Born to poor parents in France, Laurent was shipped off to the Americas as an indentured servant. His servitude is nearing its end and with it come prospects both exciting and terrifying. For a man who must rely on his reading and writing skills, Laurent’s failing eyesight is a source of much worry. But the tender attentions of an attractive, older man who frequents the bookshop where he serves help mitigate his fears. Laurent yearns for the chance to see where all the innuendos between him and this older man may lead…but when he learns the truth about the object of his desire, Laurent suddenly finds himself fighting for his life.
Just as Laurant is fearing the worst, a powerful and dark force reveals itself to Laurant and offers him a deal: escape certain death by going to the future and ensuring a man named King and his beast stay in place. Half believing he is hallucinating in his death throes, Laurent accepts. Suddenly, the young man finds himself thrust two hundred years into the future and desperate to make good on his promise…keeping King and a beast within the walls of their current home for the next several months—the very place where Laurant nearly lost his own life.
When Beast finds a beautiful dishevelled man in the basement of his father’s MC clubhouse, he immediately takes action to neutralize the situation. Namely, bring the man before the president of the club itself: his father, King. Rather than simply dump the strange man to the not-so-tender mercies of his father, however, Beast takes pity on the obviously confused young man. In fact, Beast soon finds himself almost catering to the young man—a poor lost soul obviously escaped from some obscure cult that knows nothing of indoor plumbing or electricity or plastic.
As Beast helps steer young Laurant into the modern world, he is stunned to find genuine affection growing as well. What’s more, for all his good looks, Laurant seems content to be friends with Beast…and perhaps even more? While Beast is pleased to learn Laurant is similarly minded, the gaping differences in their social experiences and expectations turn an easy relationship into something a lot more fraught. Only time will tell if they can come to terms with their feelings for one another before Laurant’s deadline with the dark being comes to pass.
First, just to make a few things crystal clear: Laurent is from the early 1800s. His failed attempt at passion with the older man leads to the appearance of an otherworldly being who is capable of using their power to grant wishes–in exchange for something it wants (sort of like a deal with the devil). Beast and the main story is set in 2017 within a motorcycle club type of setting. There are a lot of big themes that were hard to summarize well. If you’re not a fan of period stories, only the first few chapters are actually set in the past. If you’re a fan of MC settings, this story seems only superficially placed in a motorcycle club (I believe there is just one scene where there are any bikes and the majority of the “club” activity revolves around their penchant for swinger-esque parties and voting for Beast to be VP). If you like paranormal stories, the only real paranormal bits are when the devil-like character appears and sending Laurent to the future. To be fair, Beast’s father’s deal with the devil seems like the most otherworldly thing going on, and the cause/effect aspect of this deal are very clear—but the characters who know of this deal treat it oddly matter-of-factly.
Despite the lack of focus on these easily-labeled aspects, I was impressed with Merikan’s treatment of Laurent. The descriptions of what it was like for 1817 Laurent to find himself thrust into 2017 were thoughtfully written. In addition to showcasing how much of a fish-out-of-water Laurent was, Beast makes what I think are reasonable assumptions as to why Laurent struggles with simple concepts (like hot water on demand, toilets, sartorial choices). The consistency with which we see Laurent struggle and learn was admirable as well, but also tempered with the fact that Laurent does learn how to fit in. He’s got ample reason to WANT to fit in, since failure to satisfy the terms of his deal mean he’ll be sent back to 1817–a certain death sentence. As realistic as this aspect of the story is, I found the relationship that develops between Laurent and Beast a little more forced.
The romance between Beast and Laurent develops fast, but runs into a wall because of what you might consider cultural differences. Displays of friendship in 1817 don’t align with those in 2017 and Laurent inadvertently signals to Beast that he is ready for a lot more than Laurent is actually ready for. To be sure, the desire grows on both sides, but Beast is too eager and Laurent is too naive. You get the sense that they are once-bitten-twice-shy, but still mutually attracted. I found it relatively easy to see how and why Laurent would feel attraction to Beast—despite the latter’s physical disfigurement, he behaves gregariously. It was a no brainer for Beast to develop feelings for the first man who’s able to see beyond the scars. I suppose the easy, gentle way their initial feelings grew left me somewhat taken aback and a bit disappointed when things hit a sour note. Basically, Beast is moving at a 21st century pace where Laurent is still just chuffed same-sex relationships don’t need to be hidden. The big head scratcher was why this big badass biker boy responds to a gentle rebuff with levels of melodrama worthy of a tweenager rather than a thirty-something man. For all that Beast is mostly an attentive friend and intriguing love interest, after that initial rebuffing occurs, he tends to remain melodramatic. I’ll admit it did cheapened the emotions between Laurent and Beast for me a bit.
As noted above, King’s own deal with the devil doesn’t cause much excitement. This, I think, is a shortcoming given how dramatically King’s deal affects him in all physical senses and in how he behaves. In fact, the nature of King’s deal might also be a reason why Beast is only now being considered for a formal role in the MC, despite being the president’s son. Yet none of this is capitalized on page. While I appreciated all the details and careful unfolding of the connection between Laurent and Beast, I think the story, and especially it’s MC setting and paranormal overtones, were underserved by not focusing more attention on King’s deal.
All in all, this was a fun read. Though certainly not a humourous or comedic story, the intense focus on our two MCs leaves little room for developing seriouss legs on the other aspects of the story. So if you’re looking for a great MC book or paranormal book, this probably won’t satisfy. However, if you like fish-out-of-water stories and get-togethers, this book has a lot to offer.