“For to have faith is to have wings.” ― J.M. Barrie
Author: A.F. Henley
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Pages/Word Count: 43000 Words
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Be it unrequited fascination with his straight best friend or impossible fantasies of rekindled interest with his heartbreaking ex, Mason has no clue why the perfect connection seems to keep slipping through his fingers. When another lonely holiday seems like too much weight to shoulder, Mason gives up on romance and seeks out the next best thing—rented company. Jack is everything a person could want in an escort: willing, hot, and built like an angel.
Mason can’t resist. After all, who wouldn’t be interested in a guy who loves kid’s movies, is a self-professed Peter Pan, and has no problem throwing caution to the wind at a moment’s notice. But then interest quickly blooms into a whole new emotion—an emotion that Mason knows far too well, especially when Jack has no interest in returning it, preferring to keep his heart safely tucked away in Neverland.
Review: One thing I’ve come to learn about A.F. Henley as an author is that no matter whether the book is a fantasy, a historical, a paranormal, or a straightforward contemporary story, it’s going to be filled with lush prose and beautiful imagery and characters I love… even when they aren’t so easy to love.
Henley has taken the story of a man who is lacking in anything resembling self-confidence, and paired him with a male prostitute who is full of confidence where his ability to satisfy a man sexually is concerned, but whose outlook on life and love lacks the faith, trust, and pixie dust that’s sometimes all one needs to fall and then fly with another soul. The story and its characters are interwoven with themes from J.M. Berrie’s classic Peter Pan, and I loved the way the author threaded those themes into this contemporary tale, in which Mason and Jack have one short week together to discover life is the stage and they are merely the players whose illusions are so well rehearsed they begin to lose track of what’s real and what isn’t. Their time together blurs the line between what’s fantasy and what’s reality in their Neverland cottage, where for a short while they don’t have to face the more difficult parts of being grown up—the fear and the courage it takes to truly live; the sadness that pervades and the happiness that’s sometimes so hard to come by; the pain that overwhelms the ability to hope for something more.
Jack is the grownup Lost Boy who is sometimes intentionally cruel and suffers from the very normal feeling of jealousy even though he doesn’t want to be claimed in those seven days because he doesn’t trust that Mason’s kindness is genuine. But that’s only because Mason’s kindness is based in large part on him consistently sacrificing his own dreams and happiness in the process; Mason is a man with so much faith in the idea of love that he mistakes the longing for it with the belief he’s in love with his straight best friend, which plays beautifully alongside Mason heeding Jack’s many hard and fast rules and boundaries, then crossing them as they both come to discover that a life lived within the confines of self-inflicted limits is only a life half lived, and Henley translates this into a romance in which the two men finally find the courage to not only say what they want but to grab hold of it too.
My only wish is that the Second Star to the Right had given me the chance to see Mason and Jack’s relationship grow in the eight months that they were busy falling in love and planning their future together off the page, but I have complete faith and trust that they belong exactly where they ended up.