Summer Stock by Vanessa North

About Summer Stock

Tabloid scandals have driven TV star Ryan Hertzog to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where he’s hiding out doing summer stock at his cousin’s seaside theater. When a hookup with local handyman Trey Donovan results in Ryan being photographed butt naked, he vows to keep his pants on and his hands off Trey.  How was he supposed to know Trey would turn out to be the summer stock set builder?

Trey isn’t looking for a relationship; he’s still recovering from the emotional fallout of an abusive marriage. But Ryan’s laughter draws him in again and again, and he’s not about to say no to fooling around.

As the summer heats up, the paparazzi catch Ryan in increasingly compromising situations. Ryan might be too much drama for a summer fling—and Trey might be just an intermission from Ryan’s Hollywood life. But if they take their cues from Shakespeare, all’s well that ends well.


Now available from Riptide Publishing.

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Chapter One
Ryan woke in a strange bed with a splitting headache and a stale mouth.
Shit. What happened? He had a vague memory of a brawny townie smiling at him over a margarita laced with jalapeño peppers, and then later—how many drinks later?—spicy-hot kisses and a low chuckle and a pool of want in his gut. A promising beginning—too bad he couldn’t remember what had come next. He rolled onto his back and flinched as his muscles protested the movement.
A glance to his left granted him a peek at his hookup from the night before. Soft golden stubble on a square jaw. A cauliflower ear. Ryan blinked—had he gone to bed with a boxer? Then his eyes traced the high, chiseled cheekbones, ruddy from sunshine. They flanked a nose that could charitably be called distinctive, and soft, full lips twitched around a snore.
For about half a second, Ryan looked at those lips, remembered jalapeños, and thought about waking the guy up for another round—one he’d be sober enough to remember. Then it hit him like a freight train.
He was in North Carolina. Not to shoot a TV show or a movie or anything real. No, his ass had been banished to this backwater in disgrace. To do summer stock.
So what if he’d gone willingly? If he’d asked—begged—his cousin Caro to get him a job like they were teenagers again and he was too shy to ask the manager of the Piggly Wiggly if they needed weekend baggers?
He wouldn’t have had to ask if there hadn’t been an ultimatum.
“Stay out of the tabloids or find another agent. You’re on your third publicist in a year. I can’t get you work if I’m constantly bailing you out of trouble with the press.”
Ryan glanced down at the snoring townie. Having drunk hookups with strangers—of any sex, but particularly male strangers—might be exactly the sort of thing Mike would consider trouble. What exactly had they done the night before? Had there been drugs? The room didn’t have the stale smell he associated with regular pot smoking. He looked around. No bongs. Better still, no mirrors lying out on the horizontal surfaces. It appeared the damage from their party was confined to margaritas and that lamp they’d knocked over on the way to the bed.
But where were his clothes?
Gingerly, he eased himself out of the bed and peeked underneath it. A single white sock—not his—and a pair of filthy Converse, again not his. The dark-stained hardwood floor was clean except for the lamp, and his clothes were nowhere to be seen. He racked his brain for a memory, any memory, of their arrival at the townie’s apartment. Did the guy have roommates? If Ryan opened the door and walked into the living room, would someone see his wedding tackle hanging out?
He tried the door anyway, freezing when a muffled groan emerged from the blankets. But the townie just pulled a pillow over his head and rolled onto his stomach. Poor bastard was probably as hungover as Ryan.
Oh so slowly, Ryan eased the door open, wincing as it creaked. He was in luck. His shirt was on the floor outside the bedroom door, and when he picked it up, he discovered one of his socks, a little smelly, but no worse for wear. He pulled on the T-shirt and kept moving. He came around the corner into a bright living room dominated by a massive sectional. His attention was immediately drawn to a flat-screen that would be the envy of any home theater aficionado, but then he spied the other sock beside the couch.
No sign of roommates or family members. So far, so good. When he spotted his jeans thrown over the back of the sectional, he grabbed them, then froze again as a memory washed over him.
“Keep your hands on the back of the sofa,” in a rumbling coastal drawl.
The pants fell to the floor as he remembered the stranger’s rough hands on his body and a stubbled kiss along his spine. The recall evoked a flash of mind-bending pleasure, and he nearly moaned out loud. Clearly, they’d had a good time. But where the hell was his underwear? He dropped to his knees and peeked under the sofa. Nothing.
