Should a gay celebrity come out of the closet, or stay in? It's a controversial question, that's received quite a bit of attention lately. G. A. Hauser's THE KISS approaches this issue in a remarkably refreshing way, providing candid insight both pro and con. As progressive as society may seem, prejudice remains, and the microscope that accompanies fame can be very destructive when its subject is sexuality.
The novel features three primary characters, Ian Sullivan, a frisky head turning 21 year old Englishman, Scott Epstein, a well built 25 year old former college quarterback, and Claire Sullivan, Scotts older sister and co-owner of Manhattan's top male modeling agency. Scott and Ian are models and aspiring actors and Claire represents them both.
Scott's been trying to catch his big break for awhile, but his rugged masculine looks aren't what advertisers are currently looking for, and Claire has a difficult time finding him work. They share an apartment and Claire basically supports him. Ian, on the other hand, has just moved to New York and has an almost androgynous beauty that Claire is certain will sell in a market starved for pretty boys.
Claire worries about Scott. His career is stalled and his love life isn't much better. He's had a string of dumb blonde girlfriends that haven't lasted long. When Scott displays an uncharacteristic interest in a head shot of Ian that Claire brings home from work one evening, it piques Claire's curiosity about Scott's sexuality. When her agency gets a call for two models for a new gum commercial featuring a same sex kiss, Claire sends Scott and Ian to be interviewed and they are hired on the spot. The commercial's kiss is an advertising first, and will be aired during the coming Super bowl. The ad is certain to garner the two men quite a bit of media attention.
At the beginning of this whirlwind story Scott and Ian consider themselves to be straight. Neither one has ever been consciously attracted to another man. But Scott and Ian have never really been in love either. When the two men discover that they're falling hard for each other, they are shocked, but incredibly excited. The situation is new for them and they don't even know what two men do together sexually, but they're very quick learners. Both, however, are extremely career driven and determined to keep their relationship a deep secret, even from domineering Claire. Well established celebrities can risk coming out of the closet, but young wannabes dare not take the chance.
Through Scott's and Ian's budding relationship, Hauser cleverly explores not only the internal and societal pressures faced when a man discovers he's gay and in love with another man, but also the ramifications that discovery can have on a man's path towards stardom. Both Ian and Scott want to be famous and they want to be together. Will the truth set them free, or will it bring their world crumbling down around them? It's a difficult question, and Hauser leaves no stone unturned answering it.