In 1974 Gerry Faun gets the break of his life—an opportunity to meet gorgeous, openly bisexual, glam-rock idol Mark Devon. Mark’s world is new, exciting, and Gerry finally gets to explore the side of his sexuality that he’s kept hidden. But the press is everywhere, and when Gerry’s father gets wind of what’s going on behind his back, Gerry ends up on the street. Mark offers to let Gerry come along with the tour and Gerry jumps at the chance. The tour is a never-ending party—and the start of what seems to be a perfect relationship for him and Mark. Until Mark’s manager decides Gerry isn’t worth the trouble he’s stirring up.
In 1994 Gerry is finally coming out of some tough times—he has a job that pays the bills, a car that hasn’t quite broken down, and a small rental in Jersey City. After a decade of barely getting by, if life was as good as it was going to get, Gerry figures he’ll manage just fine. It would be easier if he wasn’t still haunted by the man the media won’t let him forget, the man who stole his heart and then broke it… the man that’s shown up pleading for a second chance.
What a blast from the past! In Baby’s on Fire, AF Henley takes us back to the wild times of the 70’s to the glam rock era. This trip back is made even more exciting because Henley writes it with a great understanding and feeling of how and why people lived back then.
But the novel starts in 1994 and we are introduced to our hero, Gerry Faun. It becomes immediately clear that Gerry is living a very mediocre and uneventful life. The mood at the beginning of the story would even invite words like dreary and lonesome. He has a home and a job but the reader could tell that there is something missing greatly and that something else still hurts.
From there, we are led back twenty years into the past. Gerry Faun is a twenty year old young man, living at home with his parents and siblings. Gerry is gay but in the closet and he has a craving for the one glam rock star that fills all the magazines and record stores: Mark Devon alias Maxx Starlight.
Gerry belongs to the generation of young people that yearn to break lose from their contrastive homes. AF Henley shows us a society in which the younger generation tries to break away from the way their parents were raised: authority and obedience. What I love is that Henley strongly shows one of his many talents here. His ability to give us an impression of that generation gap not by endless description but by the words and deeds of his characters.
So our starstruck Gerry goes to one of Mark Devon’s concerts and a dream beyond Gerry’s imagination comes true. The dramatic events following though have consequences: Gerry’s mind will never be at peace again for the next twenty years.
I love this novel on so many levels! It is a perfect mixture of being highly dynamic events (not just in the 70’s) and deep contemplation. The characters are so captivating! Young Gerry is simply adorable. He can not imagine to follow in the footsteps of his parents and rebels but at the same time preserves a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Gerry in the 90’s comes over as a disillusioned man who who just lives his life day by day and never tried to find love again. They are so very different and yet there is no doubt that they are the same. It is brilliant how AF Henley managed to let the reader instantly recognise the younger Gerry in the grown up one!
Mark Devon will drive you crazy! He is gorgeous and so very much everything that young Gerry is not. Or maybe Mark is? He is caring and adorable one moment and exactly when the reader thought he had figured Mark out his attitude is erratic and demanding. One wants to believe that he is actually in love with Gerry and then wants to kick his ass when he acts like Gerry is there only to make him look good, to make him feel good. Gerry wants to see behind the veneer that Maxx Starlight is even though he is warned that there is no one else, even by Mark himself. It culminates in a dramatic climax and Mark has to realise that he is not as much in control as he thought to be. On so many levels. And here the 70’s end.
The 90’s are kind of written from Gerry’s perspective. I find that a smart move by the author. He uses this change as a tool to make clear that Mark Devon’s story has no place in Gerry’s life. But to assume that Mark has been simply dropped from the story is wrong. He is still there. He is the anger that are caused by Gerry’s memories. Memories that become strange occurrences that become flesh and bone and also lead to a sensational relevation that once again turn Gerry’s life upside down.
AF Henley also uses the story part of the 90’s to show how much people have changed since then. There are wonderful conversations with his sister and brother that would not have been possible before. And I also want to mention Deidre! God, she is marvelous!
