Hello everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome our new reviewer, Susan, to Joyfully Jay! This is her first review so please show her some love! Welcome Susan!
Zach Prentiss is a college student. He’s also a rent boy with a select clientele he’s used to and relatively comfortable with. Zach has a valid reason for being in that line of work, but he has no real relationships. His sole sunshine moments in life come from an online affair with Charlie. They’ve exchanged naughty chats plus jerk-off videos, but showcasing only body parts, no face pics. The best part is, Zach can be himself with Charlie, as they don’t always talk about sex, but about casual things, like movies and music. As Z-man, Zach is protected from discovery and heartache by Charlie with a pseudonym and anonymity.
Charlie, aka C-cat, is in the same anonymous online boat. Until he’s not. Charlie wants to meet Z-man, and, because of his crush, Zach agrees. Then Zach’s best friend, Laurie, asks him to teach a virgin guy at their college how to have sex. Lo and behold, who should appear on Zach’s doorstep but Charlie, wanting to gain experience to meet the man of his dreams—Z-man. Troubles abound.
Loveless has a wonderfully realistic way of writing, mature and without sugar-coating. Her characters come alive, with their own strengths and weaknesses. This is especially true in Zach, the point of view protagonist, who is a rent boy with a heart of gold and aspirations of being more.
Zach knows all about sex, but he doesn’t know how to have a relationship. He has few friends and only one family member. His future seems dire. Yet he has in general a positive, if somewhat laconic, outlook, which I grew to admire. He speaks his mind and is direct, sometimes to a fault, but with his clients he has a delicate way of approaching the situation, of understanding of peoples’ kinks. Zach’s a man of many talents.
Charlie’s point of view is not given to us, which I would have liked. But we still get a whole picture. His shyness, kindness, and belief he’s fat and unattractive. His smarts, his strength of will, his ability to love. Both Zach and Charlie are in college, but they show remarkable maturity beyond their years. For example, their single fight about the practice of infidelity due to Zach’s job is dealt with by talking things through, being mature, understanding, and forgiving.
Apart from the illegality, there’s a social stigma attached to prostitution. Loveless shows us this with simple strokes, elegantly stripped scenes where Zach’s clients have their own quirks and kinks, and have a need within that must be attended to. Straight married men, teachers, fathers, brothers, friends, and so on. Every type of man is shown here. People who aren’t Zach’s friends but who know what Zach does for a living call him a whore, treat him like trash, and dare or try to force him to perform sexual favors. This is an act of humiliation by people who don’t know what’s involved in the profession and who don’t care what ulterior motives and demanding reasons might be behind prostitution. As if anyone’s life ambition truly was being a prostitute.
Yet these scenes are painted with understanding, both caring and distaste. The man who wants only to be stuffed with a sparkling dildo is shown as a sympathetic character, while one of Zach’s professors is a cruel individual who thrives on demeaning acts, degrading and hurting Zach for no other reason than fun. These scenes can be both heartbreaking and revolting, so be forewarned of sensitive content that might turn your stomach.
Also, if you consider Zach having sex with other men due to his job, even while crushing on and being in love with Charlie, as cheating then steer clear.
The story shines, not only in its realistic approach, but dialogue as well. These men talk about their problems. And the scene where Zach teaches Charlie how to have sex, well, it could easily have read like a manual, “do this, don’t do that.” Instead we get a sweet, loving scene of two guys learning how to have sex and how to make love, and how neither really excludes the other.
In short, I recommend this story to fans of MM romance, from hurt/comfort themes to first-time trials of BDSM and falling in love. I wouldn’t say this is a particularly memorable piece, partly because of the length that doesn’t allow for digging deeper into Charlie’s personality, partly because some relationship aspects are rushed through. However, with relatable characters, realistic dialogue, plus demystifying sex and still showing the capability for true love, this is a noteworthy read.
Susan lives far away in Ultima Thule where harsh winds beat down on craggy rocks and twisted pines…. Okay, she really lives in Finland, in the suburbs. She is the proud and happy aunt of two sweet baby nieces who treat her like their new favorite squeegee toy. Besides the two rugrats, she has two obsessions—chocolate and books. She spends most all of her time with her family and friends, reading her infinite TBR list and writing spicy M/M, or taking long walks in the woods and muttering to herself about hot guys getting it on.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.