Tuesday, December 20, 2016

No Small Parts by Ally Blue

Nat Horn is almost living the dream. His part as a werewolf extra on the hit show Wolf’s Landing has somehow turned into a regular role. Beautiful rising star Solari Praveen has taken an interest in him. He’s even making enough money to think about getting out of Bluewater Bay someday. Except his retired dad’s dependence on pain medications seems to be getting worse, and Nat’s the only one around to take care of him.

When Nat learns that Solari’s interest isn’t romantic, his disappointment is surprisingly short-lived, because in getting to know her, he also got to know her assistant, Rafael. And Rafael turns out to be the kind of friend—and potential boyfriend—Nat never dared to dream about.

Distracted by his astonishing new life, new friends, and new possibilities, Nat lets his guard down, and suddenly his life goes careening out of control. Racked by guilt, he tries to push his new friends away, but the bonds he’s formed are already too strong. In fact, they’re strong enough to pull him forward, into the future he’s been longing for—but to get there, he’ll have to let go of the past.

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Book 16
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

The 16th Bluewater Bay book took me back to all the things I first loved about this series. Closeted stars, struggling blue collar locals, aspiring wannabes and has-beens – I love the collision of cultures whenever Wolf’s Landing’s Hollywood crew mixes with the small Pacific Northwest town of Bluewater Bay.

Some of the most recent stories have drifted away from the actual production and filming of Wolf’s Landing, but this story about Nat, a local extra struggling to make ends meet, and Raphael, an assistant to the show’s female star, brings us back to the glamour and heartache this series does so well.

Nat’s story is one of ordinary, small-town heartbreak. Supporting his disabled father, he cobbles together as many jobs as he can to pay the bills. His carer role is relentless and thankless, and he has no time for himself. Nat’s story is a common one and I really respected his selfless dedication to his very difficult father

As PA to a star, Raphael’s schedule might not be his own, but his job is interesting and allows him to meet the people who can help him become a director. Raphael is an easygoing man who struggles to break through Nat’s barriers and help him deal with his angst and guilt.

I really enjoyed these two men together. Their attraction is instant but the road towards a relationship is complicated and angst filled. There is much more romance and friendship than sex in this story. As this series continues, I love all the glimpses of characters from earlier books on set and in the town. I really loved Solari, Raphael’s boss, and I’d love to read her story next. This is such a great series written by so many of my favourite authors. I should be growing tired of it already, but I still get excited to read each new instalment.

3.5 - 4 stars.

No Small Parts features two narrators, Nathaniel (Nat) & Rafael, creating a very sweet yet romantic story.

Nat has a lot on his plate. His sister took off when he was just a boy, leaving him alone with his widower father. His dad was in a logging accident, leaving him on disability, suffering through very real pain, and an even more realistic drug addiction to the prescription pain killers. Nat was lucky to get the gig of a nonspeaking part on the hit show Wolf's Landing. Nat's life is a financial struggle, but also a struggle to live his own life, versus living to make his father comfortable.

Rafael is the personal assistant to one of Wolf Landing's mega-stars, Solari. He dreams of producing his own films while he works his way to the top from the very bottom – grabbing coffee and being the reassurance for his boss's constant bickering with her girlfriend. Raf's from a solid, supportive family who wishes he was back in California, spending time with them.

Nat and Rafael meet on the set, but don't interact until Nat's crush on Solari reaches a head. This part was awkward and rushed to me, hence the rating of not quite 4 stars. There was a lot of telling vs showing, fast-forwarding. I wanted a bit more of this story, so it wasn't confusing after the fast-forwarded date section. It left me feeling less about Nat, how he was infatuated with a person just on her status and looks, not on the person. His crush made him seem shallow. Their date and subsequent friendship was fast-forwarded, and it left me back-clicking to see if I somehow skipped a few pages on accident. If I could have read that interaction, I would have put more stock in their friendship early on, and not felt Nat as shallow for wanting Solari just because she was a star.

At the start, it's obvious how balancing the characters will be for one another, Nat and Rafael, and the supporting cast of characters. No Small Parts is a quick read, perfect for an afternoon of escapism. If you're looking for optimistic characters, who are good to their core, you'll no doubt eat this book right up.

As a lover of angst, I needed a bit more. It was obvious from the start how the story was going to play out. Everyone was sweet and supportive, without any major flaws that make them feel real. But I can see how readers would need this type of story, as it's stress-free and enjoyable.

