Sean Farrell is tired of the life. He’s been working the streets since he was 15 and while sex work has paid his bills, he wants out. But with no qualifications and no measurable work history, he’s found it impossible to get another job. The situation is starting to feel hopeless. And then happenstance brings him to Laurie Cassell.
Laurie is everything Sean isn’t. Posh, sweet, and respectable. On the surface, they have nothing in common and they shouldn’t fit. But after several chance meetings, they begin a tenuous relationship. Sean knows he has to tell Laurie the truth about what he does, but he’s terrified to lose the one positive thing in his life. For Laurie, he’s willing to become a new man, but that doesn’t mean Laurie will be able to forgive his lies or his past.
Release is the first in the Rent Boys series and exists in the same universe as several other works by A.E. Ryecart, but I felt like this was easily read as a standalone. There are a few incidents mentioned from other books, but they were all well explained and I didn’t feel as though I was missing anything. Release was an excellent slow burn romance between two men from opposite sides of the tracks. I think Sean was better developed as a character when compared to Laurie and his plight read as a genuine. There were times it seemed like he was prone to wallowing in his own self-pity, but that felt believable given the situation. Laurie was a sweet guy, but he didn’t feel much deeper than that. The author gave him a backstory but it just didn’t seem as we’ll structured or involved as Sean’s. There were times that Laurie came away looking a bit obnoxious and disproportionately hurt, though he did have reasons for this.
My only real frustration is one I’ve had in many other books. The antagonist in Release reads as cartoonishly sinister instead of truly evil. Because he touches so much of the book, this particular bad guy pops up regularly and never feels as realistic as he should. It doesn’t necessarily minimize his actions, but it does make them less convincing and that has a trickle down effect to the characters around him.
Release was a great book for those who enjoy a slow burn and the opposite attract trope. Both are wielded well by the author and don’t feel overdone or excessive. Sean and Laurie are a sweet couple and I think most readers will find them endearing. The antagonist was more of a caricature than a developed character and that irked me. But overall this is definitely a book most folks will enjoy.