Review: Radioactive by Blak Rayne

RadioactiveRating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Financial advisor Martin Ogilvy is not exactly excited about helping his ex-lover Ian dig the latter’s company out of the red–but it’s what friends do. When Martin calls a meeting to explain his plans to whip Ian’s company into shape, the last thing Martin expects is to be hit on by a man almost half his age. Fresh out of a relationship that ended with his ex taking everything except Martin’s CDs and clothes, the last thing Martin needs is figuring out how to entertain a hot, young man. But there is something about this man that truly appeals.

Shawn inherited a mess from his predecessor at work and has turned the warehouse at Ian’s company around. Still, it makes him nervous that the boss has called in a financial advisor. Worse still, Shawn feels an instant connection to the attractive older man. But perhaps the worst of all is that Ian immediately tries to put the kibosh on Shawn’s interest in Martin even before the two officially meet. That does not deter Shawn, however. What happens outside of work is none of his boss’ business. He knows deep in his gut that Martin is the one–he just needs to convince Martin of that.

Despite the age difference and the muddy waters where work is concerned, Martin and Shawn begin seeing each other. There is an undeniable spark of attraction and before long, both men realize they are falling in love. But sometimes, love isn’t enough. Martin’s past comes back in a big way and he’s forced to contemplate reconciling with his former best friend, Patrick–the one who cut off all ties by fantastically accusing Martin of turning one of Pat’s kids gay. Then there’s Shawn’s side job as a model where his casual sex hookup has developed feelings for him. With their personal baggage infringing on their time together, Shawn and Martin must learn how to reveal the skeletons in their closet if they have any hope of building a future.

Okay. So when I read the official blurb for this story, I was fully expecting some sort of paranormal stuff where Martin is something like crime-boss Ian’s fixer in the underworld and Shawn inadvertently crosses Ian and Martin is pitted between loyalty to his boss and love for his soulmate. This is NOT that story, and it took me a while to realize I was reading a book about a glorified accountant and a saucy twenty-something. Ian, though, is still pretty evil–albeit in completely human, douchecanoe ways.

First, I do want to tip my hat to Rayne in the descriptions about working in a freaking factory. This is such a nothing detail, but I loved how true-to-life (without coming off as pretentious) Shawn’s work environment is described. There are no long sequences describing how things work or anything like that, but the vocabulary used to talk about who was doing what and where made it clear Rayne has probably worked in manufacturing before and, weirdly, I appreciate the truthfulness in these descriptions. It set me up to really enjoy the story. Sort of a blue-collar/white-collar touch to the May-December aspect of things, right?

With such a relatable introduction to Shawn, I was pretty optimistic about the story. In fact, I really enjoyed reading about Shawn’s pursuit of Martin. Rayne does a great job establishing Martin and Shawn in their respective worlds: adulty-adult world for Martin, where he’s actually friends with his workmates and just-out-in-the-world Shawn, who’s of a generation where you have to work two jobs to make ends meet (that’s purely my inference, there is nothing about class or income inequality or anything like that in the book). I do find that Shawn’s circle is more fleshed out. We have scenes where Shawn is at the photo studio working and interacting with his director and Mr. Convenient, we see Shawn and Mr. Convenient get it on and their pretty drastically different reactions to what is or is not developing in their “relationship.” Martin gets phone calls from his office and whatever brief snippets of friendly exchanges we have, those relationships are told to us more than shown to us.

It wasn’t until former ex-best friend Patrick and Martin actually bury the hatchet that I got alarmed. For one thing, Pat came into the story curiously late–about halfway, maybe? Considering how crucial the Pat character is, I can’t understand why there weren’t more pointed allusions to Pat and Martin’s falling out earlier in the story. There were plenty of opportunities for Martin to recall his failed friendship with Pat. To be fair, Rayne does try to establish a bit of foreshadowing, but it’s just too weak to mean anything until the climax of the story occurs .

So the first part of the story is a get-together. It’s just fun to watch Shawn pursue Martin and see Martin play hard to get, even though we know Martin wants Shawn. The age thing is often on Martin’s mind, but like Shawn, he just has a feeling he could totally fall for the younger man. The situation with Pat is where things come to a head–but the execution was super clumsy. I had to reread things to figure out what was going on. While that’s not such a big deal, Rayne’s treatment of the plot and the characters after the event was just baffling. What started off as a sweet May-December romance devolves into what felt like ten rounds between an emotional hot mess of an immature dick and a guy who suddenly discovers just how strong his ethical compass really is.

When all the cards are on the table, it seemed like Shawn and Martin just had to come to terms with the reality of their relationship as an older-man/younger-man (plus a little extra). But once they seem to patch that up, another character comes along and truly drives home the opinion that Shawn/Martin will not work in spectacular fashion that involves fisticuffs. And even THAT seems to be on the mend, but then Shawn himself goes uncharacteristically, self-destructively dramaqueen. I think what rankles is how last-minute/rushed the revelations at the end are. These revelations could have been the meat-and-potatoes of the story, but Rayne treats them rather cheaply for the shock-and-awe value by first initiating earth-shattering truths to the characters, then resolving them a few pages later. It also feels at odds with how long and painstakingly Rayne sets up even the first real date Shawn and Martin have.

Overall, I was pretty into the Shawn/Martin age-difference romance. Along with his optimism at landing the older guy, Shawn also brings a sense of tension because it’s clear something more than sheer animal attraction draws him to Martin. This crops up on page at a few locations, but it’s pretty low key compared to what this “something more” really is. I think Rayne fell down on that score–really building up this twist on both sides. Ultimately, the big reveal was a bit of tasty angst, but it quickly turns into a farcical melodrama about hurt feelings where every character seems to suffer from an outstanding case of pigheadedness. Die-hard fans of age-difference stories may get a kick out of this, but the sloppy way Rayne resolves the real conflict between our MCs was a big turn off for me.

camille sig

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