This installment of the Bluewater Bay series was a good addition, and I look forward to more by this author and all the authors of the series.

Nat has a reoccurring role on Wolf's Landing, where he works to support himself and his father, who is addicted to pain meds after being involved in a workplace accident.

I could understand how Nat was feeling about his living situation. Feeling trapped and resenting his father was understandable, but Nat felt emotionally unavailable not just to the people around him, but to me as a reader as well. It took me quite a while to connect with him.

Nat's world starts to change when he meets and becomes friends to Rafael, a PA on the show. Initially attracted to Rafael's boss, he soon discovers he has more spark and connection with Rafael. One thing leads to another and they become more than friends. Rafael is loving, generous, and hopeful. He is the light to Nat's dark, and they make a lovely couple.

Even with some heavy subject matter, I found No Small Parts an easy to read and enjoyable story with a hopeful and happy ending.

All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. ~ William Shakespeare

That line from Shakespeare’s play As You Like It pairs perfectly with the book’s title, No Small Parts, because it applies to Nat’s life – both personally and professionally. There are no small parts in Nat’s life because his life hasn’t been his own for years as he’s the sole caretaker and provider for his father. Because of that, on a personal level, Nat maintains a distance from most people, not wanting to count on anyone just so they can disappoint him when they don’t come through. Professionally, Nat has a part-time role as a werewolf on Wolf’s Landing, which gives him not only the opportunity to make more money to support his father, but it also puts him into close contact with his crush and his soon-to-be boyfriend, who are not the same individual.

Blue does a nice job of setting the tone of the novel. At twenty-six, Nat is barely out of the new adult genre age, but as he had to put his life on hold and move back home to take care of his father at the age of twenty-two, he missed out on a lot of the “living” that someone that age experiences. As such, there are times when Nat seems older than his years due to the strain of being the sole provider for his family, and times when he acts younger than his age because spending time with Rafael gives him a chance to breathe free and happy, if only for a few hours. This balance provides little doses of angst and little doses of maturity beyond what I would have otherwise expected, and for me, it worked well. I enjoyed seeing Nat have a chance to live his life for himself, to see what his life could be like, because I’ve had enough personal experience with people like Nat’s dad that the writing on the wall was very clear. I knew that Nat would not only need the friendships he forged at work, but he’d need the “what could be” to get him through life when it spun out of his control.

I found Nat’s relationship with Rafael to be very sweet and enjoyed watching it play out. Although Nat didn’t recognize it for what it was at the time, I thought Rafael’s little flair of jealousy over Nat and Solari’s date to be adorable, even if that date was what opened the door into Nat’s life that Rafael was so very glad to enter. With the initial attraction being one-sided, Blue was able to develop a friendship between the two men that gradually became more over the course of the book. This made the chemistry between the men more intense, particularly when the drought was over and Tsunami Nat nearly drowned Rafael with his sexual enthusiasm – one of those moments when Nat seems younger than his age. While my review has focused on the romance and relationship between Nat and Rafael, I should probably warn potential readers that there are some heavier moments and themes in the book regarding Nat’s father. I won’t go into specifics, but I will say that Nat’s bedside vigil during his father’s hospitalization hit very close to home for me and it was far too easy to put myself in his shoes at that point in the book – I actually had to stop reading for a bit because it made me too emotional. Fortunately, Blue manages to end the book with some very good news for both Nat and Rafael – so good in fact, that I hated to see the story end when it did. And yet, it is these very balances that made No Small Parts so enjoyable for me and sent me off to check out the author’s other work.

Ally Blue is acknowledged by the world at large (or at least by her heroes, who tend to suffer a lot) as the Popess of Gay Angst. She has a great big suggestively shaped hat and rides in a bullet-proof Plexiglas bubble in Christmas parades. Her harem of manwhores does double duty as bodyguards and inspirational entertainment. Her favorite band is Radiohead, her favorite color is lime green and her favorite way to waste a perfectly good Saturday is to watch all three extended-version LOTR movies in a row. Her ultimate dream is to one day ditch the evil day job and support the family on manlove alone. She is not a hippie or a brain surgeon, no matter what her kids’ friends say.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of No Small Parts (Bluewater Bay #16) by Ally Blue to read and review.

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