Jimmy’s in trouble (but when is he not?). Broke, facing eviction, again, with barely enough money for groceries, and all his possessions — even his phone and his mother’s jewelry — pawned, he still owes over a hundred grand to his loan shark. And today, Jimmy lost his job. Just a bright red cherry on top of the crap sundae of his life. Not only did his father go to prison for the murder of his mother, a crime for which Jimmy knows he’s innocent, his foster father was the cop who arrested him. When his loan shark is bought out by a higher ranked mafia don, Jimmy’s life takes a sharp turn to the left and, for once, he may just be headed in the right direction.
Rodedrick Legrand, aka Cold, is the cruelest man in town. Murderer, monster, mobster, he now owns Jimmy’s debt and the interest is climbing. Unable to pay the quarter million he owes, Jimmy has no choice but to offer Cold the one asset Jimmy has left: himself. It’s either that or let his fingers be burned off by the thug dragging him to the stove. Fortunately for Jimmy, Cold is willing to give Jimmy a chance, a single night to prove he’s able to hold the man’s interest. If Jimmy is good enough, Cold is willing to let him work off his debt in bed.
With only nineteen cents in his pocket, Jimmy shows up for his audition. It’s exciting and far from his usual vanilla sexual adventures (and it’s been a bit of a dry spell.) Jimmy did expect a night of sensual torment. What he didn’t expect was to fall instantly head over heels in love with the monster in his bed.
Cold Hard Cash is one of those books with a story woven around the sex. The scenes with Cold’s sister, Rowena, with the gentleman who serve Cold, and even with Jimmy’s friend Maury feel clumsy and a bit forced. However, as the story goes on, the relationship between Jimmy and Cold begins to take center stage, and while the graphic sex scenes remain a prime focus, the plot and the people begin to do more heavy lifting.
Jimmy starts the book as a wide-eyed ingenue, and ends it in much the same way. As a child, he saw his mother killed in front of him, and no matter how much he protested that his father was innocent, he had to watch as his father was taken to prison. His foster father did his best to alienate Jimmy from his father, refusing visits and phone calls until Jimmy was old enough to leave his protection and begin his old life. Even when Jimmy was sick, or broke, or even facing eviction, his foster father was never there for him. When Cold takes an interest in Jimmy outside of the bedroom, buying him clothes, getting him a job, having him move in with him, is it any wonder that Jimmy instantly knows this is true love?
Cold is a violent man with a violent past. Raised in a mob family, he had a difficult and often traumatic childhood. He hides his many scars beneath layers of clothing and doesn’t like to be touched. He doesn’t want to kiss or fully undress or let Jimmy get any closer than the physical consummation of their relationship. But Jimmy’s a stubborn brat and keeps trying and trying to get closer to the man he’s falling in love with, and bit by bit, Cold begins to let Jimmy see the man beneath the mobster.
While there is a giant disparity in power in age, education, and wealth, Jimmy never notices. It’s simply part of who Cold is, and Jimmy wants him, warts and all. Cold isn’t looking for a partner or an equal to be both a friend and a lover; he wants Jimmy for who he is: innocent and open, sexually adventurous and obedient, Jimmy who wears his heart on his sleeve and who sees the blood and the violence as the brutal crimes they are. To Jimmy, it’s not a way of life, it’s horrible, and Cold enjoys protecting him from him, likes that Jimmy turns to him for comfort. He doesn’t want sympathy. He wants acceptance of who he is. Jimmy isn’t there to heal the broken parts of him; he’s lived too long and those broken shards are part of him now.
It’s not my favorite pairing, but it works. My one and only problem with Jimmy is that, emotionally, he’s always several chapters ahead of us in the books. He already knows Cold’s a good guy beneath it all, he already knows he’s going to love Cold and Cold’s going to love him, so he starts the book the same way he ends it. He’s not scared, uncertain, or even unhappy at the thought of whoring himself for money, because it’s Cold, the man he loves. The writing is adverb heavy and some of the conversations and situations are so very “mob-y” that they almost border on cliche, but somehow they never quite reach the tipping point.
For me, the first two thirds of this book were very uneven. It was set up, sex, and some bits of plot that felt contrived and filled with exposition. Jimmy’s unflagging chipperness and his constant pouting got on my nerves and I was convinced my rating would be fairly low, but once the story picks up, which for me was about midway through, everything just clicked. Characters felt more genuine, the tempo picked up, and suddenly it felt like Jimmy was finally on the same page as everyone else. The final third of this book almost makes up for the rest of it, and the sex scenes feel less like the focus of the book. I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to seeing more from this author.