Second Star to the Right
The old saying “Nice guys finish last” seems to be Mason Lawrence’s fate in life until he decides to take his fate his own hands and be bold in this delightful gay romance fairy tale.
Mason is at the top of his game, a workaholic who owns his own company and has friends with whom he enjoys meeting. What he doesn’t have, and dearly wishes for, is a partner with whom to share his life. He’s not so much pushed around by those he knows as much as wants everyone around him to be happy, and he works to make them so.
Before going on a vacation, he succumbs to the thought of a paid companion to revive his sex life and possibly his forgotten enjoyment of life. What he gets is Jack, jaded at almost thirty and without any skills other than sexual prowess.
Jack immediately lays down his rules, including sex only twice a day and his right to be given time out whenever he needs it. Mason is fine with the rules, but inadvertently starts breaking them as he and Jack become more than worker and client.
Although it seems as if Mason and Jack are eons apart – Jack wanting to become Peter Pan (hence the book title) and Mason aching for a permanent partner – Henley gradually brings them together as the caregiver becomes the care-receiver.
The success of this plot depends on the strength of its characters. Unless the reader buys into the fact that the people in this relationship (which on the surface looks like a train wreck about to happen) can come together successfully, the book is doomed.
Here’s where Henley shines. On the surface Mason’s too-good-to-be-true personality should be repulsive since he seemingly lets people push him around. But Mason has a spine of steel. It’s not that he’s a push-over but rather that’s he’s burnt out after a lifetime of building his company and working 60-hour weeks. His entire life has settled in a rut. And how many men do we know just like Mason?
Jack too is a sympathetic character who knows he isn’t the brightest bulb in the bunch, but also knows that he can bring sexual happiness to others. But like Mason, he is burnt out and looking for more in his life.
He too knows his life must change, but he has no idea how to extract himself from his current life and propel himself into a new one. He’s the guy we all know who hasn’t gotten past high school, but knows there’s something better for him out there.
Until they peel away their protective layers and allow themselves to be the selves they’ve hidden in order to do their jobs, Mason and Jack don’t have a prayer. But with their souls bared, they have a chance to find what they’ve been missing.
The story is a riff on the fairy tale of the nerd and the popular guy getting together, only it takes place long after the first blush of youth. It’s the fairy tale many of us later in life need to read if for no other reason than it gives us hope that change is possible no matter how old we are.