Reviewed by Helyce
This story begins with Chase at a monumental turning point in his life: Live or Die. For years he has denied who he really is because of some truly fucked up view he has of what is good or right. This is not Chase’s fault at all. At 6, he comes home to find his mother dead in the tub. She took her own life by slitting her wrists. If that wasn’t enough, his own father blames him for her death leading him to believe that there is something wrong with him. That if he was different, she would not have killed herself. This continues throughout Chase’s childhood. Of course, Chase, as an impressionable child absorbs all the hateful things his father says to him over the years and in a tiny part of his brain he begins to believe them. It’s no surprise, then, that Chase emphatically denies his sexuality though it simmers there, just under the surface every minute of every day. He chooses to play it straight though; he’s got a girlfriend, Mercy, and he intends to marry her.
When Chase hears about Johnnies, an internet porn site that is “gay for pay” he sees this as the answer to his prayers. Here, you don’t have to admit to being gay, lots of the guys are straight and are just doing it for the money, and the money is really good. This is how Chase justifies his choice; the money is so good he’ll have enough for a down payment on a house in no time. He can pay for college and get Mercy a new car. The money will allow him to do the “right” thing for him and Mercy. But under it all, the real reason is so he can quench this hunger and need he has tried to burry so deep it’s taken on a life of its own.
But Chase didn’t count on meeting Tommy Halloran and he certainly didn’t count on falling in love with him. Literally torn between two worlds, Chase is finding it increasingly difficult to leave Tommy and return to life with Mercy. The back and forth is wearing thin and he’s at the end of his rope. Live or Die.
Chase In Shadow is told in a series of flashbacks and flash forwards which I have to admit confused me a tad until I fell into the rhythm of the story and understood what the author was doing. Though it starts at this frightening precipice where Chase is contemplating suicide, it quickly jumps back a year and the author give us Chase’s story in brutal detail. She pulls no punches here and we get a clear picture of Chase’s childhood where we begin to understand the how and why of the person Chase is at this point in time. He has very little to do with his father by now, especially since he did not support Chase’s decision to attend college and would not help him financially. The financial strain of rent and tuition are easy excuses Chase can use to justify his choice to do porn.
The first few sex scenes are beautiful in a painful way as we see Chase transform on screen into the man he truly is on the inside. During these scenes, he doesn’t have to act or pretend. He craves the touch of his partner and he enjoys the touching as well. There is no love, but here Chase is free; no judgment, just a sense of rightness and fulfillment that he’s never experienced.
When Chase meets Tommy they becomes friends first but that quickly moves to a sexual relationship. Chase loves Tommy. It’s deep and real and nothing at all like what he’s felt for Mercy and Tommy loves him back. It is here where Chase begins to have some major difficulty with this ruse as the lines he’s drawn between his two lives begin to blur. He can’t live with the hurt he sees in Tommy’s eyes and he can deceive Mercy any longer. It gets so bad that he finds himself in the bathroom, with a razor at his wrist, scoring that first line and watching the blood rise to the surface.
Thankfully, Chase does not succeed. His suicide attempt is actually the catalyst for this great epiphany he experiences as he watches his blood run out of his body. In that moment everything becomes crystal clear to him. The last part of the story deals heavily with Chase’s therapy, his coming to terms with his past, his mother’s death, his relationship with his father and breaking down all the walls within him that did not allow him to be true to himself. Ms. Lane does a brilliant job here as we see Chase go through the painful process of moving from the darkness into the light.
I would be remiss if I did not bring up the subject of cheating. I know for many of you this is a deal breaker whether in m/f or m/m, it doesn’t matter. I have definite feelings on the subject in a real life scenario though I find myself more tolerant, for lack of a better word, in my reading. Chase cheats big time in this story. He lies to people he loves and he has a lot of sex outside his relationship with Mercy. I point it out here without trying to make excuses for it…but it was unavoidable in the context of the story and not just from the porn aspect. I’d hate for people to write off this story simply because of their distaste with cheating, but I know those who feel strongly about it won’t give it a chance.
It’s been a little over a week since I read this story and just thinking about it brings back many feelings that have me on the verge of tears. It took me on an emotional, angst ridden, rollercoaster ride that even with its intensely painful and heartbreaking scenes I never wanted to get off the ride. I would expect nothing less from a book by Amy Lane. Her gritty, extremely realistic writing style is what continues to draw me to her books and keeps me coming back for more. For all its pain and strong emotional content, I found this to be a beautifully moving story of forgiveness, acceptance and love.