It is an acknowledged fact that Sean Sinclair is brilliant. If no one else will tell you, he certainly will. He’s also handsome, charming, witty, clever, and hung. And while he’s working his way to the office of Master of St. Thaddeus’s College, he’s also working his way through the student body. Well, the handsome ones. The lovely ones. The ones who are equally brilliant, like the ambitious Lee and the laconic French transfer student, Jean-Philippe. But Lee’s been clingy lately, in a most unflattering way. A way that has Sean all but kicking the young man out of his bed, to think no more of it.
Until Lee goes missing, and Sean becomes the prime suspect. Now there’s an inspector watching his every move (the appealing Sergeant Taylor) and rumors floating around the school. Rumors that might put Sean’s efforts for advancement on pause. Fortunately, Rufus, Sean’s friend, mentor, and the current Master of the college, still has faith in him. Faith enough to saddle him with the American visitor, Chris, whose group is offering money in exchange for a chair at the college. Needless to say, Sean puts his all into wooing the handsome man, all while hoping to put his all into him.
And then the dreams begin. Dreams of Lee, dreams of a white-haired main, strange and off-putting dreams that leave Sean hard, yearning, and afraid.
This is a story with a very present main character. Written in first person POV, Sean’s personality — the good and the bad — are front and center, and Sean is always on, always putting on a display of his prowess, his brilliance, his charm, and his delight in his own cleverness. And if you don’t like Sean, then it’s going to be a very long book. For myself, I didn’t like Sean, but I didn’t mind him. At times I found his constant self-aggrandizement to be amusing, at others, exhausting. But beneath the veneer of confidence, some of it very deserved, is a young man who just wants to be valued.
The young men Sean fucks — never students of his; at least, not at the time he’s indulging in them — are never led on with promises of more. It’s an all boy’s college and everyone knows what they’re getting out of the affair. Sean cares for Lee and Jean-Philippe in his own way. They’re friends with benefits, yes, but still friends. Of a sort. His friendship with the American, Chris, and with his mentor, Rufus, hint at the vulnerability beneath the lacquer shell. Sean wants to be wanted and valued, to be found to be special and deserving of the adulation and attention. Sean trusts quickly and easily, is open and feckless. And for all that he’s brilliant, he’s not all that bright, sometimes.
There is a lot of sex in this book, and it’s all purely physical on Sean’s part. It’s a release of endorphins, it’s him chasing after pleasure. It’s also a power play, proving how much more he has, how much more he is than the other person. Even with those dynamics at play, Sean’s partners are willing and consenting. That said, there are also several scenes — between Lee and Sean; Lee and Jean-Philippe; and Chris and Sergeant Taylor — that are very dubious where it comes to consent. Two of those scenes I would even call rape, as neither Jean-Philippe nor Taylor are mentally aware of what’s being done to them. These scenes are written to be erotic; this is an erotic thriller, after all, but people who are sensitive to such issues should be aware that this book does take a dark turn.
There are also scenes of torture, hints at violent rape, and some gruesome deaths that aren’t drawn out, but are described. However, there is also snappy dialogue, shades of interesting world building, and for all that he can be a bit annoying, Sean is an interesting and entertaining character.
“God, you are such a prick.”
“You really can’t…”
“Don’t! Don’t say it! If anyone else says I cannot see what is right in front of me, I’ll…”
“Be very sarcastic at them?”[Sean] drew [himself] up in mock dignity. “I am ironic, never merely sarcastic.”
I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the twist, enjoyed the ending, and thought the writing was very good. The pacing, though, was a bit uneven, for me. The mystery starts fairly early on, but then it’s dropped until the last quarter, picked up, and wrapped up quickly only to introduce another plot, leaving the middle feeling a bit vague and lost. Because Sean is such a personality, I’d suggest trying a sample of this book before buying. If you like him, or are amused by him, then do consider getting the book, because it’s nice to see Sean go from that to who he is at the end.