Catch Me If You Can by LB Gregg
The fear of getting caught is half the fun.
Romano and Albright, Book 1
Lowly art gallery assistant Caesar Romano is freely out of the closet. Now he’d just like to get out of his Nana’s guest room. Everything—his reputation and his financial freedom—is riding on the success of tonight’s gallery opening. If only he could shake free of the past so easily.
A mysterious gatecrasher, Dan Green, looks like a promising addition to his pending new life—until Caesar’s ex shows up and suddenly the opening disintegrates into a half-naked dance melee. When the glitter settles, a missing sculpture of Justin Timberlake has Caesar up to his eyebrows in extortion, intrigue and a wild sexual adventure underneath, inside, and on top of a variety of furnishings.
As the cast of suspects piles up, so do the questions. Like who’s really blackmailing whom? And what does a stolen paint-by-numbers clown matter when Dan is so outrageously capable of blowing Caesar’s resistance to smithereens?
[The cover is just a bland, generic naked chest. Extremely blah. I wish they’d gotten creative with perhaps a fake bust with watches and tidbits from the book. THAT would have been fabulous.]
Book one of a new series by LB Gregg offers a cute, smart, and funny story with likeable characters and a lot of whacky antics. Some of the antics went over the top and I felt the story tried too hard in a lot of areas, lacking a kind of effortless comic charm, but ultimately the plot is fun and easy to read. I look forward to book two where the characters can be better characterized while the main relationship with hopefully more focus. Although no doubt the crazy actions of this duo will make for a humorous new series.
Caesar Romano is at a crossroads in his life. He’s stuck living in his grandmother’s spare room while working for slave wages at a local gallery and trying not to ask his large Italian family for help. But an opening event meant to show off his managerial talents goes south when his ex-boyfriend shows up looking orange from a spray tan gone wrong, his best friend and caterer has some shady dealings, and the featured artist’s bust of a pop star has gone missing. With blackmail warnings handed out like candy and enough culprits to fill a penthouse, the drama and intrigue doesn’t quit.
You know the story is going to be funny and over the top when the first chapter opens with our first person narrator choking on an olive in front of his potential new employer. Watching his ex-boyfriend waltz into the exhibit, and looking decidedly orange, Caeser’s life is about to get complicated. The plot is filled with twists but not confusing or overly complex. The basis is a series of incidents and blackmailing that leaves everyone suspect and secrets revealed. There is an almost endless number of suspects and everything but the kitchen sink is thrown into the mix. Here the plot suffers some because a lot of the actions are clear manipulations for comic affect or to progress the story. Some of the actions are clever and humorous, lending great dramatic affect but the plot starts to throw too many of these in. Several of the gags are too complicated and end up predictable rather than funny – such as the tussle in the van between Caesar and Dan or the apartment scene where all of the characters show up even though many have no real reason to be there.
So while the story and writing tries too hard in some places, the characters and actions are still interesting and humorous. Caesar as the narrator is personable, funny, and entertaining. He’s a bit over the top with once again too many gags and klutzy moments but his charm and wit shine through in the more subtle scenes. One great example is Caesar’s discovery of his boss’ hidden room and obsession. This is a fabulous scene that doesn’t rely on klutzy maneuvers or cliché gags but instead gives a delightful and hilarious view of a horrific scene. Additionally, Caesar’s intelligence and cleverness are great aspects of his personality and although his reasoning for getting involved in the entire scheme is suspect, he shows a great deal of common sense during the craziness. Finally a lead character that can step back from insanity and realize their priorities.
Unfortunately contrasted to Caesar, none of the others in the large cast are well developed. This isn’t a problem necessarily but the love interest and eventual relationship with Dan leaves him under characterized and a total mystery. His past is a blank other than a casual comment here and there, mostly in the epilogue, and his pursuit of Caesar is haphazard and almost incidental. I would have liked to seen this chemistry develop a little more and perhaps in the second book, we’ll see more of these two in a romantic sense. There is plenty of steamy sexual antics offered here but the lasting romance is sacrificed somewhat.
Overall this isn’t a laugh out loud hilarious story but it is funny and entertaining. It may try too hard but the story never goes too far into corny or ridiculous. As the beginning book in a new series, it offers a great tone to future offerings while introducing likable characters and a fun premise. I’m excited to see where the author takes these two next. If you’re looking for something light, witty, and comedic, get this.
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