REVIEW: Second Star to the Right by A.F. HenleyWednesday, March 19, 2014 0:00
I have this thing about Peter Pan. I can’t even say it started respectably, with J.M. Barrie. Nope, I started with the Disney movie. I wouldn’t give up the freedoms of adulthood for anything. (Believe me, I just moved into my own place after years of having to live with my parents because of economy.) But I love the story of a boy, eternally young, who can fly and has friends and a nemesis with a hook for a hand. I may be Wendy, going home at the end, but that doesn’t mean revisiting the story isn’t fun. (I’ve even got another Peter Pan-inspired book, Second Star, in my TBR.) It’s enough of a fascination that I ignored the fact I’ve never been a big fan of falling-for-the-hooker stories. (Aside from the terrific Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase.)
I think Second Star to the Right is a charming novelette. (I think that’s right. It’s longer than a novella, in my opinion, but not quite full-novel length.) Mason is a hard worker and a good businessman, but hopelessly awkward outside of the boardroom. (In fact, the book makes it a bit hard to believe that he’d be better in a boardroom.) He has zero confidence in his appeal, aside from his giant wallet. And since he has some sense, he’s not interested in someone who is only after that wallet. When his best friend tells him he should have some companionship for his upcoming getaway, Mason is appalled. But then he starts to come around . . .
I do like that Second Star to the Right takes pains to address that prostitution is legal in the setting, boundaries are set up and respected, and condom use is important. A. F. Henley is aware that the premise could go horribly awry and takes care to minimize potential problems. Jack, the other hero, is also the bossier, more confident one in the relationship. Unlike Mason, he knows how to get what he wants out of a relationship. Fortunately for Mason, Jack wants him to realize that he is attractive and desirable. However, Jack has his own problem with looks. Namely, that he’s getting older, they’re going to start fading, and he doesn’t have a fallback profession. He’s confident about what he does, but not confident about what he’s going to do after.
It is a believable relationship, one that showcases what both parties gain from it. Jack and Mason make each other feel good about themselves, and not just in bed. I do wish that Second Star to the Right isn’t only in Mason’s point of view. I’ve gotten used to most romances revealing what both parties are thinking. The relationship works for me, but I still would’ve liked to see Jack’s growth and change internally as well as externally. He decides to change his lifestyle just as much as Mason does.
Second Star on the Right is predictable and low on conflict, which suits the short length. Instead, it’s filled with sweetness and hope for the future. Even if Mason and Jake’s relationship doesn’t last, it feels like they’ll both be happier people from their time with each other. That makes it a successful romance to me.
Be it unrequited fascination with his straight best friend or impossible fantasies of rekindled interest with his heartbreaking ex, Mason has no clue why the perfect connection seems to keep slipping through his fingers. When another lonely holiday seems like too much weight to shoulder, Mason gives up on romance and seeks out the next best thing-rented company. Jack is everything a person could want in an escort: willing, hot, and built like an angel.
Mason can’t resist. After all, who wouldn’t be interested in a guy who loves kid’s movies, is a self-professed Peter Pan, and has no problem throwing caution to the wind at a moment’s notice. But then interest quickly blooms into a whole new emotion-an emotion that Mason knows far too well, especially when Jack has no interest in returning it, preferring to keep his heart safely tucked away in Neverland.
Read an excerpt here.