Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: In the Spotlight
AUTHOR: Shona Husk
PUBLISHER: Escape Publishing
LENGTH: 135 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 25, 2016
A diva who lives for the spotlight, a sailor deeply in the closet, a love that will change them both
Ripley Malone is returning to Perth in triumph. A principal ballet dancer in a production that has critics raving, he is an unqualified success, and all the small-minded people that made his life hell can kiss his lycra-covered ass. But behind the makeup and the glitter and the costumes, Ripley is beginning to tire, tire of the competition, the drive, the endless parade of meaningless lovers.
For Pierce Lovell, joining the Navy was a way out of rural Victoria, but becoming a submariner comes with its own set of challenges. The close living quarters and long months away are awkward enough without adding any extra tension around his sexuality. The fear is probably in his head, but he isn’t taking any chances with his career. He gets by on anonymous one-night-stands every time they come to shore and keeps his heart well-shielded. But one night with Ripley opens the tantalising possibility of more.
Through a mistake Ripley is injured. He can’t dance. His wings are clipped and he crashes down and hits the earth hard. Pierce knows their affair can’t possibly end in anything but heartache, but he can’t stay away. As Ripley heals and reassesses his life, he is determined not to make the same mistakes again. That means letting someone see the vulnerable side of him. But vulnerability for Pierce could cost him everything
Ripley’s career is finally going in the direction he’s always wanted. His dancing is improving and he has the lead male role in the ballet he is touring with. Outside of his dancing, though, his life is a bit of a mess. His best friend is going a bit crazy, his Dad is becoming more affected by his Huntington’s, and Ripley has had to live every day for the last several years knowing it was a 50/50 shot at him developing it as well. He loves his job, and he loves touring, but being back home in Perth is getting a bit stressful. Which is why when he sees a man–Pierce–checking him out across a club he goes for it. Three weeks of dancing, fucking, and getting to know the cute but standoffish sailor is just what he needs as a distraction. Until the distraction becomes a lot more distracting than he intended.
I think this book felt like I should have enjoyed it a lot more than I did. It wasn’t bad, but it just seemed to lack some critical element that would keep my interest. Dancers, sailors, Australia…all things I love to read about. And at points I liked them in this book. The rigors of dancing on Ripley’s body were well worked into the story, and served a nice counterpoint to all the lurking–but still unknown–implications of possibly inheriting Huntington’s from his father. Plus as Huntington’s isn’t a regular plot device I found it rather interesting and thought it made the book a bit more interesting.
There was just something about the way this was written though. The sentences felt a bit too choppy. They didn’t really flow well together as a continuous whole. And while I hope it was just a result of the book file sent to me not being the final product, the formatting was a bit of a hindrance since I could never sink fully into the story. I try not to be overly critical of things like that since I rarely get the polished-up final versions, but it did start to get annoying by the end and I must admit that it played a role in how I felt at the end of this book.
I’m not too clear on what is the policy in the Australian Armed Services in regards to how it deals with openly gay sailors, but on the whole I found myself sympathizing with Pierce about his issues regarding coming out to his fellow submariners. I think before I did the same (in some ways) I was more critical of people who choose not to reveal their gender or sexual identities, but after the fact I can see how bloody hard it can really be. Ripley who has been out for ages and works in a field that does not systematically condemn him for it, came off a bit too pushy when it came to Pierce’s reluctance. Had they been together longer I might have understood it more, but after only a few weeks I’m not sure Ripley had the right to start harping on about the subject. Especially since he continually insists that this relationship is going to end when the ballet–and him with it–leaves Perth in three weeks time. His constant pushing at Pierce about this kinda ticked me off.
Mostly this story just dragged a bit too much for me. While there were certainly parts I enjoyed, it seemed happy to settle for well enough, and that is how it came off in the end. A few high points, a few low points, and the rest was well enough.