Author: Ryan Loveless
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 336 Pages
At a Glance: An eloquent and well written novel
Blurb: To an outsider’s view, world-famous action star Joe Nestra lives the Hollywood dream—parties, women, and a high-profile divorce. In reality, Joe’s agent directs his public life. Those women he’s supposedly intimate with? Prearranged dates ending at the red carpet. With his assistant and best friend Derek Simmons’s help, Joe has lived safely in the closet since his divorce, choosing to let off steam with discreet male escorts rather than risk an actual boyfriend. At forty-four, he has no plans to change. Then, taking a role in a film without flashy explosions upends that.
When Joe signs on to play an early 1990s-era AIDS-stricken gay man, his internalized homophobia threatens the production. His out costar Hunter Starling won’t put up with Joe’s behavior. As the animosity between Joe and Hunter grows, saving the film means Joe must face his deepest fear. Challenges pile up from all directions, from his father disowning him to the entertainment industry’s backstabbing reaction. Amid the backlash, Joe ventures into his first gay romantic relationship, tries to help others worse off, and slowly learns how to live his life instead of just acting it.
Review: I will begin by saying that I cannot add much to the blurb or I will spoil your read of this eloquent and well written novel. Suffice it to say that this story was not about heaps of sex, in fact what little there was occurred primarily off page, nor was it just about falling in love. Instead, it was really a coming-of-age novel, a facing of oneself and deciding to treat what one saw there with compassion and respect. Joe is so far in the closet that at the age of 44, it is questionable if he will ever come out. The indie film he decides to do in order to stretch his career from just an action hero to a bit more is the catalyst that can either propel him from his safe hidey-hole or lodge him in more deeply. When he chooses the former, his life is upended and all kinds of revelations and realities begin to rain down upon his head.
The strength of this beautifully written story was Joe’s grappling with what was important to him—not to his family, not to his agent, but to him. Could he continue to live a lie? Most of the story was Joe making decisions based on that gut wrenching idea. Along the way, he realizes how blind he has been—particularly when it comes to his assistant and handler, Derek. Derek was, for much of the story, a conundrum. Stoic, slightly angry and hidden, Derek managed all aspects of Joe’s life. Maintaining physical distance that bordered on obsession, his “no touching” rule became almost a third character in the room when these two had an emotional moment. Those times also were few and far between, as Derek kept a very tight rein on his emotions, unlike Joe who was often all over the place. Theirs was a strange marriage of intimacy and distance and so when secrets were shared halfway through this novel, it was both a surprise and a relief since your gut hunch had already led you to what was being revealed. I am sorry to be so cryptic, but to give much more information would honestly spoil the story for you, in my opinion.
So what can I reveal? I can tell you that this novel was careful in the way it depicted both Hollywood and its acceptance/distancing of the gay actor. Instead of using clichés where an actor is outed, or outs himself and then disappears from the movie scene, author Ryan Loveless allowed for truth and fiction to go hand-in-hand as Joe’s career took decidedly less traveled paths. He was not dumped or instantly blackballed, but he was insidiously and systematically dropped by the industry that once loved him. The amazing aspect of this was that this did not devastate Joe—instead, he rose from the potential fallout stronger and happier than he had ever been. Surrounded by a man who loved him and a family that supported him, even the horrible and violent reaction by his aging father was made more palatable.
Ryan Loveless is an eloquent writer, creating strength where there should be weakness, and redeeming stories where there could be nothing but despair. In Me an Invincible Summer is a novel of hope and rebuilding, a story of acceptance and love.
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