Luke Corbin is a student and aspiring journalist, but just as he is approaching his final exams, he finds himself homeless once again. Luke pretty much goes from one guy to another, looking for wealthy men who are willing to let him live with them in exchange for some sexual favors. Unfortunately getting kicked out right now is terrible timing as Luke needs to study and has no prospects for someplace else to stay. When a friend connects him with Russell, Luke is all too happy to find a place to settle, at least for a few weeks.
Russell is nothing like the usual guys Luke lives with. Rather than wealthy and posh, Russell is a geeky engineer who has no idea how to dress and seems terrified of Luke when they meet. Not to mention that Russell seems to have no interest at all in sex with Luke, nor does he want any money for Luke to stay with him. Luke doesn’t like feeling like he is getting something for nothing, but he is grateful for a place to stay. As the guys spend more time together, Luke begins to really fall for Russell, yet Russell still shows no signs of being interested in Luke in return. Luke may have finally found a sweet, caring man he can love, but it is the one guy who doesn’t seem to want him back.
I first read Pricks and Pragmatism years ago before I started the blog, and I remembered it fondly enough to pick it up for this week’s Favorites List Challenge as it falls into one of my all time favorite tropes, the virgin hero. I also happen to love a good geeky hero as well, so this book is a great fit for me.
The story is told from Luke’s POV and it is mostly focused on his journey. When we first meet Luke, he isn’t particularly likable. This is a guy who goes from one rich man to the next, trading sex for a place to stay and some spending money. Though he doesn’t see it as selling himself (more of trading favors), there is clearly an element of that in his situation. So I think in lesser hands, Luke could have been a tough character to like, but Merrow does a great job helping us understand and grow to care about him. Luke was kicked out at age 16 by a father who couldn’t accept that he was gay, then ended up immediately in an abusive relationship. He has been struggling to get by for years and his self worth is painfully low. He really doesn’t see that there is anything about him worth having other than sex, so he has a hard time understanding why Russell doesn’t seem to want that from him. We get to see behind the mask to the pain and hurt that Luke hides behind his smile. He is a good, caring guy who genuinely likes Russell. He works incredibly hard at school, is dedicated in his career goals, and is all around a sweet guy who has had a bad lot in life and is making do as best he can.
I loved Luke paired with the geeky Russell. At first, Luke is kind of put off by Russell and doesn’t really know what to make of him. But soon, as they get to know one another as friends rather than lovers, Luke begins to really fall for Russell. We don’t get to know Russell quite as well here, partially because his motives are intentionally vague until the end. I do wish we had a bit more of him here so we could get to know him a little more. And I would have liked a little more time to see these guys together (mostly because I wanted more sexy times with them, especially more playing off the virgin aspect of things). But it is fun to see the guys who are so different find a way to fit together.
So this is a cute fun story with Merrow’s trademark wit. It is a short novella and a light easy read. So if you like your virgins and your geeks, definitely give this one a try.