In a trendy San Francisco art gallery, out-of-towner Vin Vanbly witnesses an act of compassion that compels him to make investment banker Perry Mangin a mysterious offer: in exchange for a weekend of complete submission, Vin will restore Perry’s “kingship” and transform him into the man he was always meant to be.
Despite intense reservations, Perry agrees, setting in motion a chain of events that will test the limits of his body, seduce his senses, and fray his every nerve, (perhaps occasionally breaking the law) while Vin guides him toward his destiny as 'the one true king.'
Even as Perry rediscovers old grief and new joys within himself, Vin and his shadowy motivations remain enigmas: who is this off-beat stranger guiding them from danger to hilarity to danger? To emerge triumphant, Perry must overcome the greatest challenge alone: embracing his devastating past. But can he succeed by Sunday's sunrise deadline? How can he possibly evolve from an ordinary investment banker into King Perry?
- 3 To Be Read lists
- 1 Read list
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 4
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 26-35
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Death of Parent, Fairy Tales Revisited, Love Can Heal / Redemption, Mind Games, Most Mindblowing Sex Ever, Star-Crossed Lovers
Word Count: 105,000
Setting: San Francisco
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Same Universe / Various Characters
“Thank you,” I say to the ponytailed caterer after she offers me wine. “Fancy party, huh?”
She smiles briefly, nodding with deference before stepping deeper into the gallery. Okay, not much reaction. She’s working; let it go.
I sip the red wine, swirl it in my plastic cup, creating little maroon waves of merlot. I’m more of a beer guy, but I like doing this, wandering around this art gallery as if I’m part of this town, as if tonight is an average Tuesday night for me. I love how faraway places sometimes feel like home.
This party is groovy, a bash for lesser-name surrealists of the 1960s and ’70s. Painters who understood a doorknob could wear a green sparrow’s beak, and yeah, it works. With red and brown tiger stripes spilling out of a bathtub behind it, somehow it actually works.READ MORE
The jagged colors, the juxtaposition of impossible realities, so similar to real life. Sometimes this world is hard for me to reconcile, its unfair sorrows and unexpected brilliance. I love that surrealists tried to paint the reality they saw, this impossible world. I dig this one with the bathtub and the sparrow beak, the Trombone Symphony Drowns Alone. No trombones in sight. I guess they drowned.
Looking around, I’m not the only tourist pretending to be a San Franciscan, examining art. Instead of gawking and taking photos, we work hard to pretend that we live right around the corner and popped out for a carton of milk. Maybe it’s only around the Castro where we gay tourists fake our residency. We have a certain swagger we hope communicates, “I belong. I have always belonged.”
This isn’t exclusively the pretentious queens, oh no. It’s the bears like me. The twinks. The leather daddies and the androgynous gigglers. The white-collar gays with slick briefcases and the business lesbians openly cuddling at Market and Castro, waiting for the light to change. We’re so eager to slap on our labels and march behind our distinct parade banners, but inside we’re fundamentally the same: we all want to belong in the Homo Homeland, to find a corner of the world where we are each uniquely celebrated.
Wandering around, twice I overhear the famous joke repeated: “How many surrealists does it take to change a light bulb? Fish.” Gotta love the classics.
One painter strikes me as truly unique: Richard Mangin. He’s no one particularly famous, but I’ve read his name once or twice, praised as an innovator. Details in his paintings hum to me, whisper things.
The largest of his three, Siren Song, really snags my attention. A shapeless guy plays a cello in a funky green desert, and a pumpkin patch melts into gold in the lower right corner. I recognize that Dalí reference. The purple sky includes a dozen shades of violet occasionally slashed by a crimson streak. In one corner of the sky, white dove wings fade through tarnished iron bars, wings more on our side than caged. Maybe a little cheesy symbolically, but still, it’s cool. He wanted his point crystal clear. I wonder why? Then again, maybe I’m reading it wrong.
That guy over there is watching me. I swear I have acquired a rat’s twitchiness about these things.
I study Siren Song and simultaneously check out my watcher. He’s handsome. A few years older than me. Maybe thirty-three or thirty-four? Short brown hair, a few locks carefully flopping over his forehead in one spot. Clean-shaven. He has those classic, sharp-planed features you’d see in a Sunday Sears ad, a father pretending to enjoy lawn furniture, showing off his wrinkle-free Dockers. Lawn Furniture Guy wears a charcoal-gray suit that hangs off him perfectly, possibly custom tailored. Peach shirt, peach tie. That guy from Millionaire is doing the same color shirt and tie combo. Regis someone. Okay, this man’s definitely a step or two up from Sears. Let go of first impressions.
