Monday, April 4, 2016

Prince of the Playhouse by Tara Lain

Driven by his desire to become a successful fashion designer and concerned with hiding his questionable past, Ru Maitland has let obsession with action movie star Gray Anson on the big screen replace his social life. Then obsession and reality collide when Ru is asked to design fashion costumes for a special performance of Hamlet at the Playhouse in Laguna starring none other than Gray Anson. Gray turns out to be a compelling mix of shy and brash and, despite a high profile engagement to a female socialite, the signals Gray sends Ru have his libido doing the salsa.

Gray Anson has what most people only dream of—great wealth, huge fame, a job he loves. For that, he’s given up any semblance of privacy and the right to say no to the thousands of people who depend on him and the millions who love him. He sees everything he’s ever wanted just outside the bubble of his life, but how can he make the compromises needed to embrace it? When Ru’s shady past crashes into Gray’s paparazzi-haunted present, both men have to learn that sometimes the only acceptable compromise is the truth.

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Book 3
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

4 highly anticipated stars

I've been on the lookout for Prince of the Playhouse since I finished Knave of Broken Hearts, and was ecstatic to be offered the opportunity to review. Prince of the Playhouse didn't disappoint – instead of devouring it, I savored it over the course of several days.

We finally get Laguna's resident fashion designer's story. We readers thought we knew Ru Maitland, but we hadn't even scratched the surface. Ru wears his secrets on his back, refusing to take off his shirt to expose his past. Ru's a little bit self-deprecating when it comes to his nonexistent love life, a whole lot confident in his designing abilities, and 100% a queen who wants to be in charge.

For several years, Ru has been obsessed with the country's biggest blockbuster action star, watching the movies like a drug addict takes a hit of their favorite drug. Busy with trying to get ready for fashion week, Ru is offered the chance to design for the modern day version of Hamlet. He's more than ready to pass on the opportunity, fearing spreading himself too thin professionally. But then he learns Gray Anson – his celebrity crush – will be starring in the production.

Every breath Gray takes is stalked, then filmed and released to the public at large. Maintaining his image is more than just a job. All of those who work for him, are employed because of him, he holds the weight of their livelihoods on his conscience. Unable to be who he truly is, he has to watch every step he takes. No secrets are safe, real friends are impossible to come by, and everything is released to the public.

Gray truly is self-deprecating in all things. He's unsure of his acting chops, thinking all he's good for is to be blown up in action scenes. Stressed, he's bombing as Hamlet, and not in a good way. He asks Ru to help him understand the script, and what Ru gives him in return is priceless – confidence and friendship, along with a healthy dose of lust.

Prince of the Playhouse surrounds the production of Hamlet, Ru dealing with new-found fame while trying to survive the criminal element, and Gray coming to terms with who he is while trying not to let those in his life down. Proof that size doesn't dictate your personality, Ru is a take-charge person, and larger than life Gray likes others to take over for him. The perfect balance between the main characters, if only Gray would stop others from dictating his every decision.

The side cast was entertaining as always, setting up the next book for sure. There was a singular scene where I hadn't laughed that hard before. Hamlet & Horatio get drunk together, stagger to Ru's home, and make total fools of themselves. The dialogue during the scene was priceless and quote-worthy.

Why not 5 stars? I'm not sure why, but I never had the sensation where I had to click to turn the page and find out what happens next. The voracity never hit me. Instead, I found Prince of the Playhouse to be more of a comfort read I could enjoy at leisure. I read it over the course of 4 days, not eager to finish it, but not entirely because I didn't want it to end. I don't know if it was because I've never been a fan of celebrity plots, or just how the story flowed.

I will say I felt the celebrity storyline was written with more maturity than those I've read previously. It was less about how much money a person has in their bank account, and the fancy clothes and expensive cars, and more about the emotional impact of fame. The stalking by the paparazzi, right down to drones buzzing overhead, and the loneliness of never truly connecting with someone in fear they will use whatever you said against you, was perfectly portrayed. Gray was an open book for the reader, a fully fleshed out character.

Ru, whom I adored, was more closed off, and not as a personality trait. Even with his past popping up, I felt I barely got a taste of who he is, which means I didn't connect to Ru as much as I wish I had.

