Dex in Blue

Amy Lane
October 2012, Male/Male Romance
Dreamspinner, $17.99, 350 pages, Amazon ASIN 1623800102
Part of a series

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Hot

What does it mean to be gay? If you’re an eighteen-year-old guy and your best friend turns you on, are you gay? If you’re straight and have a girlfriend but work for a gay-for-pay porn site having sex with other straight guys, are you gay? Lane tackles these and other weighty questions in the companion piece to Chase in Shadows.

Once upon a time, two Montana high school seniors who’d grown up on adjacent ranches and both with girlfriends discover they have the hots for each other. Before they can act on this discovery, they run into a deer on the highway, killing Dex and leaving David bereft.

Rather than go to the local college, David moves to Sacramento where he becomes a performer in a gay-for-pay Internet website. Six years later, he’s nearly running Johnnies as its owner John has developed an almost debilitating coke habit. David, who’s chosen the online name of Dex, is fairly happy with his job except for three things:

1. The straight guy with whom he thought he might have a permanent relationship was running hot and cold, unable or unwilling to admit he’s bisexual if not gay. Dex (David) feels as if his heart is being stomped by the on-again, off-again Scott.

2. One of the stable of performers seems to be having a total breakdown on set before he nearly takes his life in private by slitting his wrists. Chase’s brush with death is a wake-up call for Dex because Chase too had been kidding himself that he was straight when all he wants is to be with Tommy and not his girlfriend.

3. Carlos, whose stage name is Kane, needs a place to live after he's kicked out of his house by his sister and her child. Kane, who is supporting the little girl through her bout with leukemia, will do anything for her. But with a live reptile collection, he desperately needs somewhere to keep the animals during Sacramento’s mild but still too chilly winter.

With these heavy issues over his head as well as the problem of his boss John, Dex is at a crossroads. First celebrating Thanksgiving with a recovering Chase and friends and then going home with Kane to Montana to visit his folks for Christmas, David/Dex will have to reinvent himself in order to stay alive.

This is the second thoughtful, intense book Lane has written about the sex workers at Johnnies. The first, dealing with depression and suicide, figures into this book, but isn’t required reading. And because the timeline in this book is parallel for the most part to that of Chase in Shadows, it’s not a sequel as much as a different look at some of the same issues Lane probed there.

David/Dex anchors both books in a way. He’s the force that keeps Johnnies alive while horrific events occur. But even level-headed, calm Dex can be taken to the mat when his world begins to implode. Readers who probably never thought they could empathize with a gay porn star will be surprised at how sympathetic and likeable Dex is.

His foil, Carlos/Kane, is as different as he could possibly be from the intelligent, savvy Dex, but is just as likeable. Carlos is all heart, a big teddy bear of a Latino whose hair-lip was fixed when he was a child in Mexico, but whose scars persist. Kane’s optimistic outlook and lumbering, but well-meaning musings on his life and his growing love for Dex will endear him to readers, again probably against their inclination to dislike porn stars.

For those who like angst, this like the previous book is rife with true angst. These beautiful young men ache to make a mark in the world, but aren’t geniuses or incredibly wealthy. When they join Johnnies with their overactive libidos, they’re happy to make a lot of money doing something that comes naturally to guys their age. It’s only as they interact that they learn how fragile they are and how much they need each other.

While Lane’s books are steeped in gay sex, in the end they are more about friendship, true love, and finding oneself rather than the number of partners one has.

-- Pat Henshaw

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