New Zealand farm boy turns New York fashion model.
Fairy tale? Maybe. But it hasn’t been easy. A year in this crazy city, working my tail off just to survive in a ruthless industry where sex sells and boundaries are too readily crossed.
A year and a reassuring ocean away from Hunter Donovan—a sexy, humiliating mistake that I’m not about to repeat. Distance is good. Distance is safe.
But now Hunter is back. In New York. In my life. In all those treacherous feelings that haven’t gone anywhere. But when my world suddenly crashes and I have to piece myself back together and fight for my career, will Hunter be there when I need him? Will we have what it takes to make it through this, together?
Note: This book contains themes of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Series: The Style Series #2
Author: Jay Hogan
Genre: MM Romance
Tropes: Second chances | Trauma | Hurt/comfort | Courage | Found family | Humour | Friends to lovers | Fashion and its underbelly
Release date: July 14th, 2022
Halfway down the block I came upon a small queue outside a tidy brick establishment which proved to be Color. The distant thrum of Ariana Grande leaking through the double wooden doors onto the sidewalk reminded me I was close to a generation older than most of the guys ahead of me waiting to get in.
I joined the line, ignoring a low whistle of interest from one of the guys as I passed. I took his appreciation as reassurance that my skinny black jeans paired with one of Rhys’s new season tight black-and-white-checked T-shirts passed muster. I checked my phone as I waited and fired off a text to my younger sister knowing it was afternoon in New Zealand. A few seconds later the phone rang in my hand, and I smiled and swiped it open.
“Hey, you. I’m heading to the supermarket. What’s up?”
The line shrank by a couple of guys, and everyone shuffled forward. “Not much. I’m waiting to get into a bar and thought I might catch you.”
Silence. “Hunter Donovan is in a queue?” She chuckled. “You don’t do queues, bro. I thought you rarefied fashionista types skipped those pesky things.”
“It’s not that level of club,” I explained. “Think popular, off-the-beaten-track gay bar. I doubt I’ll see anyone I know and certainly no one who knows me.”
“A gay bar? Ohhhhh, are you on a date?”
“No, I am not on a date. You know me. Besides, I’ve only been here two days.”
“You’re right. I do know you. Which means you’re cruising for some pretty arse. You after a bit of downtown rough, big brother?”
“Jesus, Patty, you sound like a low-budget movie, and we are not having that conversation. Ever. If you must know, I met a guy I worked with in Auckland and he happens to tend bar here. I said I’d drop by.” Kind of, almost.
“Riiiight.” She sounded sceptical. “Do I know them? You’ve always said the best thing about your trips to New York was all the great clubs. I’ve never known you to waste your time on suburban bars.” My sister was way too perceptive.
“True, but this is that model from fashion week last year? The guy Rhys discovered—”
“Oh my god,” she blurted. “That gorgeous hunk of drool you shot for Flare. Alec someone, right?”
“Alec Williamson. He got signed by Cage Talent after the show and has been in New York since. I ran into him quite by chance.”
Patty was quiet for a few seconds as the cogs in her brain ticked over. “But you liked him, right?”
What the fuck? I said nothing
“You can’t lie to me, Hunter. I know you. He’s the one hanging in your office on your wall of fame, aka my personal wall of hotness. He’s wearing Rhys’s design. Holy shit, Hunter. Do you have a thing? Are you—”
I needed to shut this down fast. “He’s hanging there because it was my best friend’s signature shoot for his new label,” I argued. “Not because it’s Alec.”
“Mm-hmm.” There was an irritating smile in her voice. “Pull the other one. I called into Flare that day, remember? You couldn’t take your eyes off him. Neither could I, to be honest, but you were a little smitten kitten.”
I so was. “I so wasn’t. You’re dreaming. Alec is a great model, that’s all. If I was smitten, it was on a purely professional level.”
“And yet you’re queuing to have a drink at the place he works?”
Well, when you put it like that. “Maybe.” It was all she was getting. “It’s the friendly thing to do, right?”
“Aha. Yep. Very neighbourly of you. Oh, here’s a thought. If you like him, how about you keep it in your pants for once, at least for more than a day? Get to know him.”
