Full Exposure by Amy Jo Cousins

full exposureWhy I read it:  The author tweeted the cover and I was pretty much all in after that. It’s FREE!!

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  There’s more than one way to be a rock star.

Evan Pak is a card-carrying geek (he even has the job to prove it), but when his photographer brother invites him to tag along on a photo shoot with rock star Riley Flood, he figures it will be two days of ogling and eye-rolling and nothing more. But the reckless bad boy is nothing like he expected, and Evan is mesmerized by the mix of cocky and sweet he sees in Riley. When a spontaneous idea ends with Evan stripping down under the hot lights for an intimate portrait for Riley’s next album cover, Evan is absolutely sure their connection won’t end when the lights are turned off. Especially since Riley can’t seem to keep his hands off the tattoos Evan hides under his clothes.

Even a spoiled rock star wants to give up control sometimes, if only for a weekend. The world is full of people who want things from Riley and the demands on him never stop. Evan knows exactly how to turn off the noise in Riley’s head and it starts by putting him on his knees.

Together, they will push each other higher and farther than either one of them have ever gone before. It’s easy to take risks when there’s a time limit on the game. But when their time is up, what comes next if they don’t want the game to end?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This story is told in three distinct parts. Part One is the longest and is where Evan and Riley meet at the photoshoot. It sets up, briefly, that Evan is a devoted son and the reason he lives with his dad is more than money. Riley’s character is a little opaque because the story is told entirely from Evan’s (third person) point of view. I got glimpses of a man who felt there was no-one on his side, one who was mainly being used as a cash cow and felt alone but it was mostly glimpses. Evan might be a “geek” and work from home in IT but he is not a pale, basement-living, never-see-the-sun stereotype, thankfully.

Riley and Evan have chemistry and when the photo shoot turns unexpectedly hot (hotter than the photo prompt I might add) and ends early, Riley and Evan decide to spend Evan’s remaining planned time in Chicago together.

This leads us to Part Two where there was an unexpected and, for me, jarring shift to a kind of omniscient present tense. It focuses on Evan’s perspective but it is removed from Evan’s perspective too. I’m sure this was an authorial choice and perhaps it was done to create a kind of “sex haze” or “blurry montage” effect but it didn’t work very well for me. I felt distanced from both characters and it threw me out of the story when I most needed to be connected to it. I got used to it, sort of, but it was not my favourite.

Part Three shows quick snapshots of the time since their interlude in Chicago. Riley was keen to explore a relationship (it appeared) but Evan doubted and drew back to protect himself. When his father falls ill, thoughts of Riley are gone from his head. However, something happens which shows Evan’s doubts were unfounded and he takes a risk and makes a ballsy grand gesture to try and win Riley back.

In a few words, the author created a close connection between Evan, his photographer brother and Evan’s dad. I’d actually have liked to see more of Evan’s relationship with his dad. I was happy he accepted Evan’s sexuality, apparently without qualm. However, the nature of the event for which this novella was written, meant that the story was always going to be short and these kind of things were never going to be details. And that makes perfect sense.

I’d describe the ending as hopeful HFN, which definitely fit the story and I’d happily read more about this pair. Also, did I mention it’s free?

Grade: B

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