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Love vs. the Limelight by Manda Ollie
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Love vs. the Limelight

by Manda Ollie

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Less Than Three Press in exchange for an honest review.

This is my first story by this author.

I went into this story knowing that I’ve read several variations of it over the years. From J.A. Armstrong’s Off Screen series, to Jae’s The Hollywood Series, to Gun Brooke’s Course of Action, to Selina Rosen’s Vanishing Fame, even to the chick-lit Blame it on the Fame by Tracie Banister (‘even to’ because that’s an ensemble piece with many people involved, it just so happened that it included, among the characters, a closeted lesbian actress). They all have something in common with each other and this story here – people in the acting profession who have to deal with the issue of ‘coming out’. The difference between all of the ones I mentioned, and this specific story here, is that all but this specific story here involved women. This story here involves men. It intrigued me to see how this issue might be different or the same with men instead of women.

Mind you this isn’t actually the first story I’ve read that involve people who act who happen to be dealing with the concept of ‘coming out’ and who happen to be men. Alex Gabriel’s Learning How to Lose is different enough, though, to put it into a slightly similar though adjacent category – since the characters are (1) Japanese working in Japan; (2) musicians (as is one of the characters in Rosen’s book, but I had included it because of the other person in that coupling – who is an actress; plus there never had been any question about the musicians sexual orientation in that book, though there was about the supposedly straight actress).

Right, let’s get to the actual short story I’d read. Love vs the Limelight by Manda Olie. The title in and of itself tells you the thinking of one of the characters in this story. Does he want love, or does he want the limelight – the acting career.

I knew what I was getting into, and wanted to get into, when I received this story to read. I just didn’t expect to find that the majority of the book would trip me over a specific issue. Especially because of the way the story is described on GoodReads. From the description: “His silence when it comes to the truth may cost him Christian, the love of his life, who's grown tired of being a dirty little secret and has issued Rick with an ultimatum: tell the truth or lose Christian.” – naturally I assumed that I’d be entering a story involving Christian and Rick dealing with this issue of coming out, or having the relationship implode. Instead I’m greeted with the relationship already broken apart because Rick had refused to come out; and Christian left, not being able to take it any longer. None of this is the specific issue that tripped me up that is referenced in the beginning of this paragraph though. No, that would be the reasoning given. Partly Rick didn’t want to come out because of the potential consequences to his career. The career he had fought hard to achieve. Partly because, at least one of the reasons given, is because he wanted to ‘protect’ Christian from the harm that comes from being in the news, in the press, hassled by the paparazzi. That’s the issue that tripped me up – that self serving ‘I’m doing this for you!’ bullshit that I’ve seen pop up before.

Luckily, for my own piece of mind, while that comes up a lot, it always came up tinged with the idea that Rick actually knew that he was being selfish – it was more about his career, though there was just a tiny itty bitty part that is true, that he wished to protect Christian from the vultures of the press.

So, let’s try to boil this down a little more:
Characters
Rick Campbell is an actor with, as the description puts it ‘a great career’ who has spent a really large amount of time attempting to hide his gayness, by being shown being on the arm of numerous women. He has, also as the description puts it, a reputation ‘as a lady-killer’.

Christian is a lawyer from Iowa who is a long time best friend of Rick’s who started dating him two years before the start of this story. Tired of having to hide, he had issued an ultimatum to Rick ‘tell the truth’ or Christian would leave. Well, Rick didn’t tell the truth, so Christian left. Oh, and Christian is also, to complicate things, Rick’s lawyer.

Bella Carson is Rick’s agent. Or, at least, I think she is, though she seems to spend more time working as Rick’s publicist – the person who deals with Rick’s image. Ah. No, it actually says that Bella is Rick’s publicist. Hmms. The description mentions several things, like an excellent agent, but does not mention an ‘excellent publicist’. I’d assumed Bella was the agent because no one else fitting that description appeared in the story.

Andrew is Rick’s friend who is a director. He has a lot more . . . issues in his closet than would be advisable to be seen in print.

Jake is another of Rick’s friends and is an action star.

Keith is the tabloid guy trying to catch Rick doing something publishable.

Plot
The description is misleading in one way, and not misleading in another. The story is about the ultimatum, but the plot-line is further along than expected. We are at the point of attempting to keep the break up from cementing into permanence, and attempting to ‘fix’ the issue territory, not ‘ultimatum issued’ part of the story.

The story follows Rick as he attempts to deal with being separated from his love, Christian, separated by his own refusal to come out. He is attempting to figure out some way to keep the relationship going, or restarted, without actually having to give in.

Overall
The story was interesting – it’s neat to see this ‘issue’ from the male perspective. Long and short – I didn’t actually see any difference, at least not within this story, and all the other ones I read. Any difference, I mean, between the impact of being a gay man, or a lesbian woman attempting to work in Hollywood.

There seems to be a solid story here. It’s kind of short, but gives the details needed to be given to be a full story. For those interested in such – there was mention of sexual passion, of certain acts performed in the past, but other than some passionate kissing, there is no actual graphic detail in this story. That detail isn’t in the description over on GoodReads, but it is in the NetGalley description. So I knew that issue going in. I know that there will be people disappointed by the lack, and others who might not read the story because of fear of the inclusion, but so far the lack does not seem to be having an adverse impact on the ratings.

Overall, I’d give this short story a rating of around 3.80 to 4.20.

April 4 2016
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  Lexxi | Jun 26, 2016 |
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