Is he the painter? No, that guy would be in his sixties or older by now.
I drop my key ring, stealing a glance at his shoes as I bend over. Gucci, which means he has money. Is he…I dunno, a Realtor? Or…huh. I also pick up a certain unease, even from this far away. Nervous? Nah, that’s not quite it.
No, not a Realtor. A Realtor would network around the expensive art, meeting potential clients. I certainly wouldn’t stake out someone dressed like me. I bet I could work as a San Francisco Realtor.
Ms. Ponytailed Caterer passes near me, and I wish I could have made her smile. She’s so demure, almost apologetic. In a few more months, she’ll have enough experience to become more callous.
I stand before Siren Song, waiting for him to get over here, and puzzle at the multipurpled sky. He’d better make up his mind soon, or I’ll miss my ride. In the sky across from the prison bars, those must represent—
A firm voice at my side says, “You a big fan of the surrealists?”
“Not really,” I say, smiling wide. “That’s my initial in the sky. V.”
“Oh. Actually, I think those are—”
“I know, I know,” I say, grinning like an idiot. “My name is Vin Vanbly, so it caught my eye. With two Vs.”
Though it’s awkward with my wine glass, I make two peace symbols with my fingers and then bring them together, index fingers touching, as I sometimes do when I’m being goofy with my name. People relax around me when they think I’m stupid.
His face halts its surprise as he tries hard to suppress any further reaction.
“The painting is cool,” I say, turning toward him and jabbing my thumb over my shoulder for emphasis, “and I was grooving on my initials in the sky. I like the wings and bars part too. Very symbolic.”
“Hi, Vin,” he says, recovering quickly. “My name is Perry.”
I raise my plastic cup. “Good wine.”
His eyes flinch, but he says, “Yeah, it’s okay.”
I say, “I fix cars. I don’t know a ton about surreal art, but I know what I like.”
I launch a few questions about the mighty San Francisco. He answers politely at first, then a little friendlier. He’s actually warming up, not being a dick. Good for you, Perry. And while I’m definitely playing blond bear, I’m not being a complete idiot, so we have a couple of nice moments together, chuckling at a comment the other makes.
Let’s see what happens when the game changes.
I say, “I can totally see the cello guy as the Surrealist Manifesto’s concept of absurd humor.”
Perry says, “Didn’t you just say you knew nothing about art?”
“I said I don’t know a ton. I’ve read a few books.”
He pauses and then says, “How many car mechanics know the Surrealist Manifesto?”
“How many car mechanics do you know?” I say, keeping my face pleasant and blank, interested to see where he takes this.
Perry extends a cautious smile, deciding whether I’m teasing or getting angry.
“None,” he says at last. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to be rude.”
“No sweat. I read a lot. I brought six books with me on vacation. You read much?”
“Financial journals, mostly. I’m an investment banker.”
His eye contact changes after this, like he’s no longer searching for a way out. I believe I’ve been upgraded from Dumb Tourist to Person of Interest. We chat about the exciting life of an investment banker, and the also exciting life of a garage mechanic. We discover we both enjoy Thai, and he recommends a good place for panang curry in SOMA. Over slightly more friendly smiles, we find additional common ground. He owns a home email account, which not everyone does. I share my AOL website address, and he says how he’s been meaning to sign up.
I nod at his shoes. “Gucci.”
“A mechanic who knows surrealism and fashion. Clearly I need to meet more mechanics.”
“We’re into show tunes too. Put a bunch of mechanics near a piano, some beer, and watch out. Gay or straight, it doesn’t even matter.”
He smiles. “Show tunes, huh? You also a big Madonna fan?”
A willowy man, midtwenties, appears at our side and inspects Siren Song closer, dragging a lock of long blond hair behind his right ear for Perry’s benefit. He nods toward the painting and says, “This represents Vietnam, right?”
Perry hesitates before he speaks. “I don’t think so. It’s around that time, but a few years later.”
Wait, what was that? What was that thing on Perry’s face?
Our interloper, finding no suitable reaction, pretends to study it a moment longer, then saunters away.
“That guy was hitting on you, Perry.”
He smiles and says, “I don’t think so.”
