Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Keldon Thurman has never quite found his direction in life and is struggling to make ends meet. That is why he agrees to take his latest job acquiring paintings made by convicted serial killer James Wayne Merrick. Keldon’s mysterious boss wants to own all 15 paintings and has hired Keldon to buy them from their current owners. Keldon desperately needs the money and, if he can acquire them all, he gets a substantial bonus. Keldon can admit the whole thing makes him a bit queasy, both dealing with the killer’s art and negotiating with people who seek to profit from Merrick’s ghoulish fame. But Keldon needs to the money and must acknowledge that he is good at this, good at getting people to do what he wants.
Things are rolling along pretty well until Keldon gets to the 5th painting. It turns out, unlike the other owners who know they have one of Merrick’s paintings, this time the owner has no idea what she’s got. Irene Woullet received the painting as a gift from her deceased sister, so this time Keldon knows his approach has to be slightly different in convincing Irene to sell. Irene is dying and in debt, so Keldon’s boss hopes she can quickly be persuaded to sell her painting.
It turns out things are more complicated right from the start. Irene is accompanied by her nurse, Joshua Greene, and both are definitely wary about this strange proposal. When Irene refuses to sell, Keldon negotiates for some more time to convince them. He suggests a date with Joshua, where perhaps he can convince the man of the benefits of Irene selling the painting. And Josh agrees with the caveat of adding on a second date.
As it turns out, Keldon likes Josh quite a bit. He is totally different from the other guys Keldon has dated and his simple life appeals to Keldon. In fact, he enjoys his time with Josh so much, Keldon has a hard time focusing on his ultimate goal — to get Josh to convince Irene to sell. Keldon desperately needs the money from his job and his bonus and he must focus on his purpose for being there. But when he is with Josh, Keldon is finding himself happy for the first time in a long while and he hopes to explore a relationship with Josh. But when Josh learns more about the painting and its history, Keldon may lose him before they have even have a chance together.
So right from the start, one of the things I really enjoyed about Filthy Acquisitions is the really unique storyline. To start with we have this guy whose job it is to buy up art painted by a serial killer. We know why Keldon takes the job — he is desperate for money — but we don’t know why his boss Catherine Maggiarra wants the art. In fact, Keldon doesn’t know either. One of the criteria of his job is to ask no questions. So here he is, buying these paintings, and none of us have any idea why or what the ultimate purpose might be. I love the way things are explained in pieces along the way, and the ultimate reveal is quite moving. Add in the romance element and this story really was refreshing and kept me eager to learn exactly what was going on.
Keldon is kind of a fascinating character and Manning does a great job building his backstory and personality. As a young man, Keldon had two relationships with older men who essentially kept him and cared for him. He never sought out a sugar daddy relationship, but somehow he found himself with men looking for a young, attractive guy to please them and Keldon realized he was quite good at it. But when those relationships ended, Keldon found himself with no degree, no job skills, and no real prospects. He was at loose ends, desperate for money, when Catherine approached him about this strange position.
Keldon realizes that he is actually quite good at this, good at getting people to do what he wants. Somehow he knows how to read these people, to figure out what motivation they need to sell, and what he needs to say or do to appeal to them. At the same time, this awareness begins to upset Keldon. He realizes it is all just an extension of his earlier dating life, this ability to mold himself into what other people want. He doesn’t make choices for himself, he makes them for what he thinks others want. It is a really fascinating revelation and Manning does a great job showing this pattern over the book and Keldon’s slow awareness of this side of himself.
When Keldon meets Josh, he finds someone so totally different from the other people in his life. Josh is simple and friendly and lives a basic life that makes him truly happy. Keldon can ask for what he wants with Josh and enjoy himself. But in the back of his mind, Keldon struggles with the fact that this isn’t just a date, that he still has a job to do and he must convince Josh and Irene the benefits of selling the painting. It is an interesting struggle, as for the first time, Keldon finds someone who can really make him happy, and he is torn between that and his responsibilities. I will say, I wasn’t always sure I got reason for all his angst. Keldon is clear from the start that the purpose of the dates is to get Josh to side with him about selling the paintings. He is not pretending to like Josh to win him over. His goal is stated before they even date. Keldon’s boss is even paying for the dates. So he has no reason to feel badly about doing exactly what he said he was going to do. But still, I can see the bigger picture here for what Manning is trying to convey, and I appreciate Keldon’s ability to reflect on his past and what he really wants from himself.
I really enjoyed Josh and Keldon together, and this sort of city mouse/country mouse element to their dates and their personalities. Josh tries to live a green life — he grows much of his food, shops at local markets, doesn’t drive, avoids electricity, etc. Keldon isn’t sure it is for him, but he also finds himself happier than he has been in a long time when he spends the day with Josh living his quiet life. The story does take us to what I’d say is an HFN for the guys, as they still have things to work out before their relationship really can flourish. But we do really see how being together is good for Keldon and finally lets him focus on his own goals and desires, instead of needing to always put on a show for others.
I will say you kind of have to take a leap of faith here with this story. I found it surprising that Irene would even let Keldon in her house with the far fetched request he makes (though she is definitely savvy and not a pushover). Even more so that somehow Josh would agree to date Keldon as part of these business dealings (or that Irene would place so much value on the advice of her nurse). So you just have to kind of go with it, and honestly, I had no problem suspending some mild disbelief in order to get to this great story. It is such a unique and interesting book that it was worth it to me to squint a little in places and let it go.
So overall this is really enjoyable. Manning just has a way of getting to the heart of characters, to showing you their insides and how they think and feel. I found Keldon so interesting and I loved seeing his personality unveiled as the story went on. So I liked Filthy Acquisitions quite a lot and found it an interesting and unique story.