A quick stroll around the couch didn’t reveal their whereabouts either.
He was just about to give up and go commando, when a low snarl ripped through the air. Turning slowly, he cupped one hand protectively over his junk.
In a corner of the room, on what appeared to be a twin-sized mattress, the biggest dog he’d ever seen was growling at him.
It had to weigh two hundred pounds. Pendulous jowls shook as the dog emitted another threat. There, clutched between the dog’s gigantic paws, was Ryan’s favorite pair of briefs. As he watched with growing horror, the hellhound leaned over, snuffled his prize, and started chewing on them.
Speechless, horrified, and naked from the waist down, Ryan did the only thing that occurred to him.
He ran.
Sheer terror swamped him as he shoved open the front door. Was the dog going to decide to come straight for the source of his new favorite snack? Ryan didn’t care if roommates, neighbors, or the baby Jesus himself saw his wedding tackle. He was not about to stick around and get eaten by a dog. No matter how tempting those flashes of bend-me-over-the-couch-and-have-your-way-with-me sex were.
It wasn’t until he was halfway down the driveway that he realized he’d left his pants on the floor, and his phone was still in the pocket.
And that was when the paparazzi showed up.
* * * * *
Trey pulled the pillow down over his ears. Ryan had scrambled out of bed without so much as a peck on the cheek and an It’s been nice. At first Trey had wondered if he’d gotten up to go to the bathroom, but then the front door had slammed with a sordid finality.
And a little insulting. Trey didn’t have much of an ego to bruise—he knew he wasn’t a catch—but he thought they’d had fun. He wouldn’t normally even try to hook up with a guy who looked like he could be in movies, but the way Ryan had stared at him last night had gone straight to his head. Both heads. And from what he’d been able to tell, Ryan had been into it—laughing and flirting and kissing like he’d die if they didn’t. God, those kisses. Trey hadn’t kissed like that in years. With Ryan’s hands in Trey’s hair and whimpers in his throat and his chest heaving like he’d just dashed the two hundred meter. A spike of pleasure at the memory had soured into resentment when Ryan snuck out of the house. Hell, maybe beautiful people didn’t go in for morning cuddling and pancakes, but they could at least say good-bye, right?
Trey flopped over onto his back and winced at the frisson of pain slithering from his skull down his spine. He’d had too much to drink, and he’d pay for it the rest of the day.
One of Ferdinand’s thunderous barks ripped through the house. Someone was knocking—at seven o’clock on a Sunday morning? Throwing his pillow to the side, he sprang up out of bed before the dog really got going and tore up the coffee table again. He grabbed a pair of boxers out of the basket of clean laundry and pulled them on.
Ryan was at the front door.
Without his pants.
Had he taken a wrong turn on the way to the bathroom and ended up outside? Trey’s heart leaped. Ryan hadn’t been sneaking out without saying good-bye after all. They could still have pancakes and some cuddling. He wanted to explore that cute constellation of freckles on Ryan’s shoulders more closely, and hear him laugh, and maybe kiss him until they forgot their hangovers.
Trey started to open the door, but Ryan shouted, “Whoa!” and held up his hands in the universal signal for stop.
It was like cold water thrown in Trey’s face.
So, no pancakes then.
“What do you want?” Trey asked.
Ryan looked over his shoulder, then back at Trey.
“Can you hand me my pants? And my Birks?”
“Were you in so much of a hurry to get away that you forgot your pants?”
Ryan actually smiled. “Yes! Exactly. Do you mind just passing them through the crack in the door? You can keep the underwear.”
You have got to be kidding me.
“Did you hit your head on something while I was sleeping?” Trey gritted his teeth and glared as his headache roared back to life.
“Not that I know of.” Ryan glanced around, clearly agitated. “My pants? Please? There’s a kid out here taking pictures.”
Trey scanned the room. The sandals were by the door; he picked those up and thrust them through the crack at Ryan. When he crossed to the couch to collect Ryan’s fancy designer jeans, the door closed with a bang behind him.
That’s it. He grabbed the jeans, stalked to the front door, flung it all the way open, and tossed them right in Ryan’s face.
“Have a nice life, asshole.”
He slammed the door shut and locked it. Behind him, Ferdinand barked once, then whined.
Trey turned around and looked at the dog, who was sitting with his head tilted to the side and long strings of drool hanging from his mouth.
“Yeah, I don’t get it either, Peanut. Let’s make pancakes.”
He should have known Ferdinand would be a better breakfast companion than some pretty boy anyway.