“Please. That whole ‘isn’t this Vietnam?’ He didn’t give a crap about the painting.”
“In this town, everyone hits on everyone, and nobody counts it as flirting. It’s practically saying hello.”
Is it possible that Perry couldn’t see it?
“Check out that one,” I suggest with a nod. “Mother’s Day gift.”
Perry says, “Arbor Day.”
“Doesn’t your mom like trees?”
He says, “I think she preferred her trees with less blood.”
Perry says, “The branches are fingers and they’re bleeding down the trunk.”
I exhale hard. “Thanks. Now I’m queasy.”
He used the past tense when mentioning his mom. Is she dead? I should check that out.
I shoot a barrage of questions his way about absurd topics: favorite birthday presents, great vacations, San Francisco neighborhoods perfect for night walking, giving him the chance to trot out his best stories, the ones that show “this is the real me.” I want to understand his connection to these three paintings. I could ask him directly, but this is more fun.
“Vin, check out that dude over there.”
“Dude? Are you sure you’re young enough to use that word?”
Perry ignores me and shares his observation, during which an idea pops into my mind, a theory about my new friend.
I point my wine cup at a painting across the room. “That one looks like onion rings smothered in cheese. I’m so fucking hungry, I’d buy it. Would it kill your city to put out some damn chips and salsa?”
He tilts his chin upward for a split second and laughs.
Got it. I know who he is; I now understand his interest in these Richard Mangin paintings. Well, it’s a guess. But I make good guesses. I don’t think I’ll bring it up. Let’s see where this goes.
“Are you Irish?” Perry says. “You’re fair. Of course, you could be German.”
“Maybe. Or Nordic. My birth records were spotty on a few key details, and I grew up in foster families, so I’m one of those oddballs who doesn’t know his own ethnicity.”
“Oh.” Perry’s face falls. “I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Don’t sweat it. I’m curious myself. My guess is German, you know? Pale, big square head like a block? Who knows, though, maybe I’m a blond Russian.”
“You’re built like a German dude,” he says, his shy smile returning. “Big chest and all. I bet you’re hairy.”
I guess Perry decided to go for it.
Glancing around the gallery with pretend distraction, I unbutton my top two shirt buttons, scratching my strawberry-brown curls. I’m a bear, by the gay world’s definition: stocky and hairy, the only two requirements for membership. Two weeks ago, someone on AOL used the term otter, so maybe we’re evolving into a “woodland creatures” group.
My face is fairly undistinguished, except I have a goatee. I’m not hideous, and I’m not Lawn Furniture handsome, which nobody is now that Perry revealed his name. Vin, let that one go. Perry.
He sips his wine and shakes his head, chuckling. “I’m not usually this forward. I sucked down two vodka cranberries at an after-work party before I came here. You’re terrible, by the way. You’re turning this into the opening scene in a porno.”
I make my voice deep and chesty. “Fuck yeah, buddy… Oh, yeah, just like that…”
Perry snickers. “You know that your name sounds like a fake porn star name, right? I mean, Vin Vanbly?”
“Fuck yeah, baby,” I say, slapping the imaginary ass in front of me.
Perry says, “That’s why you thought that guy was hitting on me. Because you’re hitting on me.”
“Maybe. You like?”
One corner of his mouth curves upward. “Maybe. What’s with the lumberjack outfit?”
“Just got back from camping in Marin County. You like to camp?”
“Sure, sure,” he says, “being out in nature is great. But I assumed you dressed that way for some leather bar later.”
He insists on checking my biceps to see if I chop wood, but we both recognize and appreciate the sexy excuse to be extra close, to touch in public. I have some muscle, but it doesn’t show much. Well, maybe my biceps show a little bulge. I can run two city blocks, but after about three blocks, I end up wheezing, hands on my knees.
Who am I kidding? When was the last time I ran two city blocks?
We talk about the movie Fargo, which he loved, and the Minnesota accent, which I love. He asks about winters in my adopted state, as everyone must. I explain the beauty of Minnesota’s spring thaw, and he dismisses it instantly. There should be a word for an attitude between snobbish and unconscious, describing someone who doesn’t realize how strongly he holds his own opinions.
I like Perry, and he’s definitely sexy, but that doesn’t guarantee I will find the spark I seek. I can’t fuck casually, and I’m not great at small talk unless I’m hunting for that spark. But I can probe a bit longer, see if I recognize kindling for a bonfire I might try to ignite. If nothing comes of this, I will have enjoyed chatting with the handsome investment banker in a San Francisco gallery. That in itself is pretty sweet.
