Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chase In Shadow by Amy Lane (Gay Romance, 18 years+)

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Chase Summers: Golden Boy. Beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a promising future.

Nobody knows the real Chase.

Chase Summers has a razor blade to his wrist and the smell of his lover’s goodbye clinging to his skin. He has a door in his heart so frightening he’d rather die than open it, and the lies he’s used to block it shut are thinning with every forbidden touch. Chase has spent his entire life unraveling, and his decision to set his sexuality free in secret has only torn his mind apart faster.

Chase has one chance for true love and salvation. He may have met Tommy Halloran in the world of gay-for-pay but it if he wants the healing that Tommy’s love has to offer, he’ll need the courage to leave the shadows for the sunlight. That may be too much to ask from a man who’s spent his entire life hiding his true self. Chase knows all too well that the only things thriving in a heart’s darkness are the bitter personal demons that love to watch us bleed.

There's something about the journey of self-discovery as you begin to admit the truth about yourself that's at once powerful and downright scary. This is why I was intrigued by the premise – guy so far into the closet that he's practically in Narnia, who must figure out how he’s going to come out. First he must admit he’s been in there for a while. So if you read this book, expect plenty of emotional upheaval and some very uncomfortable, harsh and graphic moments. 

Chase who has been hiding his sexuality from everyone – he can't even admit it out loud to himself – decides to enter into the gay porn industry so he can make more money to afford college as he studies engineering. It’s in this arena that he can be himself, unafraid and daring, separate from the other world where pretense is his armor. And it’s here that he finally falls in love for the first time with Tommy. The book explores the following year as Chase continues to lead his double life  that of gay porn star while still immobile in that closet  and how it all eventually crashes down around him.

I have to applaud Amy Lane for writing such an incredibly dark, raw and unabashed look at someone coming to terms with their sexuality. She doesn't sugarcoat anything. Chase makes some pretty poor decisions and knows it. And each crack in his armor is more devastating than the previous. With each chapter, he slowly and painfully opens up about his scarred past concerning his parents and the effect they had on him. Beneath it all is a fragile kid, and I really do mean kid because there are moments when his thought process is so childlike, it's heartbreaking.  He is so full of self-loathing that he feels unworthy of being loved or deserving of any kind of happiness. To admit out loud that he’s gay, is to admit something so terrifying about his past, that that simple admission would completely undo him.

Chase does have wonderful friends surrounding him. Donnie, his best friend since childhood and Tommy, Chase’s love interest are top-notch good guys, as are the other guys he meets at his new line of work. Tommy in particular, doesn’t take Chase’s BS and is always challenging him to take the next step out of the personal hell he’s in. Tommy is so well-written that his persona just jumps off the pages. I adore him and Chase together.

Be warned: Chase In Shadow is extremely graphic. I had no idea that this would be the case when I first requested to read it. (My suggestion: skip the graphic sequence at the beginning of each chapter if it's too much for you and just focus on the rest of the story.) Initially, I found it unsettling but as I read on, it made for a startling contrast. Chase considers sex in front of the camera less frightening than having to talk about his innermost demons. Any time there’s a pause where Chase can be truthful about himself, he shuts down and the heavy impact it has on his relationships is tremendous. So while the sex scenes are graphic, it's Chase's self-destruction that's most disturbing, brutal even to stomach. However, looking past the graphic details, the reader will succumb to Chase and Tommy's beautifully aching story.  

Chase In Shadow is no holds barred. I did have to read it in increments because some scenes are so gutting and exhausting that I could only take so much at a time. Thankfully, this tormented soul does get a chance at happiness after overcoming the many demons holding him back. A pleasant surprise at the end makes this tumultuous journey worth it! 

~ Bel

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