To an outsider’s view, world-famous action star Joe Nestra lives the Hollywood dream—parties, women, and a high-profile divorce. In reality, Joe’s agent directs his public life. Those women he’s supposedly intimate with? Prearranged dates ending at the red carpet. With his assistant and best friend Derek Simmons’ help, Joe has lived safely in the closet since his divorce, choosing to let off steam with discreet male escorts rather than risk an actual boyfriend. At forty-four, he has no plans to change. Then, taking a role in a film without flashy explosions upends that.When Joe signs on to play an early 1990s-era AIDS-stricken gay man, his internalized homophobia threatens the production. His out costar Hunter Starling won’t put up with Joe’s behavior. As the animosity between Joe and Hunter grows, saving the film means Joe must face his deepest fear. Challenges pile up from all directions, from his father disowning him to the entertainment industry’s backstabbing reaction. Amid the backlash, Joe ventures into his first gay romantic relationship, tries to help others worse off, and slowly learns how to live his life instead of just acting it.
I was really looking forward to reading this book because it’s set in the Hollywood entertainment industry and deals with the issues of a closeted main character. This story not only fulfilled, but exceeded my expectations.
In Me an Invincible Summer begins with deeply closeted action hero film star, Joe Nestra, finishing up with his latest paid encounter – who has been meticulously vetted and made to sign an iron clad non-disclosure by his trusty assistant – Derek Simmons. We learn that Joe has no social life other than his meaningless one-off sexual encounters and his almost 24/7 dependence on Derek who has been essentially running his life for twenty years. Joe has a family he’s somewhat close to – particularly his sister – but he rarely sees them given his film star lifestyle in Los Angeles.
Don’t expect a short novel or a breezy romance with lots of hot sex. The sex takes a backseat to the story and rightfully so. The initial conflict – and this is masterful storytelling with the many layers of conflicts that support one another – is Joe struggling through an indie film starring opposite an out and proud co-lead. Seeing co-star Hunter (who is charmingly portrayed as a real horse’s ass but with feelings buried in there somewhere) in a loving, open relationship with his husband – sets Joe off into the stratosphere. He manages to bad behavior himself into several gut wrenching situations – told with a layer of humor – that threaten his closeted status, his closest relationship, as well as his action hero career.
I could probably go on for days about everything that’s right with this book. I could not put it down. Every character was drawn so well that I was right on board with whoever was in the scene. Joe’s limited 3rd person POV for this story was perfect, because it allowed the reader to discover the truths as Joe did. I sort of figured out early on where things were headed, but not in any way at all how they would unfold. There were twists and turns, nothing was forced, plus intense drama, tons of wit and humor, and engaging characters. This is one of those stories where you’re rooting so hard for the men, you can’t go to sleep until you know they’re gonna be all right.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read an honest portrayal of a gay man struggling through some serious issues about how he’s lived his life – and how he hopes to change it for the future. I give this book 5 lizard claws and am enthusiastically looking forward to reading anything else by this author.