Too fucking late. “Oh, look at that, the bouncer’s waving me in. Gotta go, sis. Nice talking to you.” I stabbed the End Call button, stared at the double doors for a second, took a deep breath, and then pushed through.
The immediate assault to my eardrums almost rattled my brain from my skull. Add that to the heaving crowd and multicoloured light display circling the room and dripping down the walls, and I needed a minute to orient myself. I passed the coat check desk and slid against the closest wall to take a look around.
The place was humming, the music pulsing loudly above the thrum of a hundred different conversations, while the surprisingly spacious dancefloor writhed with every possible combination of couples, throuples, and dogpiles of slick bodies. Like the queue outside, it was a younger crowd, mostly early twenties, but with enough around my age to drop the creep factor to acceptable. I watched the dancers for a bit, appreciating all the hot skin and tight muscle on display before scouting the bar.
“You wanna dance?” A warm body leaned close, and I turned to find an attractive dark-haired man just inches from my face. He had the greenest eyes I’d ever seen and a pouty mouth made for sucking cock. He licked his lips and ran his hand up my arm. “You’re fucking gorgeous.”
On any other night I would’ve had him down the back and on his knees with my dick down his throat in about five minutes flat, but I wasn’t even tempted—a disturbing fact that was worth an alarm bell or two. Instead, I simply smiled and covered his hand with mine.
“Thanks. You’re pretty hot yourself, but I’m meeting someone.”
After reading Flare, the first book in this new series, I couldn’t wait for Strut. Totally worth the wait. You don’t have to read Flare, but you should. I said so.
Strut time jumps us almost a year or so. Alec was signed by a modeling agency and has moved to New York City. He is hustling all he can modeling, trying to make a name and face for himself. But it is a tough gig. He’s in a 3 bedroom apartment with 9 other models. They rack up debt with the agency (I had no idea this was a thing and I was scandalized) and many have second jobs. Alec is a bartender at a small gay club on the weekends.
Then one day he runs into a photographer from his home in Auckland. The photographer who helped him (and his friend’s design line, Flare) get exposure. Same guy he had a hot encounter with at a bar and watched as he immediately walked away. THAT guy.
Honestly, I’m surprised it took them a year to run into each other. Yes, NYC is big, but the male modeling world isn’t. Anyway. Even though they both were so obviously into each other back in New Zealand, Hunter ran and Alec was pissed, and he isn’t getting over it quickly.
Let me first say that this is the first book by this author that wasn’t set in NZ. It was set in NYC which I am very acquainted with, growing up less than an hour away. And I’d like to say well done. There were no stereotypes of the City or it’s people. That was SO refreshing. No clichés, distances between places was correct, etc. New York City was a gorgeous background character in and of itself.
I loved how Alec did not immediately swoon over Hunter. He didn’t even want to hear his apologies or excuses or anything. Bravo, Alec. But Hunter wore him down, pulling romance he didn’t know he had right out of his back pocket.
Alec runs into some trouble with another photographer when he is up for a campaign that will completely change his career. There are rippling effects to this trouble and Alec enlists his friends in NZ.
Seeing everyone come together- including other models and his model roommates was great. And something that I am positive happens in real life and is never spoken about. So this really broadened an already big issue without downplaying the original issue.
Alec and Hunter are great together. Their personalities just mesh and even though Hunter is new to the whole boyfriend thing, he really tries to be the best one he can.
If you loved Flare, you will love Strut. Even if you didn’t love Flare you will love Strut. A book that was romantic and sexy and real life conflict and awareness raising with a plot.
4 pieces of eye candy
Heart, humour and keeping it real
Jay is a 2020 Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Gay Romance and her book Off Balance was the 2021 New Zealand Romance Book of the Year.
She is a New Zealand author writing mm romance and romantic suspense, primarily set in New Zealand. She writes character driven romances with lots of humour, a good dose of reality and a splash of angst. She’s travelled extensively, lived in many countries, and in a past life she was a critical care nurse, nurse educator and counsellor. Jay is owned by a huge Maine Coon cat and a gorgeous Cocker Spaniel
Find Jay in all the places: https://jayhoganauthor.contactin.bio/