More people enter the gallery, and as others nudge by, the two of us jostle for position. Our chests graze together as someone squeezes behind me, and we bare naughty grins. I want to believe that Perry and I are both imagining each other naked. Well, I am. The shifting crowd becomes suddenly too much for Ponytailed Caterer, who falters behind Perry, her tray of wineglasses dipping disastrously for a split second, three of them sliding to the floor right at his feet.
“Sorry,” Perry says, raising his voice. “Sorry! I did that. I bumped her.”
Almost no time passed before his reaction.
She shoots him a look of gratitude so quick and sly that it’s gone right away. For everyone else, she wears an impassive expression, clearly bearing no ill will toward the man who, everyone believes, professionally humiliated her. Group consensus shows it wasn’t her fault.
No paintings are damaged, no Pradas irrevocably stained.
People gaze at him coolly, and he nods in meek apology. She mops up the floor with napkins and then disappears into a corner to restock. He’s so busy accepting silent reprimands from the art patrons that he doesn’t notice her two white-aproned coworkers fixing on him with undisguised anger.
“Sorry,” he says to Cute Twink, who also bears an unpleasant expression.
The commotion is over, the wine scrubbed from the scene. People turn away, gossiping about him, everyone eager for a topic besides the art. I can’t help but notice Perry and I have a few extra feet of space around us, no one eager to be implicated by proximity.
Perry turns to me and says, “Well, that was embarrassing.”
I wait a few seconds before speaking. “Why did you do that?”
I cut him off with my hand and say, “No you didn’t.” I nod to the space behind him. “Seriously. Why?”
He blushes and then lowers his voice. “I worked as a caterer when I first moved here. That was my third job, my weekend job, in addition to my day and evening jobs. In San Francisco, competition for the good catering gigs is savage.” Perry adopts a sinister, serious face. “You’ll never pour merlot in this town again, kid.”
Compassion toward someone who can do nothing for him, someone who offers nothing in return. He’ll never see her again, but his response came immediately. They’ll never even exchange names.
I’ve got to keep him talking. “Did you like catering? I bet you have some good stories.”
Okay, don’t get ahead of yourself, Vin. But while he talks, I can run the checklist.
Personality. He’s unconsciously snobbish and spontaneously compassionate. He’s got humor and humility. But damn, he’s way uptight. He evolved his first impression of me, moving beyond his initial judgments. Chemistry. Fuck yeah, I’d suck his dick, and I think it’s pretty mutual. Issues. He still hasn’t volunteered his connection to the paintings. That’s big. I’ve got an idea to test this. He seemed pretty happy about that Transformers birthday present, so I’m thinking he was under twelve. Need to establish timelines; I can’t do the math this quickly. ’70-what? Skip it; come back. Emotions. Other than a little affected, I think he’s solid.
And he couldn’t recognize a suitor. Why is his heart so shut down?
Who is this man, this handsome banker with a broken heart?
My own heart pounds.
Okay, that’s it; message received. Let’s fucking do this.
I wait for Perry to wind down his catering anecdote and then say, “Are you ready to get kinged?”
“Not sure,” he says, and glances around the gallery with a mischievous smile. “Which painting are we talking about now?”COLLAPSE
Macky on Goodreads wrote:
This book is one strange, crazy, lovely read. I had no idea what was going to happen for 99% of the story. I was totally, completely clueless, just like Perry. Throw away your rulebooks, ladies and gentlemen, and go along for the ride.
I honestly have no idea what to make of this book. If I had to describe this incredibly indescribable book I would say that it is a journey-type story. This is not a traditional romance novel. This book belongs in a similar category as Woke Up in a Strange Place but I liked this book eons more. The story follows two men, Perry and Vin, and their adventures over the course of a weekend. I can't decide if Vin is psychopathic or a divine genius. He is certainly not what I would consider normal.
This book was confusing, funny, heart-breaking, romantic, and bittersweet. It was everything rolled up into one incredibly well-written package. At times I found Vin to be bizarre and un-relatable and I struggled as to whether or not this story was for me. I often found myself wanting to put it down and start something more accessible. However, then Vin would say something hilariously funny and witty or do something erotic and I would say, "Okay, I'll give it another chapter." And so on and so on... then the book was over and it was 1:30 am. It sort of ensnared me. I give this author a lot of credit for trying something so completely different in the M/M genre.
