Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Priceless and Fearless by Cat Grant

Why I read them:  I received ARCs via NetGalley.

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  "When love's for sale, who really pays?"

Connor Morrison is a 3-D optics pioneer, the star of the UC Berkeley physics department, and a socially inept workaholic. And with his dear friend and business partner, Steve Campbell, handling their investors, he's content to remain in the shadows. That is, until he meets the gorgeous and starry-eyed physics student Wes Martin.

Wes is brilliant but broke. Ever since his scholarship fell victim to the financial crisis, he's had no choice but to sell his body to stay in school. Already half in love with Connor, Wes initially resists Steve's offer to be Connor's thirty-fifth birthday present. But in the end, Wes is too broke--and too smitten--to say no.

Connor has no idea Steve bought Wes's attentions, and he quickly falls under the young man's spell. Yet after one night together, Wes disappears. He can't bear to hook with a man he could so easily grow to love, but he also can't bear to tell him the truth. Besides, if he sleeps with Connor again, there'd be no way to hide the bruises one of his regular johns loves to inflict. Only one thing to do: let Connor go. Walking away is painful, but not nearly as much as building a relationship on lies.

Warning:  Some non consensual sexual activity - by a client of Wes's (not Connor).

What worked for me (and what didn't): This story was part of  Riptide Rentboys: The 2012 Collection.  I had only read the Anne Brook novella, Where You Hurt The Most but went back and pulled this one up after reading the blurb for Fearless.  

I really enjoyed this story and right up until the end, it was heading into B+ territory.  Unfortunately, the end and the mutual exchange of "I love you" was so abrupt that, for me, it took a bit of the shine off.  I saw Wes and Connor's deep attraction, I felt for Wes as he got stuck in a bad situation with an abusive client.  I liked how Connor took care of Wes after.   I thought the moving in and use of the L word was just too quick though.  The author did such a good job of setting up potential issues between these two men but for me, much of that went unresolved.  How would Wes feel about being essentially "kept"?  Sure he'd find work, but his contribution would hardly be equal.  What dynamic would that bring?  If the end section had have had the same kind of pacing as the beginning, I would have been very happy.  As it was, I liked the characters very much and wanted to spend more time getting to know them.

Grade: B-

What it's about: (from Goodreads)  How can you plan for the future when escaping the past seems impossible?

After over a year together, Connor Morrison and Wes Martin decide to tie the knot. But an ethics complaint regarding their deeply non-traditional relationship threatens Connor’s job and Wes’s Ph.D. The fact that Connor tried to keep it from Wes—even with the best of intentions—makes the situation even worse and casts a pall over their plans for a Christmas wedding in New York.

It doesn’t help that Connor still treats Wes like glass, though Wes insists he’s recovered from the brutal assault he suffered a year and a half earlier. Wes may be okay, but Connor isn’t. Memories of taking a battered, terrified Wes to the emergency room that night still haunt him, and he can’t let go of the need to protect Wes from any and everything life might throw at him.

But Wes has had enough. Between the specter of the ethics complaint and Connor’s overprotectiveness, he’s already beginning to question their plans. Add in a family ashamed of and angered by his choices, and Wes might just leave Connor standing at the altar.

What worked for me (and what didn't): Particularly because of some of my questions from the previous novella, I was curious to see how these men were doing 1 year on.  Again, my complaint is the same.  The author did a wonderful job of (fairly quickly) setting up all the problems, but there wasn't much time on solving them.  I was left wondering if they were really okay - particularly on the career front.

Connor is still dealing with trauma from when Wes was attacked by a client the year before - Wes has been seeing a therapist and is doing fine.  He even wants to explore some rough sex but Connor, even while he is interested from a physical perspective, struggles with the emotional fallout of it - he doesn't want Wes to ever see him on the same plane as his attacker.  While there was an agreement for Connor to seek some help too by the end, I thought it was all a bit too neat.  I believed the set up so well, that the solution seemed underdone.

I laughed out loud when Wes's cousin Dale, in responding to Wes's confession of being a rentboy, says “Didn’t it ever occur to you to just get a fucking student loan?”  It was funny, but he certainly had a point.

Ultimately, I think that 70 pages wasn't quite enough to tell the story in - I enjoyed the characters quite a bit and like the author's writing style.  She made me care enough about Wes and Connor (and even Dale actually) that I wanted more depth and detail.

Grade: B-

Overall, I'm glad I read both books and I'd be happy to catch up with the characters again sometime but I would have liked to see them working out their problems rather than hearing about it.

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