Mitch is still struggling after a recent breakup, so he goes along when a friend invites him for a night out. Mitch is shocked when Aaron brings him to an exclusive, secret club that turns out to be high-end brothel. Mitch’s intention is to get out of there immediately, as he has no interest in paying for sex or any of the guys he sees, until one man in particular catches his eye. Mitch finds himself doing something he never expected and spends an hour having paid sex with Nikko.
Mitch has no intention of returning to the club, but he finds he can’t get Nikko out of his mind. Mitch is so drawn to the man, he ends up joining the club, and spends many nights (and more money than he can afford) with Nikko.
Nikko finds himself drawn to Mitch as well, and for more than just the great sex. But Nikko’s life is not his own, as he is trapped in a horrible arrangement that forces him to work in the club to pay off a debt. He is falling for Mitch, but can’t see any future for the two of them, especially as things become increasingly dire for him at the club.
When Mitch learns the truth, he is determined to do whatever he can to get Nikko away from the club and to have a life with the young man he is starting to love. But those who have Nikko under their control are dangerous and aren’t eager to let him go. And even if Nikko can get to safety, both men wonder if there is really any way they can build a future together after such an unusual start.
Debt is a book that started a little rough for me, but then settled in nicely as the story continued. We know based on the blurb that Nikko is working at the club to pay off a debt, so even though he tells Mitch is wants to be there, as readers we know it is because something worse awaits if he doesn’t. So when he and Mitch get together for the first time, and Nikko is clearly anxious and uncertain (something that Mitch notices), I had a hard time feeling the sexy and romantic connection I think I was supposed to feel, versus the idea of a guy being forced to do sex work. I also never quite got just what it was about Nikko that made Mitch decide to buy a prostitute when he had been so against it, beyond pure physical attraction. There was just a little bit of an uncomfortable dynamic here for me, especially given the 20+ year age difference. And after one night with Nikko, Mitch is willing to make a huge financial investment to join the club so he can see him again, one that he can not afford. So I kind of felt like things were a bit rocky at first.
Eventually we get to the point where the guys get to know one another and I could feel a relationship develop, especially because all their encounters at the club do not include sex. Wells manages to make it feel believable that something more like a relationship is developing between them, rather than just a sex for hire situation. And as the story develops, I enjoyed the men together and the easy, quiet connection between them.
While I did enjoy the low key pace of the story, it did throw me off a bit as I was expecting something with more intensity, especially from the blurb. I guess I was thinking the story would have a more thriller and suspense angle, and that getting Nikko free would be a major story point. But things end up going very quickly from revealing the crisis to having a solution, and rest of the story focuses on the developing relationship between the two. It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy how it played out, it is just not really what I expected, so just be aware that if you real looking for a thriller/suspense story, this isn’t that type of book. I also felt like the ending comes a bit abruptly and there are threads that didn’t seem fully resolved (like the situation with Nikko’s brother).
On the other hand, there is a nice sweetness to this story that I wasn’t expecting and that I enjoyed. The guys are both nice and caring, Mitch’s family is lovely (if perhaps a bit unrealistically perfect), and I liked seeing the men manage to build something real after such a rough start. So overall I found this one enjoyable and would recommend it for a sweet story about two guys with an usual beginning who manage to make it work together.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.