Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
Vaughn works in an art gallery. He doesn’t necessarily need to. He’s got money, but he enjoys the work. Vaughn is very chic. His wardrobe is beyond compare. He has friends he goes clubbing with on the weekends, and he feels relatively satisfied with his life…except when it comes to men. Vaughn wants a romantic relationship with someone, but sex is just not important enough to him to worry about.
On the other hand, Jonah is…well, Jonah is a manwhore. There really is no other word for him. By day, he’s an investigator for an insurance company. By night, he goes to clubs for cheap hookups in the bathrooms. Cheap hookups pretty much anywhere, actually.
When a painting disappears from Vaughn’s gallery, he comes face to face with Jonah. Jonah instantly wants Vaughn, but Vaughn has been warned off by his friends. They say everyone knows Jonah’s reputation. Vaughn can’t help feeling some connection, though. He wants to be friends, but Jonah knows absolutely nothing about friendship. All he knows is anonymous sex, and he’d like to keep it that way.
This is the story of how two men with opposite relationship goals find their way together. It’s also a whodunit, because more than one painting turns up missing and the thief must be caught.
I hate to say it, but I didn’t care for Blank Spaces at all. I liked the blurb, but I confess to feeling a little…misled may not be the word, but I didn’t realize I’d be reading a book with an asexual hero. Here is a line from the blurb:
“That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection.”
I guess when I saw that sex wasn’t his forte, I didn’t think that meant he didn’t want any sex. I assumed he was just waiting for the right guy to come along. I know I shouldn’t assume, and it got me into a little trouble here. This is the part where I say this is purely a personal opinion of mine. I like sex in my romance novels…between the MCs. Vaughn is there being Vaughn. He works, he hangs with his friends, and he seems sincere in his wish to become friends (and eventually more) with Jonah. Meanwhile, Jonah is out there having sex with anyone with a penis, and it doesn’t matter who they are. Thank God he uses condoms, anyway.
I also considered Jonah to be arrogant. He’s handsome, and he knows it. When he meets Vaughn, who is equally as handsome, he automatically assumes something along the lines of “We’re both hot. We’re both gay. Let’s do this!” He seemed to resent the idea that Vaughn had money. He couldn’t quite accept why Vaughn wanted to work in a gallery when he could just be out spending the family cash. Jonah had enough chips on his shoulder to fill a whole batch of cookies.
There was one particular incident that really bothered me. Jonah invited Vaughn to a toga party (Really? Do adults do that?). Since Vaughn doesn’t want to have sex with him, Jonah proceeds to “punish” him by parading not one, not two, but three men upstairs to fuck while Vaughn is in the living room with strangers playing games. Jonah also gets rip roaring drunk, but Vaughn still winds up letting Jonah rest his head on his lap while he strokes his hair. Pretty sure I’d have let him drown in his own vomit.
Anyway, Jonah and Vaughn do become friends of a sort. Jonah enjoys going over to Vaughn’s place to hang out and play video games. He discovers it’s nice to spend time with someone and not have sex with them. He also finds out Vaughn is quite the artist and is fascinated with a mural Vaughn has painted on his wall. He encourages Vaughn to get his work out there to be seen by people.
Towards the very end, Jonah has this epiphany. He is in love with Vaughn, even though Vaughn has finally found a name for his lack of interest in sex…asexuality. He knows he won’t be doing too many sexual things with the man he loves. Vaughn agrees to giving Jonah the occasional hand job and rubbing off together. Jonah still wants sex, though. Love or not. Vaughn then does something I just can’t get past. He tells Jonah to go on out and score as much action he wants…as long as he comes home to him at night. I have to confess this made me sick to my stomach. “Sure Baby…go on out a pick up a stranger. That’s A-Ok by me.” NO! Just NO! Hell-OOOO! STD’s? Robbers? Serial killers? You don’t know who’s out there. Just because a man is hot and burns up the dance floor, doesn’t mean he’s not going to rob and kill you in the alley behind the club. Heavy sigh…While I didn’t exactly connect with Vaughn, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.
There were some background characters who played an important role in the story. They helped move it along, and I liked a few of them more than I liked Vaughn and Jonah. Also, there was the ongoing mystery about who was stealing the paintings from the gallery and trying to collect the insurance money. That wasn’t bad, and even though I guessed it before the big reveal, it was still decent. In fact, the final discovery was even kind of amusing.
All in all, I’m not going to recommend this book. In fact, I honestly didn’t realize I could do a DNF rating, or else I’d have put this one down at about 40%. I hate having to do that. and I’m very sorry.
A comment on the style of this review.