* * * * *
Mason dropped the newspaper on his desk and glared at Ryan. In Mason’s office, a tiny room behind the box office, mosquitoes congregated on the one grimy window, lending the place a sinister vibe, but aside from the front page section of the Banker’s Shoals Herald, Mason’s desk was clear.
As was his point.
“Do you think this press is what Shakespeare by the Sea needs?”
Ryan flinched at the steely cold in Mason’s voice. He’d known Mason since they were kids—Mason had been best friends forever with Ryan’s cousin Caroline. Ryan had idolized Mason for years, and was embarrassed to be called into the office for a dressing down. He couldn’t meet Mason’s gaze, so he looked at the newspaper, where his own pasty-white ass cheeks were plastered across the front page. Below the fold, of course. This was a family-oriented town. But there they were. And they did not give credit to the million hours a week Ryan spent at the gym. As for that headline . . .
Hollywood Playboy Bryan Hart Caught Streaking in Banker’s Shoals!
“I’m sorry.”
“You are here because Caro said please. You are here because Caro promised me you would stay out of trouble. You are here because my goddamn theater is bleeding money and you agreed to work for free. Do not hammer the nail in my coffin, boy, unless you plan to share it.”
The unfairness of it all soured in Ryan’s stomach. Shame boiled under the surface, the kind of shame that would usually make him lash out, but Mason was right. He was here because Caro had offered him a safe place to land when he’d fallen, and he wasn’t going to repay her by putting her theater out of business. So, humiliating as it was, he sucked it up and told the truth.
Well. Sort of.
“I wasn’t streaking. I met someone,” he began. “I know you don’t understand, because you’re a monk.”
“I am not a monk.” Mason’s nostrils flared.
“Asexual, then. Whatever.” Ryan waved it away.
“Don’t use words you don’t understand. Keep talking.”
“I met someone. And yes, I slept with them on the first date; we do that in Hollywood sometimes.”
One of Mason’s eyebrows quirked up at the pronoun, but he didn’t say anything.
Ryan didn’t want to inadvertently out anyone, so gender-neutral pronouns were best. He brightened a little—maybe Trey was in the closet and this would never go beyond the two of them. Ryan’s face burned hotter. It was hardly fair to hope his hookup was closeted just because his own bisexuality was inconvenient.
“I was really into them, and somehow on our way to bed, I missed the fact that they have this enormous man-eating dog.”
“Man-eating, huh?”
Was that a bit of a smile lingering around Mason’s lips? Mason was a good-looking dude: a big black man with gleaming white teeth, a shaved head, and a propensity for wearing tight T-shirts. Ryan liked Mason’s smile—had always liked Mason’s smile—so he played to his audience.
“Mason, man, I’m telling you, this beast was four hundred pounds and already snacking on my Andrew Christians. I was running for my life.”
Mason did smile then, and Ryan felt a twitch of relief. Short-lived, because Mason pointed down at the picture, the one where Ryan was banging on the front door of Trey’s duplex with his ass exposed.
“I admit, here in the theater, we don’t know much about cinematography, but this doesn’t appear to be an action shot, Ry.”
Nicknames. Nicknames were good. Snide comments about theater versus film were bad. Jesus, talking to a pissed-off Mason was like walking a tight rope.
“I forgot my phone,” Ryan mumbled.
“I see. So let me get this straight: you were running for your life from a four-hundred-pound, man-eating beast who was flossing with your Andrew Christians, and you returned straight into the jaws of certain death in order to retrieve your phone?”
“Well, the nearest Apple store is in Raleigh and that’s hours away.”
“Remind me why I cast you again?”
“Because I’m working pro bono?”
Mason’s smile fell. “I told you not to use words you don’t understand. Your cousin—who is worth a dozen of you—thinks the sun rises and sets out of this—” Mason’s finger landed on the paper, right on Ryan’s butt “—lily-white ass. So grow up. Get your shit together, Ry. I don’t want to see your stage name in the Herald unless it’s in the context of a ‘who knew he could actually act?’ review. Got it?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Good. Now get out of my sight. Call is at seven Monday morning for the read through.”
“I’ll be there.”
“In pants, please.”
Ryan flushed. He was never going to live this down. Nodding, he started for the door.
“One more thing,” Mason said.
“Yeah?” Ryan looked over his shoulder. Mason didn’t meet his eyes, instead he was scribbling something in a notebook.
“The cast and crew are off-limits. You want to screw around, do it elsewhere. I don’t need drama in my theater.”
“No problem. I don’t date people in the business.”
“As long as we’re clear on that.”


