The Final Act
by Bonnie Dee, contemporary (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-60504-141-6


Hey, the cover art is pretty misleading! I am led to believe that I will be getting a romance involving singers, but The Final Act deals with a different breed of entertainers - stage actors in a musical roadshow called Transitions. There are three couples in this story, but their stories are closely interwoven by their interactions with each other as well as with the other secondary characters that The Final Act is more like a romantic soap opera rather than three short stories stapled together.

Elena Colvin, an actress who sticks by the script, can't remember the last name of her co-star Michael "No, Not That Gay Porn Star!" Lucas but she certainly remembers how irritated she finds his constant improvisations on the script. Of course, opposites attract and therefore they're soon making heated glances and more at each other. Michael is a starving actor with no home but plenty of Daddy issues. Michael is the emo of the story, constantly moping about how his rich father doesn't care about his acting career. I have to admit, though - when he mopes and does that emo thing, Ms Dee makes the way he does those thing pretty... sweet. Michael comes off so vulnerable in those scenes that I am tempted to give this poor woobie a hug rather than bash him in the head with a thick psychiatry textbook and tell him to get over his father issues.

Gretchen Hamilton opts for a career switch and moves from Iowa to audition for Transitions. She's the business degree holder who decides that she's happiest when she's watching a play so... here she is! On the bright side, at least she's not in charge of managing a big company, because that will be disastrous indeed. She's the sweet and somewhat naïve dear in this story, and it is to be expected, I suppose, that she attracts the attention of the big bad wolf himself, the guitarist Jake. Gretchen is no dim-witted silly though, she actually takes to Jake's bad-boy loving like a fish to water and soon poor Jake is the one who can't see up from down anymore. The challenge to their developing relationship will soon arise when Jake wonders whether he has led Gretchen into a lifestyle that will destroy everything about her that attracts him to her in the first place.

Rounding up the three couples are Tom and Denny. Poor Denny, I bet he gets sensitive when people call him Jerry. Denny is a friend of Elena as well as a co-star on Transitions. His gig means that he will be away from Tom. If that is not hard enough, Tom soon drops an "I need my own space to sort things out" bombshell on Denny that has the poor man reeling. And hopping mad. Will they ever sort things out between them?

Tom and Denny have the least interesting storyline here, in my opinion, but that is only because their story lacks the larger-than-life drama of the soap opera between Gretchen and Jake and the chemistry between Michael and Elena. However, it is great that Ms Dee doesn't fall into the trap of relegating Denny into the role of the Wise Gay Know-It-All Fix-It-All stereotype character. Instead, Denny is a character in his own right. The other two stories are pretty good. The number of characters in this story mean that the characters aren't as three-dimensional as they could have been, but they have adequate depths to make me happy. Gretchen and Elena come off as pretty smart despite being in love with men that they believe are completely wrong for them, while Jake and Michael make such attractive lovelorn fellows, especially when they are all down and unhappy, heh.

Set on the stage, The Final Act is appropriately larger-than-life and exuberant, yet down-to-earth and heartbreaking all at once. Okay, the lyrics of the songs to what seems like a poor man's Rent can be too corny for my liking, but at least Ms Dee acknowledges that they are corny. I have a great time reading this story and it's with some regret that I have to make my way to the exit, so to speak, when the curtain of The Final Act finally falls. Ms Dee really should tell me one of these days how she does these... things... that have me enjoying so many of her stories.

Rating: 88


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