Facade by Zahra Owens
Jonas Hunter is a high-class body for hire with a small, exclusive, mostly male clientèle who pay big bucks for his undivided time and attention. Discretion is Jonas’s middle name—he can play his role to the hilt for the client’s benefit and at the same time disappear seamlessly into a crowd, safely anonymous.
He’s persuaded to take on a new client who is everything he despises in a man: the effeminate, tantrum-throwing, attention-seeking bad boy of Paris haute couture named Nicky Bryant. Nicky’s shows are outrageous and always good for a front cover, and his appearance never fails to turn heads. But Jonas soon learns Nicky is a carefully maintained façade himself.
As a fiery attraction grows, Jonas and Nicky have to find a way to walk the tightrope between their public and private personas. They’ll need to learn to love and trust each other around the other people in their lives if they’re going to share their hearts.
For the first 80 pages or so of this book, I was excited and interested. Unfortunately when the book skidded to a screeching halt with a jarring ménage (m/f/m) out of nowhere, it never could recover and took a turn for the worst. What starts as an intriguing and engaging story with fun, hot characters turns into a porn filled sex fest where casual sex rules the day and bisexual characters are seen as sex fiends. I not only wouldn’t recommend this book, I’d suggest you stay far away from it entirely. It only gets the score it does due to the start, which I rather liked, and the really appropriate and neat cover, not based on the book as a whole.
The story is loosely about Jonas, a male escort, and Nicky, a fashion designer, as they unexpectedly fall in love and navigate the potential pitfalls of a relationship where physical fidelity is impossible. Adding to this is the odd, ambiguous relationship of Nicky to Tanna and Jonas’ close relationships to his various clients.
Unfortunately there is very little plot. In between the numerous sex scenes that littered the book to the point I wanted to skip whole sections, there is very little purpose to the story. The men meet, have sex, eventually fall in love, then there are a few scenes about fashion, more sex, more fantasy and a happy ending with a big orgy. Considering this book comes in at almost 230 pages, it reads very much like one long sex filled fantasy after another with a few fashion asides offering nothing to the story or the characters. This is incredibly disappointing since the story is rife with possibility from the May/December age difference (Jonas is in his 40s versus Nicky in his early 20s), Jonas’ occupation, the fashion world, and their rocky romance but none of those issues are even included beyond a surface mention. There is no further discussion about Jonas’ job, his motivations, his desires and choices other than a vigorous sex drive. Jonas is very wooden and one-dimensional beyond his inexplicable love for Nicky and his desire to have sex with many different people.
The problem with Jonas is part of a larger issue with the characterizations in the novel. The bisexual woman, Tanna who is supposedly some unexplained partner of Nicky’s is described as sexually insatiable and willing to cheat on her girlfriend because bisexual women just “need some cock sometimes.” Tanna is willing to have sex with whomever as long as she gets at least her one orgasm a day. Not to mention this similar theme is used for the bisexual men in the book as well where Scott is unwilling to give up men sexually even as he wants to marry a woman. Bisexuality is apparently equated with the popular but ridiculous and frankly insulting theme of promiscuity – as if being bisexual means incapable of fidelity. This is repeated several times with various characters in between the rampant and unnecessary sex scenes. Other than determining the non-stop sexual appetites of all involved, there is very little depth and development to any of the characters. Beyond their desire to have sex often and with numerous people, these characters offer very little interest or engaging quality to their addition. None experience jealousy over the sex with multiple partners and almost everyone takes it for granted that sex with other people happens and is healthy, normal, and accepted without drama. Talk about your accepting husbands and wives.
Nicky starts as an interesting and engaging character with the idea of his façade of a flamboyant, outrageous designer hiding a scared, insecure, immature young man. Nicky is exposed to love and sex through Jonas and learns to ask and take what he wants and needs. Through this sex, Jonas and Nicky supposedly fall in love and work out a way to accept Jonas’ lifestyle as a sexual partner for hire. Although Nicky starts off with a bang and a lot of interest, he soon falls flat with inconsistent actions and no reason for his personality change. Nicky changes from a spoiled, over the top designer to an accepting, accommodating, and adoring partner solely through good sex with Jonas. This is handled very clumsily in attempting to show the facade versus the person underneath but the awkward transition and lack of characterization has this falling very flat. There is almost no depth to their relationship, which is again based entirely on frequent sex, and why either man would fall in love is an unsolved mystery. Additionally the age difference between the men that must play some role is never taken into consideration either thus begging the question of why the age difference is involved in the first place.
There are also several questionable sex scenes that may turn readers off and there should be a warning of some sort, as this book is very misleading. For starters there are several voyeurs scenes where the voyeurs are both men and women. Additionally there is a graphic ménage (m/f/m) scene and there is no indication anywhere – either the blurb or the excerpt – that this is included. Now this is not a “eww girl cooties” comment but there should be a warning and throwing in surprise ménage is not going to make a reader happy. When Jonas wakes up one morning to find Nicky fingering Tanna and thus leading to happy m/f/m ménage, readers should know this going in otherwise they will be disappointed. This should serve as a warning to those readers who dislike women in any sexual form in their m/m romance because this particular book is definitely not for the pure m/m reader. Imagine reading m/f romance and the hero suddenly has gay sex one morning with his best friend out of nowhere. But beyond these there are way too many gratuitous sex scenes that in no way further the meager plot or relationship. There is sex scene after sex scene between Jonas and Nicky, establishing they have a lot of sex. Then there are sex scenes of Jonas with his clients and sometimes with Nicky as a threesome. There is so much casual sex in this book, the concept of fidelity is almost a bad word. Additionally while attempting to show loving and happy relationships can co-exist alongside free spirited and profuse sex, the lack of depth and purpose is startling.
This book highlights the basic difference between erotic romance and porn. Here the sex scenes did not further the plot, the relationship, or the enjoyment of the book. The marked lack of connection and emotion between the various partners has this reading much more like porn and romance fans will ultimately be disappointed. I especially was disappointed and let down due to the interesting and engaging start which had me excited about the potential of the book. Unfortunately that potential not only wasn’t fulfilled but ruined and I am sorry I read this. I doubt I’d take a chance on the author again.