"King Perry" was a fabulously strange read. I left this book with 1,000 questions (I hope I get some answers!), and I'm so curious as to what the next book has in store for me.
I see a review on my updates page on Goodreads for this book called King Perry by a writer called Edmond Manning. A new author to me. I like the cover, the review makes it sound intriguing and its been given 5 stars so I go to its profile page and see that the book has umpteen glowing reviews and many many high ratings which draws me to it even more so I take the plunge and buy it. Now I know from the reviews that this is one of those books that has deeply affected its readers so I'm even more intrigued to find out why. Its billed as bittersweet and I have to admit that I'm a bit wary of this as I don't mind seeing my MC's going through a fair bit of angst but I do like a HEA or at least a HFN. For once though, because its so highly admired, I decide I'm going put my uncertainty to one side and go for it.
The first couple of chapters and I start to get a bit worried, there's no doubt that Mr Manning is a great wordsmith but its not really grabbing me like I hoped it would. This Vin Vanbly bloke is a bit strange and I'm not really sure if I'm really getting it because this is nothing like the m/m stories I usually read and for a split second I wonder if I've made a mistake buying it. However I decide I'm possibly being a bit previous because I'm not that far in so I push on and suddenly I'm at the part when Perry agrees to Vins mysterious invitation to stay with him for a ' King Weekend ' where if he follows Vins every command his life will change in surprising ways and he'll meet his true joy. He also tells him to " wear some sexy underwear, you have a great ass". It's these flashes of humour that are also part of what's keeping me reading, because even though I can't really work him out Vin is a witty guy and I do like this type of banter but at this point I'm still not seeing what the big fuss about this book really is. Then they arrive on Alcatraz and the seduction really starts......
From this point on this amazing story and Vin and Perry start to worm their way into my heart in a way I find really hard to describe. I don't think I've ever read anything like this in my life. Vin Vanbly is an enigmatic Tour De Force, the man is mysterious, devious, manipulative and as complex as the the guy he's trying to help but he's also hilarious, sweet, loving and sort of goofy at times. He tells rambling stories whilst they're making love, of Lost and Found kings and he loves words, and I mean LOVES words.... VIGOUR being a particular favourite out of many. Another Vin Vanbly very amusing quirk! Watching him break down Perry's tightly wound emotions over the course of the book, in ways that you would never imagine, including stealing a duck, until Perry allows himself to forgive is an experience I'll never forget because this man played my emotions in a way they've never been played before. I've laughed and cried in many other books but for the first time ever I did both at the same time!
One minute I'm laughing out loud at the picture of these two men pretending to be growly bears at a homeless shelter breakfast gathering, when suddenly mid giggle my eyes start to fill up and the next thing I know I'm weeping and I don't really know why! It should be really funny but something just gets to me and I think its all to do with Vin. First impressions are that this is a man who doesn't care if it looks like he's making a fool of himself, he's not self conscious
and far from introverted, he's larger than life but he has a gut wrenching backstory that we become privy to over time and even though he feels this odd need to help others to learn the meaning of forgiveness, in his case forgiveness is never going to happen and it's why he can never fully give himself to these men who he has " Kinged " and grown to love, whilst helping them gain the enlightenment they need. This is the bittersweet side of the story and at times its heartbreaking but at the same time its also funny, joyous and full of hope.
The ending is just perfect. Yes, its poignant, I practically spent the last 20% of the story firstly in shock at what Vin finally puts Perry through but also in tears because its also one of the most uplifting moments in any story I've read. I can honestly say I ended the book feeling emotionally drained but at the same time strangely euphoric.When you read this story - and I hope everyone will - please forget all past experiences of general m/m romance because this is nothing like anything you'll have read before, so dont try and make it work within the peramiters of what you're used to, just go with flow and let it work its unique magic and you should have a journey like you've never had before, full of mad WTF! moments, gloriously written passages and funny quotes that will stay with you for a long long time.
Vin Vanbly ( or should I say say Mr Edmond Manning because all of this stems from your wonderful voice ) you blew me away and stole my heart and my soul and In the words of King Aabee, if you were ever to ask for help then I'd hope to be be there saying " I will go. Send Me. "
Truly Awesome! I can't reccomend this highly enough, another book that deserves a much higher rating than its allowed.
The series is complete - Books 1-6 are published.