Title: Emerald Idol
Author: Hank Fielder
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Nick Davanger, Rusty Maraba, Anson Bay
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance
Once upon a time in the eighties, Nick Davanger’s soulful green eyes and successful record-producer partner turned him into the pop sensation known as the Emerald Idol. But Rusty has been dead for a year now, and though Nick is slowly putting his life back together, it isn’t easy—especially since someone is trying to derail his comeback by blackmailing him about his decadent past.
Enter LA detective Rusty Maraba, who’s been assigned to keep Nick safe. Anson is the total package, handsome as well as competent. He strives to keep business and pleasure separate, no matter how strong his feelings grow, but his attraction to Nick strains the limits of his professionalism.
To aid the search for a suspect, Nick finds himself reliving his time with Rusty, from London’s steamy all-male strip clubs to fame in the Hollywood Hills. Even if he can’t deny that Anson excites him, Nick’s not sure he can love again. Of course, if the villain who’s blackmailing him succeeds, Nick may never have the chance to find out.
Nick Davangere is sitting in the back seat of his limousine looking at pictures of his deceased partner and his dog on his way to Heathrow airport when he receives a text message on his phone threatening to go to the press with compromising pictures taken when Nick was a young man. The threat has him remembering when he was a young biracial gay man who was raised by his grandparents on a small farm in Wisconsin in the late seventies. His grandfather refuses to acknowledge that Nick is anything but white while the people in his hometown treat him as an outsider because he is biracial. When he goes off to college on an art scholarship, he finds that he is still barely tolerated. When he gets the chance to go to England for a semester on an exchange program, he finds a new freedom to express himself sexually and more openly than he could at home.
He finds himself in London of the early eighties when music groups like U2 and Human League are just starting to break out on the London music scene. He lives his life in the moment, thinking only of fame, fortune, and the free expression of his sexuality. He does a stripper act in a small seedy gay club, does nude photo shoots and is introduced to a older man named Rusty Maraba who is a record producer. Rusty and Nick become lovers and he brings Nick into the gritty life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll in the glitz and glamour world of London’s music scene. Nick uses Rusty’s connections to create a song that becomes a one-hit wonder.
He and Rusty use the experience to expand from producing records to becoming a multimedia company. Nick settles into his new career amidst the ups and downs and fickle nature of the music world. He is intimately acquainted with the drug addiction, alcoholism, and the emergence of the AIDS epidemic. He has several encounters with a young Olympic baseball player named Paul Tolanaro who then refuses to admit he’s gay and asks Nick to promise to never contact him again or mention what happened between them to anyone. Many years later Rusty has died and Nick has settled into his quiet new life as a multimedia company executive, writer and actor in his own one-man act.
He meets police detective Anson Bay when he is introduced to him by a mutual friend when she finds out that Nick is being blackmailed and his beloved dog Wolfy is held for ransom. Nick and Anson discover that the blackmailers are his dead partners estranged daughter, her husband and his former business partner. They are immediately attracted to each other but don’t act on it until after the case is wrapped up and Anson retires to become a private investigator. They become lovers and Anson’s first case as a private investigator is to locate the father that Nick has never known. He does get the info but Nick’s father had died several years before. Nick is able to connect with the sister and niece that he never knew he had and make peace with himself and his past.
I really, really enjoyed this book. The relationship between Nick and Rusty and Nick and Anson are genuine and down to earth. Nick’s story gives an intimate and up close look into the gritty and flamboyant world of London and LAs music scene during the eighties and early nineties. I love how Nick goes from being an angry repressed man who hates his roots to a mature man of faith who is at peace with himself and his past.
Reviewed By: Patricia