I’m starting off with what I believe will be the most salient, decision-making point for readers considering Downpayment: this book is a British M/M Pretty Woman. And I’m not kidding about that. If you LIKED that movie, I believe you will love this book. If you didn’t like the movie, aspects of this book which harken to the movie will probably irritate you. If you’ve never seen the movie, it will have no bearing on your enjoyment of this well-written and interesting contemporary romance. I will confess, I adored Pretty Woman and can probably still quote bits of it having not seen it in at least ten years. So, the second I caught on to that aspect of the plot, I was hooked. By hooked, I mean I was up at 4 am reading this freaking book.
The plot premise is simple. Mike is a nineteen-year-old low-rent hooker in Manchester, a runaway from an abusive stepdad, and too proud to seek help from his parents. He’s shacked up in a slum of a flat with Callum, an Irish émigré who’s taught him the “tricks” of the sex-trade. While Mike was happy enough doing a “hen party” or divorce celebration, he soon learns that men are more lucrative marks; besides he’s more into blokes anyway.
While out hunting down some cash to pay the rent, he meets Chris in a swank bar. Chris is in his late twenties, clearly wealthy, and willing to be chatted up. The attraction is present and the negotiations ensue. Mike offers to be a boyfriend for the night, complete with postcoital cuddling and breakfast in bed, for a “steep” price. Mike has no idea how wealthy Chris is, until they reach his posh penthouse suite, complete with discreet concierge.
As the night goes well and the morning’s even better, Chris offers to hire Mike to be his companion for the week. Expect surprisingly charming naivete at dinner with business colleagues. Expect trouble with wardrobing Mike for his outings with Chris. Expect indecent proposals from one of Chris’ employees. Like Pretty Woman’s Edward, Chris is a self-made man. Not a heartless corporate raider, but he’s a bit of a stingy git buying up indie record labels and profiteering, while running exclusive clubs in several countries. I adored all these new twists on the Pretty Woman theme.
Interspersed with the running narrative are journal entries that Mike writes as he works through what those five days with Chris meant to him, and for him. Through these vignettes we know that, presently, all is not rosy between them, even as their love story unfolds. This was simultaneously interesting and frustrating to the narrative. I’m not exactly keen on getting the end at the beginning, or even the middle, but I will say that it ramped up the tension a bit, and made a glimmer of hope swell inside me, even before the climax. Still, the shifting tense and POV between the journaling and the story is likely to be jarring to some readers.
I am a huge fan of British romance, and love the dialect and syntax of these Mancunians. Their dialogue, and Mike’s inner thoughts, are funny and snarky and made me laugh often. The hints of Pretty Woman were thrilling for me, and the thought of Chris climbing up Mike’s fire escape (and that is not some filthy innuendo, pervs!) to bring him into his life practically gave me vapors. This is not actually what went down. Instead, the whore saves himself. The HEA begins where it all started. Or ended. Or, he rescued him right back.
You get the idea.
P.S. Yummy sexytimes that, unlike the movie, do not fade-to-black.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.