Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Kit Mason doesn’t exactly have the greatest life. He works as a sales associate at a struggling boutique where a paycheck isn’t always a guarantee. He has always supplemented his income by ingratiating himself to rich, older men, offering to have sex with them for compensation. The relationships only last for a short time — he is, after all, mostly a diversion for men who are already married or in a relationship. Kit realizes that it’s barely a step up from prostitution, but his difficult upbringing has led him to have to make even more difficult choices about how he makes his money.
When Cory St. James walks into the boutique, he becomes an instant target for Kit. He’s quite old, but obviously wealthy, and spends a great deal of money buying clothes for the man in his life, who Kit assumes is his boytoy twink. Once the two of them start spending more time together, in a purely platonic, innocent fashion, since Cory is still frustratingly faithful to the mysterious Sasha, Kit is convinced he can take the twink’s place with enough persistence. With a bogus excuse to deliver clothes to Cory’s house, Kit catches him in a vulnerable moment, and the two are caught in the act by Sasha, destroying Cory and his relationship.
For some reason, Kit is unable to get Sasha out of his head. The man is nothing like he expected. He’s missing an arm and leg, wearing prosthetics in their place, and has significant damage to his face. He’s nothing like the twink Kit envisioned. So when Kit is down on his luck and has literally not a penny to his name, he runs to Sasha, who obviously has no love for the boy who seduced his partner. They start out as oil and water — Sasha is bristly and mean, and Kit is unfeeling and oblivious. After a while, though, they begin to find support in one another and move from enemies to something more.
I have a love/hate relationship with this book, though, as you can see by my rating, I fell more on the love side than hate. The premise of this book is off-putting. Kit is essentially a whore, and he has the closed-off, uncaring nature to prove it. Sasha is cold and rude and has built a wall around himself a mile high. In other words, there’s a whole bunch of unlikeability here. And then, the boy who comes between the two men, essentially having a hand in St. James’ suicide, won’t leave his partner alone? It’s not what you would call a typical romantic plot.
This is one of the reasons I really liked this book. I always enjoy a well-written book, and this one kept me reading, finishing it in one sitting. There was no insta-love. The romantic lead was not your typical gorgeous hunk. There was no grand miscommunication that kept the lovers apart. There was also no HEA, but a very tentative HFN. But, for these reasons and more, it felt authentic to me. Yes, the setup is a little hard to believe, but the way these two characters behaved, especially the way their relationship developed, felt real and perfectly paced. They were both extremely flawed characters with a lot of work to do, but I came to believe that they had a future together, and that they could find the happiness that neither one had experienced until that point.
If you’re looking for something a little different from the norm, with a plot that involves very little sex and, truthfully, not much romance, I can definitely recommend this book. Bound by Guilt is a perfect title. There’s a lot of emotion swirling around here — emotions that are not always pretty and you don’t often find in a romance novel, but the writing is intriguing and, I thought, as a first novel, Sandra Bard hit it out of the park. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but if you think you might like what I described, don’t hesitate to get this one.