Overall, Prince of the Playhouse fits perfectly in the Love in Laguna series, and I can't wait to get my hands on the fourth book.

Highly recommended to fans of MM contemporary romance.

Tara Lain is a new-to-me author. Until the review opportunity came up for Prince of the Playhouse, I’d never read any of her writing despite owning Knight of Ocean Avenue. While my co-reviewer assured me that I could read this one as a standalone, she recommended that I read the previous books first because there is a lot of character crossover from one book to the next, and that they were well worth the read if I could fit them into my schedule. Turns out, she was not wrong. I agree that Prince of the Playhouse can be read on its own, but I found the reading experience much richer because I had already met Ru in book one and was familiar with his relationship with Shaz, and knowing what Shaz and Billy went through made it easy to understand why Shaz kept encouraging Ru whenever he needed it.

Because I read book one, I began this book already adoring Ru. But as his story unfolded, my admiration for him increased in leaps and bounds at his drive to overcome his roots and his willingness to put in the amount of hard work needed to achieve his dreams. His desire to earn his own way rather than accepting a handout (his words) from Shaz merely bolstered my already high opinion of him. But I will admit, what really did it for me, was when he took down the thug who attempted to mug him. Hot dang, was that a scene or what?!?!? Sadly, it also opened him up to the undeserved attention of a bigoted police officer who seemed to take affront to a gay man being able to defend himself. Thankfully, the bad in the story is balanced with the good. And the shadow the bigoted cop cast on Ru’s life was frequently overshadowed by the blazing light of Hollywood heartthrob and action star Gray Anson – who just so happens to be Ru’s secret crush. When the opportunity to costume the cast of the playhouse’s performance of Macbeth develops the added chance to help Gray better understand Shakespeare’s writing to improve his performance, Ru can’t decide if he is in Heaven or in Hell. After all, Gray Anson is as straight as a man can be … isn’t he? And even if there’s a possibility Gray’s interested in men, he’d never be interested in someone like Ru Maitland … would he?

>>> Possible Spoilers (but not really if you’re familiar with the series) <<<

There were so many things I enjoyed about Prince of the Playhouse that I’m sure to forget to mention some of them. Actually, I’m not sure there’s anything I didn’t like, except for the bigoted cop, and regrettably, men like him are an unfortunate reality in the world. First, I enjoyed the whole “out for you” theme of the book. Unbeknownst to his fans and family, Gray Anson is gay and has known that about himself since he was a teen. But going from small town living, where he knew he couldn’t come out, and being catapulted into being a major action star didn’t allow him to be himself. Because we all know, Hollywood action stars can’t be gay, right? Gray’s mom was one of the best moms I’ve ever read. Her showdown with the preacher at church was beyond awesome and I wanted to give her a standing ovation for it. That she made it easy on Gray when he was finally ready to admit his homosexuality to her had me tearing up, especially when she apologized for making him ever think that she put religion as a higher priority than her son. If more parents were like her, the world would be a much happier place. I was very surprised by Ru’s willingness to keep his relationship with Gray a secret, until we learned more about Ru’s past, that is. Of course, the action-packed ending was a surprise and perfect considering all that we knew and didn’t know about what was going on. I absolutely loved the Prince of the Playhouse and will definitely be checking out more of Lain’s writing. My fingers are crossed that Merle will get his own book next.

Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011. Her best-selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, Best Erotic Romance, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul-mate husband and her soul-mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”!

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Prince of the Playhouse (Love in Laguna #3) by Tara Lain to read and review.


  1. Erica and Angela -- Thank you both so much for reading my book!! I'm so delighted you enjoyed it. Next up is actually Ian's book -- remember him from Knave of Broken Hearts? Book 4 is called Lord of a Thousand Steps and it will be out in August or September. Lots of people are asking for Merle, so hmmmm, he might be calling my name! Thank you again! : )

    1. Thanks so much for letting us know. Super excited for August/September to get here now! I plan on doing a reread from book one this time around to keep it all fresh in my head.

      I think Merle will be a fan-favorite ;)

  2. Thank you, Erica!! Lord of a Thousand Steps turned out to be a personal fave -- and i think Merle would be a great hero so i'll let him persuade me. LOl. : )


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