Rating: 2.75 stars
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Greg is in love with Beth. He likes her father, who happens to be his boss, and is a regular guest at their home. The only dark spot in his life is Beth’s brother, Ben, once Greg’s friend. When Ben realized how serious Greg and Beth were about their relationship, Ben decided to move back home and become a thorn in Greg’s side. It’s the constant smirking, the innuendos, the way he inserts himself into Greg’s life — like a schoolyard bully with a crush.
Greg isn’t an innocent victim in all this. He pokes back, trying to give as good as he’s getting. But what Greg doesn’t realize is that Ben isn’t playing the same game as Greg and, after an inadvertent meeting at a gay bar where Greg hangs out with two of his work friends, Ben decides to change the rules of their game altogether.
Greg is … well, he’s a milksop. He’s whiny and weak, cruel and petty, and not that good at reading people. Because this is a story with a message, Greg isn’t a character in the way that he would be in a more traditional book. Instead, he’s a character in a morality play and seems to make decisions and take actions based upon what the plot requires, which, at times, makes me think of him as being really, really stupid when I’m not just bored or pondering how thick Greg’s skull is.
Ben is a rapist. He’s controlling, cruel, selfish, and so maniacal that he’s a stereotype of a person with no real personality of his own. He says things and does things that, if Greg and Ben lived in the real world, would have ended matters much more quickly, but — because it’s cautionary tale — he gets away with. However, he’s convincingly written as a monster, just a rather cartoonish one.
The sex scenes are rote and tedious and I had no connection or interest in Greg at all. Twice he’s raped while drunk, so drunk he has almost no memory of the night before. However, for some reason, he thinks it must have been good enough sex, since, after all, he’s in so much pain he can barely crawl, let alone walk, covered in bruises and bite marks, but … hey, since he ended up in bed with the guy, he must be in love with Ben now. None of the actions or reactions felt sincere, but instead felt manipulated by the author.
The writing is a bit inconsistent, with patches where it feels clumsy and labored while, at other times, it feels more like a forum post than a book. Towards the last third or so of the book, it smooths out, but getting through the first few chapters of this story was a bit of a chore. While the message is an important one, neither this book nor its character were able to catch my sympathy or my attention and I was left feeling uncomfortable, unhappy, and uninterested.
I’ll be passing on this book. Thanks for sharing your impressions, Elizabeth, both positive and negative.
You shouldn’t pass on a book based on one reviewer’s opinion. No denying, it’s an uncomfortable and dark read. But I disagree with this review in the respect that Greg ‘IS’ 100% an innocent victim. I’m shocked the reviewer thinks Greg is in any way to blame. It’s easy to miss the red flags in the beginning when you fall in love. A milksop maybe but cruel and petty?
I liked the novella, but I was kind of unsatisfied with the end. I wanted a greater denouement where Greg and Ben happen to meet one more time after the big exit. I wanted Greg to stand up to Ben and say to him you have no more power over me. I just feel Ben needed to suffer and grovel more. I also wanted a bigger scene with Beth at the end. Greg should have been more embarrassed dumping her for her brother. Other than that, it was realistic and very engrossing.