In 1974 Gerry Faun gets the break of his life—an opportunity to meet gorgeous, openly bisexual, glam-rock idol Mark Devon. Mark’s world is new, exciting, and Gerry finally gets to explore the side of his sexuality that he’s kept hidden. But the press is everywhere, and when Gerry’s father gets wind of what’s going on behind his back, Gerry ends up on the street. Mark offers to let Gerry come along with the tour and Gerry jumps at the chance. The tour is a never-ending party—and the start of what seems to be a perfect relationship for him and Mark. Until Mark’s manager decides Gerry isn’t worth the trouble he’s stirring up.
In 1994 Gerry is finally coming out of some tough times—he has a job that pays the bills, a car that hasn’t quite broken down, and a small rental in Jersey City. After a decade of barely getting by, if life was as good as it was going to get, Gerry figures he’ll manage just fine. It would be easier if he wasn’t still haunted by the man the media won’t let him forget, the man who stole his heart and then broke it… the man that’s shown up pleading for a second chance.
Although glam rock was before my time, I was fascinated by David Bowie when I found my parents’ Ziggy Stardust album so I found myself quite intrigued by this book’s blurb. That I enjoyed Henley’s m/m romance Sonata made it practically impossible to resist this book. As I read Baby’s On Fire, my mind kept combining images of Bowie during his glam rock days with images from the movie Almost Famous. This is not to suggest that the book is a rip-off of the movie or based on Bowie’s career, but rather an explanation of the visuals and feelings the book drew from my brain as I read it. And I loved every page of it – even the ones that ripped my heart out.
The author does a wonderful job of alternating chapters from the present (1994) with those from the past (1974), so we get to see Gerry as he is today and how a single glimpse of Mark Devon aka Maxx Starlight can bring him to his knees with a flurry of memories from their time together, both good and bad. Now because we know that Gerry and Mark are not together when the book begins we know that their time in 1974 did not end well, but that does not make their story any less interesting or emotional. At 20 Gerry got the chance to live the dream most music lovers have had at one time in their life – to meet their idol, to spend time with their idol, and to become an important part of their idol’s life. As Fawn, Gerry became an anchor in Maxx’s rock star life because Gerry saw Mark, not Maxx, and loved Mark. Over the course of their time together, it became apparent to me that even as Mark fell in love with Gerry, he fell for the hype his manager and the record company was selling and at the moment Gerry needed Mark, he got Maxx instead and the pyrotechnics from Maxx’s concerts had nothing on the way their relationship exploded.
Just as their past was heartbreaking to watch unfold, Gerry’s present proved to be an equally emotional tale for me. Although it was rather underhanded and failed spectacularly, I quite enjoyed the reunion that Mark arranged – both of them. Even though Gerry was beyond pissed when he found out just how much Mark had been involved in his life without his knowledge, I found it swoon worthy (then again, I wasn’t the one who was betrayed). When Gerry finally accepts that he has to hear Mark out so that he can put their relationship to rest once and for all, he learns a lot about Mark’s life in the intervening years (he avoided all things Maxx Starlight after their breakup) and finds himself examining his own life.
One of the things I really liked about Baby’s On Fire is that Gerry not only finds himself in a position to reconcile with what is frankly the love of his life, he also finds himself reconciling with his mother and brother. I also liked that Gerry did not immediately forgive Mark and take him back; it would have been contradictory for someone who had harbored feelings of betrayal for 20 years and yet I’ve seen it done. Mark’s reappearance in Gerry’s life reopened old wounds and Henley took the time to let Gerry pick at them a bit and then let them begin to heal. While I loved the concert scene at the end because it demonstrated to Gerry just how much of an impact he had on Mark, my favorite scene is the final chapter set in 2014 because it was the absolute perfect ending for Maxx and his Fawn. Baby’s On Fire is a definite reread for me and I look forward to checking out more of Henley’s work.