Chase in Shadow is a somewhat typical Amy Lane story filled with angst and emotionally damaged men. There is enough emotional turmoil, tears, and intense drama to exhaust anyone at the end of reading but the ending is definitely and very solidly a happy, deeply in love ending. These kinds of stories have become almost, I’m sorry to say, formulaic for Lane. The individual protagonists are expectedly broken and damaged almost to the point of no return but the deep love of another slightly less damaged but still broken man can help save them both. This only happens after considerable emotional torture and pain but all’s well in the end. There are enough differences in the circumstances and details to make each story interesting so if you’re a fan of Lane’s style, you’ll likely appreciate this addition.
Chase is the star with his incredibly deep emotional scars. At age six, his mother kills herself and he’s left alone with an abusive, homophobic, vitriolic father. Chase carries the grief and guilt of this event his entire life, internalizing his emotions and never even sharing the basic facts with his closest friends. Chase is so deeply afraid of being gay that he lives an alternate life with a pretty, kind, and wonderful girlfriend while hiding any feelings or emotions that contradict his plan for his life. Chase’s emotional problems are at the root of every single decision and emotion he feels and thus propel him into gay porn while posing as a straight man. He rationalizes that he’s doing it for the money but the freedom to touch and be touched by men for the first time is intoxicating.
While on set, Chase meets another damaged model in Tommy. Tommy is fighting his own demons and together the duo is less than healthy. They love each other deeply and unequivocally but each has deep-seated emotional trauma that constantly affects their lives. Chase is living a double life with his girlfriend and wanna-be straight life on one side and his gay porn career and affair with Tommy on the other. Chase spends the majority of the novel caught between these two ideals, unable to really change either and lacking the courage to face his own demons and desires. This sets up a predictably intense and emotionally torturous story as the two men fight against themselves and their issues to actually be together.
Chase is obviously the more damaged of the couple and he is a difficult protagonist to like. On the one hand, he’s so damaged and self aware of his issues that you can’t help but feel for such a broken and self-flagellating person. Yet at the same time his actions, even self acknowledged, are pretty horrible. He acts selfishly and cowardly for the majority of the book and the reader only has the repeated assertions of other people that Chase is in fact a good person. The reader never actually sees Chase doing the right thing or being that good person because the story is told through Chase’s self hating prospective so we only know how horrible Chase’s actions are and how much he, himself knows they’re bad. It’s difficult to root for such a person when their main saving grace is the emotional trauma they experience is at the hands of his parents.
However I can acknowledge that’s a pretty powerful factor and is likely to win over a lot of readers. Tommy is a bit too good to be true in that he never waivers in his love and support for Chase, regardless of all the things Chase puts him through and Tommy’s own emotional demons. Tommy comes across well and three-dimensional but he almost never slips up. He’s slightly too perfect but he has a range of emotions and his own problems to help give him more depth. So mostly Tommy works because Chase is so deeply broken that he could only be saved by a near divine-like love and devotion.
Chase’s inevitable breakdown and recovery last the last third of the book so it’s not quick and easy in literary standards yet the reality of the time is way too fast. I didn’t necessarily want the author to drag this out any longer as the story goes into a lot of depth about Chase’s therapy and problems but the actual time and final ending is a bit too fast. It’s like the gift at the end of all that angst for everything to be wonderful and fast-forwarded. I didn’t believe the ending at all, especially the aspect involving the then ex-girlfriend, mostly because the author had done such a good job showing how terribly broken Chase is. I don’t think the ending will bother most as it’s the literary license to give an overwhelming happy ending but it’s not really the most believable either.
I will say there are numerous supporting characters that fairly scream out for their own books and no doubt the world of gay porn and its actors will star in upcoming books. I easily look forward to these and hope that the angst level is dialed down just a bit. I truly love these incredibly intense, angst driven books but it has to be balanced with the reality that these people can actually recover in some healthy, believable way and not just because they meet the love of their life with a bit of therapy. That said, I mostly enjoyed this offering, even though I found Chase a difficult hero to root for. I wanted to like him as all the secondary characters did but never saw the man they all saw and instead was presented with the internal, broken, and cowardly Chase that does redeem himself but it’s a bit of a long road to get there.
Lane fans will probably really enjoy this but I wouldn’t suggest it for those new to the author. It’s intense and angst ridden with very little relief and may suit more veterans readers of the author than new ones.