As a reviewer it should be your responsibility to know what types of books you are reviewing at least in the most general sense. Reviewing a book with an asexual character and then having one of the main comments be that you like sex in your books makes your review lack credibility and comes off as disrespectful. Being that this is a Riptide book, within a few moments and with a few clicks on their website you could have easily found out the orientation of the characters as well as the heat level of the book. While there were other areas mentioned that didn’t appeal, a book is best reviewed on the merits of what it is and not what the reviewer wished it was. While a review is an opinion, this review was so blindingly opinionated in more than one area. This reviewer also acknowledges at the end that’s she’s not sure how certain aspects of writing a review works. I have no affiliation with this book/author/publisher but I do have an interest in seeing the genre treated fairly as a whole. Perhaps a refresher for this reviewer on the basics of reviewing could be a consideration.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this one. I completely agree that it is important to choose review books that fit your reading interests, and we try very hard to do that here. It is important to review a book based on what it is, not what you want it to be, and again, this is something we do strive for in our reviews.
Unfortunately in this case, the blurb was not clear as to some specific aspects of the story. Just as way of background, we get hundreds of requests here a month. I make books available to my reviewers by providing the information that is given to me from the authors/publishers who request a review. In some cases we are given details about the book, such as potential triggers, sweet versus sexy, etc. And when I get that information, I make it available to my folks to help them choose what to read. But other times all we have is a blurb, and unfortunately that information isn’t always crystal clear as to what is to be found inside. With the sheer volume of what we get sent to us, researching every book further isn’t a realistic option unfortunately, even if more information was readily available, which in most cases it is not. However, I do know that Riptide has additional information on their site and I think it may be useful to add that step in our process going forward, at least for publishers that have that information available online.
I think in this case Kenna has some strong feelings on some aspects of the story and the relationship, which she conveyed in her review. In the future I know she will try to avoid reviewing books with these themes to prevent this issue again. Hopefully readers who are not bothered by any of these themes will consider the book based on the other information provided in the review and use that to make their decision if this is something for them.
Just to clarify one last point. I believe Kenna’s note about not knowing she could DNF was not an expression of not knowing how reviewing works, but specifically not knowing my policy of doing a DNF on this blog. It is not something we do regularly, and I think the option was just something Kenna was not aware of because it hadn’t been presented to her. So I will make sure that all my reviewers know this is an option going forward.
Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts. If you want to talk further, I am happy to discuss this with you via the comments or over email.
I understand feeling a little thrown when a book turns out to be different than you expected. Whether it’s a misunderstanding on the reader’s part or just an inaccurate blurb, it happens.
However… I personally am interpretIng parts of this review to be unfriendly toward asexual people, polyamory, AND people in open relationships…and that’s disappointing. The structure of someone’s commitment doesn’t make them any more or less susceptible to contracting an STI through casual hookups – and as for the “robbed in an alley” bit – I honestly don’t even know what to say about that? It has literally nothing to do with the book or plot as far as I can tell.
Perhaps when next confronted with identities and concepts she wasn’t anticipating, Kenna could do a little Googling so as not to offend those marginalized sub-communities right off the bat.
Thank you for your comment and sharing your thoughts. I hope that this blog can always be a place where people can feel comfortable sharing their opinions and even criticisms.
Just to address your concerns, I can understand how the review could be interpreted as critical of these orientations/lifestyles. I don’t believe the reviewer intended it that way, but I can see that is how it may have come across. For my part, I apologize for not being more diligent in considering the review more thoroughly before publishing it. In the future I will be more careful to ensure we are not giving the impression of intolerance in any way. I do believe that in general we are successful at featuring books that include a variety of orientations across the GLBT spectrum, as well as a variety of lifestyles/relationship arrangements. We work hard to be as inclusive as possible within the parameters of our mission, which is primarily m/m romance. That is incredibly important to me and I know important to my reviewers.
I have discussed this issue with my reviewer in terms of helping to ensure a selection of books more in line with her reading interests in the future. I have also discussed the broader issues that have been brought up here with my whole team to make sure we are all on the same page about reviewing books as they are written. In addition, I have made sure we all understand the goals of inclusiveness and open mindedness that I feel have been a key part of the blog over the years and that are important to everyone here.
Again, I apologize if anything came across as intolerant or offensive. I know that was not the intent, but I also know sometimes things come across differently than they are meant. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and feel free to contact me if you want to talk further.
Thanks, Jay. I appreciate your reply and am glad you thought to mention the broader issues to your team. I read the blog quite often so I know how dilligent you guys usually are about, well, everything. Catching and unlearning the micro-aggressions inherent in our cishet-normative society is a hard but important job for us all.
As a reader, often the only information available to me is that which is on the book itself, so I can understand the reality of the story being different from one’s expectations. That said, I did read this book and enjoyed it. I thought that the ending strained credulity, but that’s often true of bookish happy endings so I just accepted it.
Thanks for your review, Kenna.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kareni! I am glad you enjoyed it!
Pleased to know that this reviewer doesn’t seem to think that asexual people, people in open relationships, or poly people belong in the queer community. The suggestion that hookups always end in robbery or murder is also really ignorant of the reality of queer men’s sex lives or, like, the existence of Grindr. This is a really upsetting review to read.
One is of course always allowed an opinion, but the ones contained this this review are extremely ignorant and close-minded.