But AF Henley also showed us something else. Behind all the glitz and glitter, behind those scandals and rebelliousness many of those lives were terribly empty. It was as if with all the jamboree they tried to escape reality into a world that out there did not exist. They wanted to rebel against the norm and for that were willing to throw everything out of the window. But they made a mistake. Along with abandoning all the rules they also gave up the values that are making a life worthwhile and everything but shallow and random. Baby’s on Fire shows that in a brilliant way.
An exciting and decade spanning story which you will find hard to put aside until it is absolutely necessary! The change between the dramatic moments and the more contemplative ones is perfectly set and balanced. And oh man, there are some hot scenes between Gerry and Mark! Both main characters are amazing, believable and captivating and are supported by a group of strong background characters. You will like his siblings Angie (who is playing an important role) and Cliff (at least later), Deidre is absolutely lovely and you will so hate Phil!
The story never lacks drive and energy and the jumps between the 70’s and 90’s add a lot to the excitation!
An absolute must read! 😀
Gay Contemporary Romance
Copyright © 2015 by A.F. Henley
Published by Less Than Three Press
Please note: Novel contains some explicit content.
Purchase Link – LT3
Purchase Link – Amazon
Here is the link to find out more about AF Henley’s wonderful works: afhenley.com
On another personal note I want to say that I feel crazy happy and very grateful that I had the honour doing the cover art for this great novel! 😀
Owen has been struggling with addiction since he was a teenager, but it takes a DUI involving another vehicle for him to finally face his issues. The road to recovery is a rough one, and for Owen it’s a journey made harder by bankruptcy, loneliness, and repressed memories.
His new apartment doesn’t help either. It’s small, worn, and hot as hell. The only way to reach it is a tedious stretch of stairs that seems like the final insult on top of a whole pile of misery. Thankfully, the mess comes with one bright spot: intense, pretty Sebastian, who seems to have a knack for keeping his head up and finding the beauty in everything.
The fascination with this novel lies in how the problem of addiction and the beauty of romance come together so perfectly without making this story the usual read.
The reason for this comes from the exceptional characters Owen and Sebastian as well as the way AF Henley handled both subjects of addiction and love. He walked a fine line here and avoided cliché in a brilliant way!
Although an addiction rarely comes from nowhere, AF Henley did an awesome job on simply placing blame. Instead he makes Owen become aware of where his problems come from and confront them.
Being an addict to alcohol since being a teenager, Owen finally ruined his life after a second DUI and lost all he had as a grown man: a partner, a well paid job, a house. As a result, he is bankrupt and had to move into a miserable apartment. Here he meets younger „Baba“ Sebastian, who is working at the building. Owen begins to like Sebastian because the younger man has a certain way of looking at life and his sometimes cryptic musings fascinate Owen.
But falling in love and a new relationship is out of the question for Owen as he has to follow a program with very strict rules that demands to exclude becoming involved with another person to protect them from your issues before you become strong enough yourself to deal with them.
Here the strong and thoughtful story becomes brilliant. Although Owen knows that he needs the program, he hates it. Henley shows that while those programs can be helpful as a general guide, they come with a catch. The addictive is tied to them so strict sometimes that he can become too dependent. In a way another addiction that could prevent that the addictive becomes a person of self-respect and staining on his own feet again.
One of my favorite moments in this story is when Owen comes back one day from his grocery run and walks up all those dreaded stairs to his apartment. When he notices something in the hallway because all the time he was looking down instead raising his head and looking up. A wonderful analogy of how you will miss things that might better your life if you allow your regrets and sorrows block you from realizing that there is hope and the possibility of a brighter future. That moment, although it seems to be a simple one is not only very beautiful but also a turning point in the story.
Here comes in Baba. Troubled by his own problems, he shows Owen that a person needs more than rules to be able to deal with his issues. This throws Owen into an internal conflict between what he is being told what is right and what must be and what his heart tells him to do. As a result, Owen tries to keep Sebastian at distance.
The supporting characters in this novel, Owen’s brother, his mom and his counsel, are a very important and integral part of the story because they, to a certain extend, made and make Owen the person he was and that he becomes in the end.
I highly recommend this novel for its powerful characters, the thoughtfulness and strong dialogues, very romantic and hot moments and a wonderful happy end!