Summer Stock by Vanessa North
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yet another sweet, steamy, low-angst read by Vanessa North. Trey and Ryan each start the book with baggage – Trey is a domestic abuse survivor struggling with panic attacks and flashbacks. Ryan’s a Hollywood actor trying to stay out of the limelight after a trail of bad press. What was supposed to be a drunken one night stand turns into more when the guys keep running into each other.

Summer Stock touches on some pretty heavy topics – domestic violence, substance abuse, anxiety disorder and PTSD, coming out, and more, but this isn’t a heavy book. Vanessa did a great job of covering serious topics respectfully yet lightly. There’s a lot to laugh and smile about in this book. And Ryan and Trey have amazing chemistry. For a book that kicks off with the first morning after, it is a pretty slow burn, building up to them getting to know each other before jumping into a relationship. Each man helps the other through some difficult times, but it’s not a quick fix. They work pretty hard for their HEA. They aren’t the best at communicating (outside the bedroom, at least), which creates a little angst, but they do get there in the end.

As is usual for Vanessa North, the secondary characters were complex and brought a lot to the story. Caroline, Mason, Ali, West and even Trey’s dog Ferdy each moved the story forward and their subplots made the book feel that much more realistic.

This was a sweet, fast read that I really enjoyed. Vanessa North is one of my one-click authors and this is just another example of why!

But wait, before I go –
I do want to touch on some of the “drama” brought up in some of the other reviews, specifically Ryan’s dismissal of asexuality and Mason’s dismissal of bisexuality. This is coming from someone who identifies as a biromantic asexual, FYI. I was not offended by the related passages in the book at all. Ryan comparing Mason to a monk and saying Mason is “asexual, then. Whatever,” is an example of how Ryan’s not perfect. He’s written as a real person, and you know what? A lot of real people out there dismiss asexuality. Mason kind of shut him down and directed the conversation back to the relevant topic at hand. If Mason – the asexual character in question – isn’t offended by Ryan’s statement, then move on. Ryan’s still learning and, as we see in the rest of the book, he’s kind of self-centered and ignorant about some things. Now, with regard to Mason saying Ryan “can’t even decide if (he’s) gay or straight,” yes, that is kind of annoying seeing as how Mason (likely) identifies with another marginalized sexuality label, but this is still early stages in the book when Ryan and Mason are still kind of at each other’s throats. I read it as Mason purposefully trying to push Ryan’s buttons and put him down and piss him off. And that’s just what he did. Is that right? No. But again, it’s realistic. This author has done a great job of accurately portraying various sexual and gender identities in her other books; this is not her being ignorant or dismissive. This is her writing realistic characters who grow and improve over the course of the book. /rant.

A copy of this book was received through NetGalley for review on OMG Reads.
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Summer Stock by Vanessa North

Let me share with you what was the greatest aspect of this book, imo. Vanessa North gave us a realistic romance story between two people who are a little bit f’d up in their own way. Two people who make mistakes. Two people who say the wrong things. Two people who are far from perfect. Two people who have an insta-connection that unfolds into something much deeper and meaningful as they live their lives. It was real and it was relatable.

Ryan Hertzog is an actor with a really bad image problem. He comes home to regroup. Trey Donovan is still trying to get past a lot of emotional baggage from his past marriage. Emotional abuse that has now caused him to suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. They meet. They hook up and then BAM, they’re working together …. Fate? Maaaaaaaybe 🙂

So I REALLY enjoyed reading this story. So much so that I read it twice before today. The first time I read it was about a month ago and it captivated me so much that I felt like I flew by the read. I couldn’t wait to see how these two would turn out. The next time I read it I slowed down a bit and I laughed a lot more and my heart sang through most of their journey. Vanessa did a really great job of mixing a scorching sexy read with a sweet and sentimental journey. These two guys may have started feet first in this journey but there was nothing insta about building their bond. It was beautifully written and very realistic.

Copy provided for blog tour review

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About Vanessa North


Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.


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To celebrate the release of Summer Stock, one lucky winner will receive a Summer Stock swag bag! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 20, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!



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4 Thoughts to “Summer Stock by Vanessa North”

  1. Trix

    I appreciate the reviews!


  2. H.B.

    Thank you for reviews! The book sounds wonderful!
    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

  3. James Escol

    I’m so with you, Annie & Jessica. This is what romance novels should be made of. Totally a must-read. <3

  4. Serena S.

    Thanks for the reviews!

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