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This straight-A student has a dirty little secret.
Christian Blake dreams of being a kindergarten teacher, but making the grade means maintaining a squeaky clean image: no drinking, no drugs, no swearing, no sex. And definitely no falling for his new roommate—tattooed bad-boy Max, who may or may not be a drug dealer.
Most of all, it means no working at a porn store. But Christian’s aunt has cancer, and her beloved Rear Entrance Video will go bankrupt if Christian doesn’t take over managerial duties. Soon enough, Christian finds himself juggling sticky twenty-five cent peepshow booths, a blackmailing employee, and a demanding professor who likes to make an example of him.
And then there’s Max, who doesn’t know anything about the store, but hates Christian’s preppy sweater vests and the closet Christian forces him into when they’re together. Max just wants Christian to be himself—even though Max is keeping secrets of his own. Christian struggles to find the impossible balance between his real life and the ideal one he thinks a teacher needs to live . . . all while trying to keep his aunt’s dream alive without losing his own.
I found myself truly enjoying this book and the ways it brought up how the public perception of a gay man’s behavior colors the choices that they may have for employment. The images that Ms Belleau brings forth as Christian tries desperately to deny his identity in favor of becoming a kindergarten teacher were heartbreaking as none deserves to have to suppress their inherent nature in hopes of a job. Unfortunately I do know many instances of having to hide the fact that you are homosexual for a career even today and for me that is fundamentally sad.
Christian is wound up so tight it is even funny but if he wants to be a kindergarten teacher he has to fulfill a certain public image of straight, conservative male even though he is not truly like that. When he takes a room at an unconventional house he ends up being forced to face up to his life and the choices he is making that deny everything core to his psyche other than his need to teach. He gets some horrible news about the only person who loved who he truly is and ends up having to take risks to save what she built, Rear Entrance Video… a porn store that also sells some fun extras. He knows if anyone finds out about him working there it means the loss of his dream but when confronted with his aunt losing her livelihood and passion he just has to do the right thing. Along the way he ends up having a hidden affair with Max but finds that he isn’t sure if his dream of teaching is worth the damage he is doing to his relationship. Does he really want to hide who he is (other than the store) or does he want to be accepted as a gay man who wants to teach?
Max is a wild child with many hidden depths. He ends up with money but no one knows what he does for a living and Christian first guesses drug dealer. He is open with his sexuality and forces Christian to not only confront the insanity of his suppressing their attraction but also forces him to open his eyes and realize that sometimes taking a risk to help the ones you love is worth it. Not taking the risk would be more damaging that anything that could come out of helping and the guilt you would have would choke any joy you possibly could have from teaching. He’s very willing to be open with Christian and gets fed up with being a hidden secret as their relationship heats up. I liked how he was willing to be patient with Christian initially but then pushed him out of his shell to become the man we loved at the end. He’s something else and I can’t wait to see more of them as the stories come out.
This is a very good read with some hard moments when you are witness to how much some people are willing to sacrifice just in order to conform. This makes me sad as I believe people should not be judged by if they love the same-sex or opposite sex but by their actions to the world at large. I have to thank NetGalley.com and the wonderful people at Riptide Publishing that gave me access to this title with no restrictions on how I chose to review it or if I did. I really enjoyed the title and am looking forward to more.