I found with this novel.

  • Characterization. I know some books go overboard with describing a character’s “emerald orbs” or “silky golden locks” but at the end of this story, I couldn’t tell you what color eyes or hair Wyatt had, his height, his weight, and most importantly, his age. Given that he’s lusting after 22 year old Ryan, it would have been nice to know if he was 30, 40, or something else. It makes a difference to me to know the characters are similar in age or one is old enough to be the other guy’s father. Since Wyatt was an extremely successful Broadway director and former dancer, then choreographer, I suspect he had to be forty-ish, but who knows? Maybe he was just a wunderkind who started young.
  • Pointless scenes. I would estimate that at least three-quarters of the book had scenes that did nothing to move the plot forward and were just there to act as padding. This has the advantage of making it easy to read a long book very quickly since it is easy to skim over these scenes once you realize you don’t have to pay attention to the characters or the action since they have nothing to do with the rest of the story. The disadvantage, of course, is that it makes for very boring reading.
  • Maine. I live in Maine and the fact that part of this story takes place here is what caught my eye in the blurb. Let me just say, if anyone wants to learn about this great state in a fiction book, I can suggest dozens that portray the state in an honest and interesting way. This book did neither. And for the record, when downeast and swimming in the Atlantic, the water is never described as “warm.” Ever. “Bracing” would be the closest thing to bearable. “Freezing” is the norm.
  • Over-the-top ending. ‘Nuff said.

I could go on but I think you get the picture. One small point: for people who don’t like on-page sex, that might be an attraction of this book—everything intimate was fade-to-black. For me, I couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or not. On one hand, I was a little bit curious about what lying-sack-o’shit-Ryan would say in bed. On the other hand, the style of writing lent itself to velvet manholes and beef bayonets. Not sure I could’ve handled that.

All in all, I can’t recommend this book. Of course, I’m just one reviewer/reader and others may feel differently. As always, comments are welcome.


  • Leslie, your claim that you read the book twice was not mentioned in your earlier review. It seems convenient to me that, after being called on your skimming claim, you now state you read the book twice. Regardless, if the 2nd read was necessary for you to digest the book why would you resort to skimming sections?

    I have no issue with different opinions and accept you do not like this book. As others stated above it is your venomous attack on the way the characters acted (i.e. liar) because you disaprove of such conduct in real life. An objective review would not tear apart the whole book simply because of a moral dilema.

    Best wishes to you in finding your next book to trash.

    • Kris

      Thank you for commenting on this review.

      As you know, we welcome diverse opinions on this site and everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion. However, I do draw the line at you calling Leslie a liar and saying that her review was “a venomous attack on the way that the characters acted”. That was uncalled for and unjustified. I frequently disagree with the opinions expressed on this site but I would not call a guest reviewer a liar because I didn’t accept her explanation about how many times she read a book.

      Leslie has written almost 100 reviews for the site on her own time and I have never found her to be unprofessional or a liar.

      I think enough has been said about this one book and it would be in all our best interest to move on. Obviously you and Leslie will never agree on this topic and name calling is definitely not the way to resolve differences.

      Thank you for visiting the site.

  • Anyone who thinks a true liar changes stripes when given the opportunity needs a dose of reality. As a lawyer I encounter people lying about the most ridiculous things. Things that are easy to prove false and that provide no advantage to the liar which makes everyone wonder why the lie.? In that sense, this book is consistent with reality. Leslie, you admit to “skimming” the book. That makes your review a lie. You state the book lacks depth yet you did not read it in its entirety. How is it possible for you to provide an honest review without reading the book? A review is an opinion and you are entitled to your opinion, however, it is unacceptable to post a review for a book you failed to read. This book is a good read. Fun story that shines a light on known human disfunction. OAN. I swam in the waters off Maine. There are days when the water is actually fairly warm. The uniqueness of those days is what makes it important to note.

    • Kris–I did read the book–twice. I said that I skimmed certain scenes once I realized they were padding–and that was on the second re-read. I have posted one review here at Wave’s site where I only read the sample, not the whole book, and I was upfront about saying that in my review. That was a one-time exception. All the other books here that I’ve reviewed, I’ve read in their entirety, at least once, usually twice.

      I am glad you enjoyed the book and thought it was a good read. Variety is what makes the world go round, right? If we all liked the same thing, the world would be a very boring place indeed.

      Thanks for your comment.


  • Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 1-star review on this site. I haven’t read the book, and probably wouldn’t have just based on the summary (unless it’s one that’s sent to me for the Rainbow Awards).

    Having said that, there have been more than a few times I’ve seen reviews given where the reviewer LOVES!! the story and I personally was gagging over it. Or, a story I really enjoyed gets a bad review. After all, a review is a person’s opinion and no matter what, we all have varied tastes and tolerance levels. This can change for the same person from day to day, based on mood and stress levels.

    It was a great review, and while I might not have given it a 1-star (cause I’m chicken-shit like that), I probably wouldn’t have finished it unless I had to.


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