"Soap operas may have a lot of faults, but they can also be tremendously entertaining. What with all the exaggerated angst, drama, predictable accidents, and plot line twists, I think you either love them or hate them. I don’t exactly follow any of them currently, but I have done so in the past, and still enjoy books that follow the same lines or ones that make fun of them. For that reason, ‘Sweet and Sour Soap’ with its additional gay twist had me curious. It’s not the first book about actors who have to play gay characters only to find the romance leaking into their real world relationship, but it is one of the most fun ones I have read. What I particularly liked was the interjection of scenes from the soap that mirrored the drama in the actors’ real lives, and the evil scheming of the show’s producers going on in the background – undetected by me until the second half of the book. Mac and Dylan are best friends on and off the set. They have worked together for a few years and think nothing much can come between them, but when the producers throw them a curveball, telling them their characters discover they love each other, all emotional hell breaks loose. It may start out as an “innocent” rehearsal of their on-screen kissing scenes, but they soon realize a lot more may be going on. One thing leads to another, and soon Mac and Dylan are in over their heads. As for the show? Things are even more tumultuous than usual as “soap art” imitates life – but only to a point. If you like soap operas and the stories that follow the same rules, if two men struggling with their feelings for each other suddenly changing sound interesting, and if you’re looking for a read full of angst, drama, unlikely coincidences, plot twists, a storybook-like happy ending, and some very entertaining and sometimes hot love scenes, then you will probably like this novella." -- Serena Yates, Rainbow Book Reviews
4 HEARTS "As a teenage afficiando of General Hospital, the insane story lines of soaps are nothing new. I wasted a lot of afternoons ignoring homework and watching. Nor are the heartthrobs who populate those story lines. It is just cherry on the cake that in this one, I get a bad boy and a cutie getting together. This is told in a back and forth between the soap storyline and the actual story, which I was leery of at first and then really got into, maybe due to my misspent time in front of the soaps. Soap story lines are so ridiculous, “…evil twin plotting to ruin Nell’s chances of becoming the first brain surgeon at twenty-wo and marrying that cross-dressing shipping tycoon from Australia…” If you’ve watched soaps, you probably won’t even question that. I didn’t. This storyline, however, has our resident heartthrobs going in a new direction. Namely, falling for each other. At first, the guys are shocked, appalled and then suspicious. Why would the producers do this? When it becomes clear this is the path, the two decide to practice. They aren’t too good at it. I adored the first awesomely terrible kiss, because it seemed so real. And even more real when the practice, i.e., sex, begins to take a toll on their friendship. Dylan is trying but Mac, well, he’s confused. The two have some decisions to make as they become aware of where their storyline is going." -- Lucy, Hearts on Fire Reviews
4 STARS "Mac and Dylan are heartthrob stars Nick and Shawn on a TV Soap – The Lighthouse. Best friends on set and off, Mac and Dylan, have to deal with the demands of the executives who tell them their characters are to become lovers. Mac is the soaps bad boy, and Dylan is the altogether sweet, good guy. Knowing how the world of Tinsel town can be cutthroat, both have reservations about the executive’s demands, on a professional and personal level. For Mac and Dylan, to a degree, life reflects TV, which can be a little predictable before a spanner gets thrown into the works. Having said that this story is entertaining, and the boys are a good match for each other. I couldn’t help rooting for them. As you can imagine a shows heartthrobs getting it together for real has got to up the lust aspect. Speaking of which, the author doesn’t hold back on the heat factor. When reading this, you won’t need to stoke the fire on these cold winter evenings. I read every word, and didn’t skim any part – a sure sign it is well written and engaging. Many a time I’ve watched TV and hoped some of the stars had the same chemistry off set as on. This story gives that fantasy life." -- Macky Holding, Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews
Mac and Dylan had starring roles in the show. Of course, it was an ensemble cast, so they were only two among over thirty. But their roles as best friends since high school had endured for five years already, all the way to college. Well, soap opera version of college.
“Morning, boys.” Nancy, the receptionist, waved at them with her pearly white smile that you knew was fake. “You can go right in.”
