Frame of Reference by Christopher Stone

Title: Frame of reference

Author: Christopher Stone

Genre: Erotic romance

Length: Novel (332 pages)

Publisher: MLR Press (September 2012)

Heat level: Explicit

Heart rating: ♥♥♥3Hearts

Blurb: His world-view shaped by retro movies and TV series, small-town boy, Grant Jackson, moves to Hollywood, in pursuit of television stardom.

Grant Jackson is a small-town guy, with the world-class, big city dream of becoming a network television star. But how do you make the dream come true when your resources are scant, and your frames of reference are retro motion pictures and the television series?

Determined to find out, Grant moves to Hollywood. But can he remain focused on his big dream, or will Grant be swept away in the anything goes world of gay West Hollywood – including its adult film and male prostitution scenes?

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Reviewer: Heart

Review:  This is a somewhat interesting story about one man finding fame almost against all odds. While his road there might have been unconventional, having a dream is sometimes enough and the will to follow that dream a winning factor.

Grant is a small town pretty guy who has been fascinated with anything TV since he was a small child. His entertainment was TV guides and every situation in life had its counterpart on-screen in one of many shows, series and movies Grant so avidly enjoyed all his life.

Once he has enough money he jumps right into that world. No experience, both in acting as well as life he pushes down the path he only sees as leading to fame and gets his fingers slapped more than once. Discouraged but not willing to give up just yet, Grant takes it day by day, facing challenges, volunteering for Project Angel Food and having casual sex he so very much enjoys. Because love is not for Grant – he’s been there, got singed and like any good man with half a brain he decided he liked his skin without any burns and his heart whole.

I’ve stumbled on a similar writing style a few times in the past year and while it’s not something I would choose deliberately, I can’t rate a book simply because of my dislike of the writing form. A lot of you will appreciate the amount of TV/Hollywood references, quotes and familiar names. They are appropriate for the moments in the story where they were used, even funny at times, but I’m more into the story itself and less into the wide frames and inserted memories.

This particular time I found something different from what I always look for when picking up an m/m romance. The center of this story is Grant and his path toward fame. The choices he made, curve balls life threw at him and people he met along the way. It’s filled with a somewhat bittersweet world of an aspiring actor, tragedy and only eventually love.

While the adult movie career Grant sort of made for himself and his escorting meets combined, did bring a bit of life, or should I say excitement, into this story, is still felt too slow for my taste. The late arrival of the romance and vague realization of it didn’t make me feel any better and it was with a deep sigh that I finally read the last page.

There are strong points to this story, the main being excellent writing. A few editing mistakes can be forgiven as far as I’m concerned and it is the interpretation as well as the life-like presentation of Grant’s story that most of you will be interested in. The life of a gay man wanting to hit it big starts slowly, but after a while the story picks up and we are shown the many different aspects of life in a big city. Grant is a pretty good character, naïve at times, but with a certain optimistic outlook on life that keeps the story from getting too dark. I must say I liked the porn making part of this book the best. It was not perfect, but there were enough details to keep me going and the author made sure not to repeat Grant’s experiences and approached every new event with a fresh vision in mind.

If you’ve liked The Marrying Kind by Ken O’Neill or Tinseltown by Barry Brennessel you will probably love this book.