Review: “Dead Ringer” by Heidi Belleau & Sam Schooler

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This book did some things very well. There are no control-freaks disguised as alpha-males. In fact, there are no alpha-males at all which is a nice change from the current trend in (gay and straight) romance. The good side characters are likeable, diverse and even those who don’t appear too often have depth.

The authors are also aware that ‘man hires escort who looks like long dead film star he is obsessed with and then falls in love with said escort’ is something that needs to be handled with care. It is addressed hat Percy developed feelings for Brandon and not the spitting image of his favourite actor.

And the plot sounds great. There’s Brandon, a guy who doesn’t like his grandfather much but still uses the fact that he looks like him to earn money. And there’s Percy, a chronically ill man who can’t leave the house much and who adores and obsesses over the films of Brandon’s grandfather. Then the gay version of Pretty Woman happens. Warm and fuzzy feelings all round.

Except that’s not quite how it goes. Instead everything just ends up being too much. Brandon doesn’t only dislike his grandfather, he hates him. He’s convinced he broke his grandmother’s heart; the only family member who was ever kind to him. (His parents’ reaction to his coming out was suggesting conversion therapy and when he refused that kicking him out). He never watched any of his films or interviews and sees all remarks about their similarities as an insult.

Percy isn’t just dealing with overprotective parents and a ‘meddlesome’ caregiver. His parents don’t care about him as long as he doesn’t make them look bad and Hazel, his caregiver, is downright abusive. Both emotionally – by persuading him that nobody would want to be friends with because his disability would only bother them – and physically – by withholding food and his medication when he doesn’t do what she wants.

Suffice to say both are in a really bad place at the beginning of the novel. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing except that things are just getting better too smoothly and easily for my taste. After all Brandon and Percy aren’t just going through a short and rough patch; both have dealt with a lot of shit for most of their lives. Still a few meetings are all it takes to turn everything into rainbows and butterflies.

Only until shit happens of course. And just like it wasn’t enough to have the characters be in a bad place at the beginning and it had to be rock bottom instead it now isn’t enough that just something bad happens. All the worst possible things happen at the worst possible time and you suddenly realize that even if you’re at rock-bottom you can still dig a hole.

Those bad things are also all set off by people who are just plain evil. Unlike the good characters the bad ones are just horrible for the sake of being horrible. Apart from Hazel there are two more characters that have zero depth and only seem to enjoy making other people miserable. I’m all for the big problem between the couple not just being the result of them being unable to communicate like rational adults but this way isn’t much better.

Just like at the beginning things just get better too fast. I never worried about either character because things turned around so quickly again. And all of a sudden nothing goes wrong anymore. Once they made up their mind how to resolve the situation everything goes according to plan. No misunderstandings or unexpected things that mess everything up. It’s like there are only two possibilities: everything goes horribly wrong or everything works perfectly fine. There is no in between.

It’s a pity because I liked the main characters and enjoyed the bare bones of the plot. If the authors had not turned the trouble-meter up to eleven and then made all problems disappear as fast as possible I could have loved the book. But as it is I’m simply not overwhelmed. (I still would totally read a book about Judy, Brandon’s boss, and Theresa, the agency’s secretary. They are the most adorable side-characters I’ve come across in quite a while),

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English student who spends a lot of time reading, mostly crime and fantasy, both YA and non-YA. I also enjoy the occasional historical novel (The Anarchy, lately also Age of Sail) and various non-fiction/true crime books. My non-bookish interests include knitting and crime-shows.

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