Wren has lived his life in near poverty, but always had his mother to fall back on–she was his security. The day he loses his job, he also finds out that his mom has been given the opportunity to move out and into her own small apartment as a perk of her promotion at work.
Suddenly Wren finds himself homeless, nearly broke, and desperate enough to move in with his ex boyfriend, Devon–a smarmy sex addict. After a disastrous first night with his ex, Wren realizes he has to move on–and the offer to become a male escort that had been extended the previous night in the bar called Tricks looks better and better.
In a fit of desperation, Wren takes the job and is immediately set up with a mentor, Rufus. Their first job has them thrown into bed with each other and an immediate attraction bursts to life between the two men. However, through a series of events, Wren comes to find out that Rufus is a recovering coke addict and later finds that he is also part of a blackmailing scheme that the owner has been using to extort money from wealthier clients.
And then the murders begin….and no one is safe.
A Dangerous Game (formerly released as Rent) by Rick R. Reed had many good moments. Wren discovering Rufus’ story about his addiction was poignant and powerful and perhaps one of the finest character sketches I have ever read. My heart broke for Rufus as I listened to his story as told in first person–with Wren reading it–amazing writing!
Then there was Wren’s inner dialogue as he argued with himself about becoming a prostitute–and then after reading about Rufus–realizing that he was indeed falling in love and could not remain in the escort business any longer and remain true to himself. When he found the strength to walk away, not only from the money but also from Rufus as well, it was simply heart wrenching. I felt his turmoil–felt his struggle and ultimately cheered him as he left.
There were tender moments between these two men that tugged at my heart and I appreciated that while they were both deeply affected by each other, the author opted not to make this an insta-love story on both their parts—Wren being the exception—but rather had Rufus work through the incredible obstacles that kept him from trusting that falling in love would ever be possible.
However, despite all these finer points, the mystery element to this novel was weak and a bit too contrived for my liking. I felt no sense of urgency–no imminent danger or tension that made me want to turn the page just that much faster in order to discover who the killer was and/or their motivation for killing.
The mystery element was shallow–never fully fleshed out and therefore I felt that the latter third of the novel simply meandered and lost its focus. There were also pieces that didn’t ring true for me, such as the compassion with which Rufus treated the murderer who had killed his best friend and this was just after being attacked himself and watching Wren being wounded as well. I just scratched my head in confusion. This felt so untrue as compared to the rest of the story.
So, in the end, I could only give A Dangerous Game by Rick R. Reed a rating that spoke to the love story element and had to give a pass on the mystery piece. I truly wish the author had taken a second look at this novel before re-releasing it to strengthen what was an admittedly weak plot. I felt this novel started strong only to lose steam and become a bit unfocused by the end.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.