“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, 'The Prince'
Ru Maitland, of 'Prince of the Playhouse' by Tara Lain, is stunned when he receives an offer to design costumes for a local production of Hamlet. Historical costumes are not his forte, but when he discovers that Hamlet will be played by Gray Anson, an actor he's had a mad crush on forever, there's no way he can turn it down. Ru can't foresee the turmoil that occurs when he is placed in the limelight, right along with Gray, or how much it will change both their lives.
Ru has fantasized about Gray for a long time. The thought of actually being able to not only meet but also to touch him, is almost more than he can handle. Because of his shady past, Ru's interaction with other men is limited. Ru is talented and smart and far more self-sufficient than he appears, but the fear of being discovered for what he is always lies just beneath the surface just waiting to ooze out and destroy his present. Ru has worked hard to put his past behind him and has reinvented himself into the competent designer he is today. Without Shaz's help, he never would have been able to do it. Shaz gives him not only praise but also acceptance and love. Shaz believed in him when no one else did and continues to do so. Ru may be successful, but he's insecure about everything except his designing; he has worked extremely hard to get to the point he's at. The last thing Ru needs is for something to happen to make it all come crashing down. When he has a chance encounter with someone from his past, Ru unknowingly makes an enemy out of him and that threatens to unravel all Ru has worked so hard to achieve.
Ru's idol, Gray Anson, is not what he seems to be. Being a sex symbol to millions of fans keeps Gray in the closet, stifling his personality, misrepresenting his identity, and dimming his creativity. Gray wants to do Hamlet to prove he is more than an action figure. He wants to prove he can actually act, but he's over his head. Stage acting is far different from movies. Gray has been living a lie so long his priorities are all out of order. He's attracted to Ru from the start, but, instead of being able to be himself and follow his feelings, he inadvertently makes Ru a boy toy of sorts, hiding their relationship and pretending to be straight including having women in his life. After what Ru has been through, he doesn't deserve to be treated this way. Ru still has the idea that he's not a good person and being thrust into the background does nothing to help him feel better about himself. Yet, trooper that he is, Ru navigates through all the disappointments and difficulties with as much class as he can muster.
There are a lot of story lines in this book and it's impossible to fit them all into this review. It's predominantly Ru's story—how he got where he is now, details about his past, problems caused by his past and, of course, his relationship with Gray. Ru was so jerked around by Gray's indecision and lack of support that it was hard for me to forgive Gray, but if Ru can forgive him, I guess I can too. Learning about his past life was heartbreaking, but enlightening at the same time. The knowledge of what he'd been through gave me a new respect for him that I didn't have before. Ru is such a wonderfully complex character: flamboyant, talented, definitely not what he appears to be on so many levels. The largest danger of living a lie is that you are never completely become the person you are meant to be. It's only when the truth comes out that you can live an honest and productive life. Thanks, Tara, for giving Ru his happy ending.