Nathan works as a rent boy, trying to make enough money to support himself and get an education. He doesn’t particularly like the work, though he does have a favorite client, dubbed The Voice for the sexy way he talks. The man is a regular, coming by every Thursday night at the same time for a blow job. Each week Nathan looks forward to seeing Stephen, finding him attractive and appealing.
When Nathan starts school he is shocked to walk into his English class and find that Stephen is his teacher. At first both men are totally freaked out. Stephen worries Nathan will blackmail him for grades or spill his secret. And Nathan is upset because he saw college a fresh start and now he worries Stephen will look down on him. But the men agree to keep each other’s secrets and settle into a slightly awkward teacher/student relationship.
When an angry client attacks Nathan and he is left with nowhere to go, Nathan is surprised when Stephen offers to let him stay at his house to recover and get back on his feet. Nathan assumes Stephen feels guilty or sorry for him, but wishes there could be more. The more time they spend together, the more Nathan is attracted to the handsome, educated professor. He would love to move forward with a real relationship with the man, but he doesn’t think Stephen even sees him that way. Nathan will have to take a chance to make his feelings known if he has any hope of something more with his sexy professor.
Raising the Rent is a super sweet story about the unlikely romance between a rent boy and client, turned teacher and student. Despite the fact that the men meet on the streets, there isn’t any seediness to their encounters. Right from the start there is a definite attraction on Nathan’s end, and even though Nathan doesn’t always recognize it, a clear tenderness and caring from Stephen as well. They are caught in this weird situation though that only gets made worse when Nathan ends up in Stephen’s class. Merrow does a nice job of letting us see how the attraction is growing between them and they they are both left kind of dancing around each other, each afraid of making the wrong move.
The story is fairly short, around 100 pages, and we just touch on the early stages of a real romance between the men. Most of the story is about the building connection between them, of Nathan finally finding someone who treats him with caring and consideration, of him finding his way out of the mess his life has become to something better. He begins school, gets a job, finds a place to live, and ultimately ends up with a partner who really cares about him. I just loved Nathan and he has that great voice with just the right amount of humor that Merrow infuses her characters with so well. So I was so happy to see him find his way to something really good here with Stephen.
I love that Merrow’s work has such a fabulous British feel, but I will admit I did find myself a bit confused about the whole schooling system. I didn’t quite get the gist of exactly what type of program Nathan was in (and found it hard to believe they had no rules about teachers and students sleeping together). So it did throw me out of the story a bit, though that is more my problem as an ignorant American than with the book itself. I also would have loved a little bit more development of the relationship as it comes mostly at the end of the book and we only get a first taste here of what things could be like for them.
So overall I really enjoyed this story. I loved Nathan and really liked seeing him find his sweet and sexy professor, as well as to get himself on the road to a better life. This one is fun and sweet with just a touch of heat, and I found it a lot of fun.
Note: This story is listed as previously published, but I am unclear who the original publisher is or whether or not it has been changed from the previous version.