Reluctantly Mac and Dylan got up and slouched into the meeting room. An oval faux wooden table with a dozen seats around it controlled the decor and the floor-to-ceiling windows had a sunny view over the studio lots. On a platter were cupcakes, protein bars, and coffee on the table. But the place still didn’t feel inviting. Here, it was all business.
“Morning, gentlemen.” James Prince, the executive producer of the show and the CEO of The Lighthouse Studios, stood at the head of the table. His power suit was immaculate, his black hair with not a strand out of place, and his gray eyes steely and unforgiving, like a shark’s.
Worst of all, though, was the red silk tie. That always spelled trouble. Blood was about to spilled, so to speak.
Mr. Prince gestured impatiently for Mac and Dylan to sit, and they did, at the other end of the table, just in case. “Mr. McGuire. Mr. Keane. I have important news to share with you.”
The door slammed open and a disheveled man dressed in cargo pants turned into torn shorts, a T-shirt with the studio’s symbol, the Lighthouse, emblazoned on it in bright red, and flip-flops busted in. “Sorry I’m late, folks,” he supplied with a toothy grin. Only in Hollywood could a man looking like a stoned surfer hold such an important job. He was Ben Pillar, the show’s main writer and the boss of the rest of the writers, all underpaid and overworked.
Mr. Prince pursed his lips in irritation. “Yes, yes. Get on with the news. I have another two meetings after this.”
Pillar plopped down onto a seat about in the middle of the table. “Of course, sir.” His expectant, enthusiastic gaze landed on Dylan and Mac, who suspected the world was about to end. Pillar always got worked up over the most outlandish plot developments. “Boys, as you know, soap is a dying art form. No new soaps have appeared on TV since, what, 1999? We’ve been struggling with low viewer ratings for a few years now. But regardless, our show The Lighthouse can proudly boast having survived the major decline of the—”
“Ben, for God’s sake, get on with it.” Mr. Prince growled over his cup of steaming hot coffee. He had never been a patient man. Perhaps running a moderately successful studio had led to that.
Pillar kept on smiling, unfazed. “Your characters, Nicholas and Shawn, have been the best of friends for years. It’s time their relationship evolves. The show needs to attract a very, um, specific demographic as its new target audience. Big bucks, bigger merchandising, and the biggest ratings.”
Mac and Dylan exchanged worried glances. This didn’t bode well.
Pillar practically jumped up and down on his seat, his blue eyes shining eagerly, as he leaned forward in a conspiratorial fashion and declared, “Nick and Shawn will become lovers.”
Mac stared, his mouth hanging open, his brain a blur. “Uh…what?”
“You mean…Nicky and Shawn are…gay?” Dylan asked at Mac’s side, his voice low and choked, like he had trouble getting the words past his lips.
“That’s insane,” Mac commented loudly, remembering to lower his voice at the last second. “Both of them have slept with tons of girls during the show. How the fuck—I mean, how on earth can they suddenly be gay?”
Pillar’s smile never waned. “Well, there’s gonna be an accident.”
Mac bit down a curse. Another freaking accident? Over the years, his character had been mugged, kidnapped, stabbed, and shot twice. Once he’d been almost raped by a high school bully. Every single time the recovery time in the show made him seem like a weakling. The bad boy was supposed to be fucking invincible, dammit. He had a freaking image to preserve.
“Imagine it,” Pillar went on, his gaze lost in a dreamy haze aimed at the ceiling. “You two, the best of friends, wind up in a wrecked car on the tracks of an inbound train. You save each other heroically, and then you realize you’ve always loved each other. It’ll be momentous, a feat of the gods coupled with undying love and admiration. America will fall head over heels for you.”
Dylan said nothing. Out of the corner of his eye Mac watched Dylan lace his fingers so tight his knuckles shone white, his expression stony. Mac swallowed hard.
“W-what if we don’t wanna do this?” Mac asked, doing his best to control his voice and his emotions.
Mr. Prince gave him a cursory look. “Why do you think there’s gonna be an accident? The gay thing’s locked, boys. It can happen with you holding the reins, or the accident will disfigure you to the point of requiring plastic surgery—and a new actor. Your call.”
Though Mac’s character was one of the show’s heartthrobs, he wasn’t foolish enough to believe he was irreplaceable. No one was.
