Sticks and Stones by Jamie Craig

Sticks and Stones by Jamie Craig

Blurb:

Complementing each other on the dance floor isn’t enough to form a relationship. Is it?

It’s 1953, and Hollywood is booming with extravagant musicals. Coming off a string of hits with MGM, Paul Dunham couldn’t be hotter. Hoping to capitalize on Paul’s popularity, the studio announces its attention to pair him with the latest actor to make a splash, Jack Wells. It seems like a match made in heaven, except for the fact that Paul can’t stand Jack. He hates the way Jack acts, and he hates Jack’s blue eyes, and he especially hates the fact that Jack is one of the most talented dancers he has ever met.

Jack, however, doesn’t hate Paul. In fact, everything Paul does fascinates him. After their first meeting, Jack is determined to win Paul over, and he won’t back down until Paul admits that the two of them are perfect partners…in every way…

 

 
[ahhh Amber, you DO love your naked torso cover.]

Review:

This is thoroughly enjoyable classic Hollywood tale with really engaging and wonderful characters. It’s not a keeper but for those who love an authentic old time Hollywood setting with some incredibly hot sex scenes and writing that is engrossing and easy to read, get this book. Although it comes in at almost 250 pages, this story reads lightening fast and you won’t notice the pages turning until you hit the regrettable end (not a bad ending, only that it did end). The solutions to problems presented are very much in keeping with the era and time period as are the characters themselves with hints of more behind the surface to each.  I’m not usually much of a Jamie Craig fan (though I do like Vivien Dean) so this book surprised me when I didn’t want to put it down and loved getting lost in the era and angst of the men.

The plot is basic at the core as the blurb suggests. Paul doesn’t want the outlandish Jack to star in the musical with him yet can’t get him thrown off the set. Unfortunately Jack idolizes Paul and goes out of his way to antagonize, rile, and otherwise work the other man into a fit. What starts as aggression soon turns to passion, as these two must navigate a world where they’re not allowed to be together and are practically owned by the studio. They must pretend to be other men just to get paid to be other men. The backdrop of the glamour and frustration of Hollywood mixes with an up and down emotional relationship with some surprising twists and fitting ending.

Jack is pretty fabulous as a scrappy, determined dancer blessed with good looks and a work ethic that allows him a place within the world of musicals even when his voice isn’t the best. His crush and slight hero worship of Paul is another facet of his character but one that doesn’t get in the way of Jack’s torment and perpetual riling of Paul. Jack may adore the man from afar but he’s also not going to put up with any attitude from Paul and works hard to ingratiate himself with the other dancer. Although his antics cause problems several times throughout the book, his intentions at the heart are always simply to get Paul to notice him and admit their attraction. Jack is more impulsive, spontaneous, and reactive to Paul’s cool calculation and it’s Jack’s emotions and devotion that make the relationship sing.

Whereas Jack wears his heart on his sleeve, Paul is very careful with his affections and is incredibly meticulous in ensuring his privacy and image stay untarnished. Even as the chemistry between Jack and Paul fairly sizzles and heats the page noticeably, Paul’s attraction and ultimately motivation to be with Jack is somewhat mystifying. He never really explains why he fell in love with Jack. Although there is no doubting his emotion, considering Paul’s careful handling of his reputation and even private life so as to satisfy the studio, his relationship with Jack is out of character and surprising. Even as his reasons are never fully understood, Paul is a great character attempting to balance his need for companionship and deep desire for Jack with his need to be a Hollywood star and appease his employer. His few missteps and stumbles keep him likeable and interesting as well as stop him from sliding into the trap of perfection.

Various secondary characters keep the cast flowing and enthralling from Betty and Wendy to Martin and Lilah. Although the swinging scene with Martin and Lilah made little sense in terms of the storyline and character progression, it was an unexpected and unique scene. Just as Jack’s friendship with the closeted lesbian Wendy showed how very few individuals could be open about their sexuality at that time even if they weren’t in the entertainment industry. Each character has a reason to be included and even those I suspected of being empty placeholders later showed purpose and weight. The well-rounded characterizations from Jack and Paul to each of the cast are one of the many strengths of this story, combined with the solid and tight writing. Descriptive prose lends itself to the era and the authors didn’t indulge too much but managed to give the essence and energy of dance through the written word.

The ending was more of a happy for now resolution than ride off into the sunset HEA, but it fit well with the time period and both men. As the ending was realistic, I can’t really complain although the romantic tones had me somewhat hoping the authors would pull off a HEA ending even if it wasn’t exactly fitting. With the story and progression of Jack and Paul’s relationship, I admit, I kind of wanted a ride off into the sunset ending. But you won’t be unhappy with the chosen resolution and it fits well. Although this is old Hollywood, so many of the themes and issues are still relevant and easily translated to current times, perhaps making this even more interesting to some readers.

Get it HERE!  

 


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