Rating: 4.5 stars
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Sometime the best stories are those that are short and sweet, particularly when they are beautifully written, fast-paced, sexually charged, and leave one wanting a sequel. Against Reason, author Scarlet Blackwell’s new release, is all that and more.
Five years ago, Jack was left standing alone at the altar on his wedding day by a lover who left him for someone “younger and fresher.” Reeling from the embarrassment and loss, Jack shut himself completely off, allowing his OCD to kick into high gear and his life to become a lonely nightmare. Realizing that he needs someone to help with the upkeep of his sprawling mansion, Jack hires, then fires, Darius. Darius has had a run of bad luck and teeters on the edge of eviction if he cannot come up with two months rent immediately. Getting hired by Jack is just what he needs until he realizes that Jack is determined to push away any sign of happiness or loving gesture no matter how small or innocent.
The two men begin a war of emotions that run high, ultimately bringing them crashing together with near disastrous results. But Darius is determined that Jack understand he is not a mere rent boy interested in a place to stay or a quick one off, rather he discovers that he cares more and more deeply for Jack with every passing day and this realization makes Jack even more determined to run from Darius as far and as fast as he can.
I am not sure which man tore at my heart more. Jack was so wounded, lost in a sea of despair over losing his husband-to-be to another man, full of self-loathing, thinking he is worthless, ugly, and incapable of being loved and immersed in rituals that make him feel more frantic than calm with his OCD tendencies. He is ridiculed by the townsfolk called, “Mr. Haversham,” a reference to a Dickens character who was left at the altar, and rarely goes outside his home. Yet he longs for physical contact, nearly overwhelmed by his need to love and be loved. My heart just broke for this tortured man. Author Scarlet Blackwell writes Jack with a delicate hand, never flinching from his neurosis but ever careful to show his deep longing for someone to hold him and find him worthy.
Then Blackwell goes one better and gives us Darius. While he remains more mysterious with his background never fully explained to my liking, he still resonates off the page as both a gentle and caring man who himself has been battered by life repeatedly. It is, however, the passages where the author allows us a glimpse of this man tenderly caring for the other, the meals in the kitchen, the casual brush of a finger against the other’s wrist, that speaks volumes about the character of Darius. He may be penniless and adrift but he has a humanity inside himself that is unbearably sweet and loving.
This story was a mere window into the lives of these two men, a glimpse of a future together and a hint at a loving forever partnership, yet it was so complete and enjoyable. Against Reason by Scarlet Blackwell is a beautiful story, rich with healing and sweet love.