Alexander White has been making small waves among the gambling hells of London. Some suspect a cheat, but he comes by his winnings honestly thanks to his incredible memory. Thankfully, the owners of Alex’s favorite hell of late seem to realize he’s more skill than cunning when it comes to cards. His first formal introduction to one of the owners could have gone smoother, however. Alex is utterly drunk and making wild passes at Jasper Black, one of the three owners of the club. He even jokes about racy, lacy underthings. Lucky for Alex, Jasper lets Alex sleep it off in his own quarters at Perdition…where Jasper learns White wasn’t joking about lace at all.
Jasper Black thought he was done with relationships and love a long time ago. To his utter surprise, the tantalizingly sexy Alexander White is of the same mind: no-strings-attached satisfaction. White’s proclivity for satin small clothes makes it all the sweeter. Perhaps too sweet, as Jasper finds it increasingly difficult to restrict his thoughts of Alex to the bedroom. As easy as falling into bed with Alex is, Jasper finds himself concerned on the few occasions White fails to attend pre-arranged meetings with Jasper. When Jasper seeks him out, he discovers Alex’s chaotic home life. A man with so many domestic entanglements—three school-aged younger brothers and an elder one fighting Napoleon—ought to send Jasper running. Yet he not only stays, he keeps coming back.
Black and White is the second installment of the multi-author Perdition club series, with this work authored by Ruby Moone. The whole series is a collection of stories that each feature someone connected to the London gambling establishment Perdition. There were a few references to MCs from the other installments. Moone did a lovely job incorporating these characters without making me feel like Alex and Jasper’s story was missing something. The story is told in third person perspective and, unlike many omniscient narrations, I felt like Jasper’s reactions felt pretty inscrutable. Maybe it was part of his countenance–the man is often described as having serious expressions, drawn brows, and such. That worked for me, though. Jasper was easy to see as a Very Serious Man who has given up on love. So the very idea he would seek out Alex when Alex fails to attend one of their pre-arranged meetings, then the way he doesn’t run from Alex’s chaotic home life all felt like tacit indicators Alex meant something to Jasper, even if the man didn’t say it.
Quite apart from the implication Jasper was falling for Alex, both characters individually realize they are falling for each other. This happens on page, so readers get to enjoy reading between the lines in many scenes. I see this reflected in how Alex tries to keep things casual, because that’s all Jasper actually said he wanted, and it’s clear Alex would rather have even a friend-with-benefits arrangement with Jasper than nothing at all. Conversely, Jasper is very clearly acting out of an abundance of care for Alex when he not only pays visits to Alex, but also entertains Alex’s school-aged younger siblings with aplomb. It was just fun for me to read how differently Jasper and Alex viewed Alex’s home life. Jasper was pleasantly surprised to find he fit and wasn’t put off by the highly boisterous kids, while that’s exactly what Alex fears will drive Jasper away. They even get down to brass tacks when Alex gets some bad news about his elder brother who, technically, is financially responsible for the whole family. Jasper tries to convince Alex to let him help the Whites and Alex is wary about where Jasper’s offer comes from (let alone the idea of being beholden to someone who has only verbally expressed interest in a no-strings-attached sexual situation…come on, Alex, read the room already!).
The story was such a quick and enjoyable read for me. I thought the pacing was great. Our two MCs meet immediately and the attraction between them is quickly established. There’s a great balance between Alex as the social gambling man and as the harried elder brother who suffers from migraines and struggles with maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. The focus of the story switches between Perdition and Alex’s home pretty regularly, which offers views of both sides of Alex. The same goes for Jasper, though his private thoughts are often revealed at Perdition when he talks with the other co-owners about his developing relationship with Alex. When he’s at Alex’s home, the youngsters oblige him to behave like a man of his physical and social stature seem to demand: with authority. The mix between sexual chemistry, romance, and discovering what kind of person your romantic partner is just rolled so smoothly across the story. It all worked beautifully towards both Alex and Jasper wanting more, but being afraid to voice their desires or act on them. Yet the tension there got resolved without the kind of high melodrama or Alex and Jasper breaking before reuniting.
Overall, I thought this was a terrific, quick, and steamy read. The characters are wonderfully described and their experiences and circumstances make them great love interests. I really enjoyed the broad strokes approach to describing Alex’s and Jasper’s backgrounds. It provided plenty of detail to understand why they say they want a no-commitment affair and set me up to really enjoy watching them fall for each other. If you enjoy historical stories with a light kink flair, or enjoy stories with characters who think they’re emotionally unavailable until they meet The One, or you’re just looking for a hot story with likable characters, then I highly recommend this book.