Review: Sweet Thing by Isobel Starling

SweetThingRating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Former model Simeon Duchamp is just out of rehab. He’d been drinking, doing drugs, and other things that took its toll on his body and his relationships with the people in his life. Part of his healing is to apologize to people he’d hurt. He especially wants to find his friend Pieter. Simeon was in love with Pieter, but in his drunken/drugged out state, he’d tried to ruin Pieter’s modeling career. However, Pieter is forgiving and welcomes Simeon into his life again. He introduces Simeon to his long term girlfriend and their adorable little boy, bringing Simeon into his family with no questions asked.

Bastian Roth is a broken man. Eighteen months ago, his long time lover, Matti, and his father were in a car accident. Even though Bastian never got along with his father, he was convinced Matti was the love of his life. He’s mourning Matti so much, he’s not been able to truly be with anyone. However, when he meets Simeon outside an art gallery, he’s intrigued enough to want to get to know him better.

Simeon and Bastian’s relationship is rocky, to say the least, but they do want to be together. They just have to heal themselves before they can heal each other.

First, let me say I love Isobel Starling’s books. She’s one of my go-to authors when I know I need an entertaining story with dreamy characters, and she always delivers. Sweet Thing was no different. It had a different vibe from her other books, but it was a good thing. This was raw and gritty with angst I haven’t felt in ages.

Simeon is still trying to get himself on the right track after rehab. While he wasn’t exactly happy to be there, he does realize he needed it, and it genuinely helped him. He has a sponsor. Pieter has forgiven him and Simeon’s become a part of his family. While I didn’t exactly identify with him, I fell in love with him. Simeon wants to be a good person and he’s working so hard to make that happen. Yes, he’s broken, but when he meets Bastian, he realizes he’s not the only person in the world who is just as broken. I always felt like Simeon wanted to “save” Bastian because he himself had been “saved.” That’s noble, but not exactly possible.

Bastian was a little more difficult to love. I really felt for him. In fact, I’m not sure if I’ve had this much…pity…for a book character before. So many things were wrong with his life. His mother died. His father saw him as nothing but a status symbol. Topping those off, his lover of 18 months was killed along with his father. Bastian tried to come off as arrogant, but I sensed his pain. What really got to me was an early scene in Simeon’s apartment. They were kissing and things seemed to be going rather well, but took on a darker turn. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I’ll tell you Simeon was on the receiving end of a particular kink of Bastian’s. I’d call it dub con and I was rattled. Every book I’ve read that included this, permission had been granted. So I’m sure you can see how it was difficult to “like” a character who’d done something like that.

Together, Simeon and Bastian had incredible chemistry. From their first meeting on, even during that scene, their pull to each other was strong. Both men needed something from the other. They got it, but it wasn’t easy. It was angsty, for sure, but it felt real. Sweet Thing wasn’t a short book, so their fall wasn’t immediate and that was important. The story was layered…sexual attraction, small and timid attempts to get to know each other, a sort of honeymoon phase, and grief. I told you their road to happiness wasn’t easy :-) There were times I wanted to reach through my Kindle to grab them by the shoulders and shame some sense into them, but most of the time, I wanted to reach through and hug them.

There were a few background characters in Sweet Thing that were important to the story. Pieter, of course, and his wife, Emily. Also, there was Marcus. He was Simeon’s sponsor. All of them cared about their friends and wanted to help them. They were helpful, but not pushy. Finally, I am going to say the musician David Bowie was a character. Simeon was a huge fan. He keeps a poster of Bowie on the wall in his bedroom and talks to it. Not only that, Bastian has a tattoo on his back, “Boys, Boys, It’s a Sweet Thing.” This is a lyric to David Bowie’s Sweet Thing. Last but not least, every chapter is titled with a David Bowie song. I was impressed at how the author was able to do that and make the connection to Simeon and Bastian’s lives.

I wanted to briefly touch on the sex in the book. It was HOT! There was a desperation about them. Equal parts tender, passionate, and lust filled, the scenes were well written and there was just enough of them. No scene was gratuitous or forced. Wait until you all read the amazing phone sex scene. It was so erotic, but it was sweet…one of the best phone sex scenes I’ve ever read. WHEW! 

The final bits of Sweet Thing were angsty and unnerving. Just when Simeon and Bastian are getting what they want, things fall into tiny, horrible pieces. Bastian did something I felt may have been a little out of character for him (but maybe not, I’ll let you be the judge), and Simeon, in response, did as well. Usually, I don’t care for a lot of angst in my books, but I have to tell you, Sweet Thing absolutely needed it. With everything the two men had been through, a pretty, fluffy HEA wouldn’t  make sense. I didn’t skim over the unnerving parts. I read every sentence, and I’m glad I did. When I did reach the end, I felt all the better for that. Every tear (and boy did I cry) was worth it, and when I turned my Kindle off, I felt satisfied. I dreamed of Simeon and Bastian that night, and I have twice since. These are characters who will stay with me forever.

This is the second book in the Pretty Boy series, but can be read as a stand alone. The first book, Fall Together, is Pieter and Emily’s story and Simeon is also in that book.

I cannot recommend Sweet Thing enough. It was beautifully, but painfully, written, and Simeon and Bastian are damn near perfection. I’m so impressed with by it. If you’re a fan of broken men, angst, and hope, this is the book for you. Pick this one up.

kenna sig

Comments

  1. Isobel Starling is a new author for me but this review may well change that. I’ve read a number of your picks and you’ve never steered me wrong. Thx!

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