He couldn’t look at Dylan. He wasn’t sure what frightened him the most. That Dylan would agree and become his lover on the show—or disagree and get fired. They were best friends on and off the air. Either way, things would become weird.
“We’ll do it.” Dylan’s voice was strong and unwavering, without a hint of hesitation or dread. He was serious.
And Mac knew that whatever Dylan signed up to do, Mac would do the same.
So, with a curt nod of agreement, he sealed their fates.
Mac swallowed and shuddered. His skin prickled, hot one minute, cold the next. He was afraid, and he was excited, one right after the other, sometimes at once. He nodded slowly, and snatched one of the condom packets. He carefully tore one open and rolled the latex over his dick. He was so hard a part of him worried he’d shoot before he even got in. But when he slathered the lube on his cock, the cool gel eased some of his anxiety.
“O-okay,” Mac said in a whisper. He couldn’t get his voice to work properly. “Deep breaths. Relax, if you can. Bear down.” Then he snapped his fingers, finally remembering what he’d forgotten. He grabbed a pillow from the end of the couch and slipped it under Dylan’s ass, lifting him up to meet Mac’s impetuous dick.
“I’m ready,” Dylan murmured back, sounding and looking nervous. But he spread his legs farther apart and said nothing to suggest he wasn’t ready or that he didn’t want this.
Mac cared for both of them, for his own restless desire and for Dylan’s safety and well-being. So when he replaced his fingers with the tip of his cock and pressed it against Dylan’s twitching hole, he knew to take it slow. He took a firm hold of Dylan’s hips and brought him closer, right into his lap.
Perhaps he’d done a good job at his prep, because Mac’s cockhead breached the tight ring of muscle separating him from Dylan with surprising ease. The crown simply popped in there.
“Oh, holy fucking shit,” Mac muttered, cursing under his breath. The squeeze on the head of his dick was almost savage and the heat sweltering.
Dylan moaned loudly, shaking. “Slow. Slow. Slow.” He kept repeating the words, at first loudly, then quietly. The fierce pressure on Mac’s cockhead alleviated, and he could breathe again. “Oh, perfect…” Dylan whispered, tension leaving his features and a smile spreading to his lips.
“Yes, yes you are,” Mac said, grinning, his skin on fire, his groin aching, his heart thudding like a hammer.
Dylan smiled, the gesture like bright sunshine. “Love you too.” He blinked hard and his smile faltered, so Mac concluded he hadn’t intended to say that.
But he didn’t give Dylan a chance to take it back. He pushed into Dylan’s body deeper, penetrating in increments, swaying back and forth just enough to gain an inch every other thrust. It seemed to be an excellent tactic, if Dylan’s low moan and jerked hips were any indication. Not to mention his cock, lying heavy on his belly, leaking creamy, sticky droplets of pre-cum.
“Fuck, you’re so tight. God, so damn sweet,” Mac babbled, his mouth no longer wired to his brain as pleasure cascaded over his sensibility. When Dylan’s body enveloped his advancing dick and clamped down hard, Mac saw stars.
“Please hold me,” Dylan murmured and opened his arms.
Mac rested his body over Dylan’s, and they touched from lips to hips. Mac kept his bulk off Dylan by bracing himself with one arm. But soon that separation felt wrong, so he lowered completely, hooked his arms beneath Dylan’s shoulders, and held on for leverage and for an anchor in a stormy sea of desire.
Though lost in a haze, Mac didn’t have trouble finding his place. Initially he hadn’t known what to do or where to put his hand or how to enter his friend’s beautiful body. But instinct had won. That added with their knowledge of each other’s temperament and nature made for a sweet and smooth loving.
Mac kissed Dylan because he had to.
Before Mac had never really got the appeal of kissing. Sure, it could be fun with the right partner. But with girls it hadn’t felt as glorious as it felt now, kissing Dylan. Nothing had. In fact, if he described his state of mind at the time, the reigning emotion would be obsession.
Soon Mac discovered, though, that despite his cock thrusting into Dylan and Mac controlling their mating, Dylan dominated the kiss. Mac’s mind was exhausted with trying to find logic here, so he let go and allowed Dylan to use and ravage his mouth any way he saw fit. He’d never realized how sublime submission could feel, like supreme bliss.