Ravenous Romance, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-60777-113-5
Contemporary Erotica, 2009
He’d just turned 45: ancient in his eyes. Though his short, wavy hair was still dark brown and his waist size remained 32, his right shoulder ached after working out and his feet bothered him if he jogged more than five miles. When Roland looked in the mirror late at night, he noticed the right side of his face seemed to be aging faster than the left. There were a few faint laugh lines at the corner of his left eye, while the corner of his right remained smooth and tight. From a distance he could still pass for 30; but up close in broad daylight, you could tell he was closer to his true age.
Roland wasn’t obsessed with his looks, even as most gay men his age underwent Botox injections and eye tucks. “We’re going to fight getting old all the way,” they would say as they ran to their plastic surgeons. He knew one man who mortgaged his home so his ass could look 10 years younger. Roland could have easily afforded the most expensive plastic surgeon in the world without a second thought; but thanks to all those years of jogging and dieting, his ass was still as round and firm as it had been when he was 25.
Isn’t this disingenuous? The author talks about how Roland Marcus, our hero, is not at all obsessed about his looks, but at the same time, he also talks about how Roland notices that his hair is still dark brown, he isn’t fat, he has a tight ass, et cetera. The last is achieved by the miracle of dieting and jogging, naturally, because trying to better your own appearance by artificial means is the act of the devil. Ugly and fat people better know their place and die alone, unloved—that is the way, alright? The author also describes, sometimes over-describes, what his characters look like, wear, and what not to a ridiculous degree, and so despite claiming that the main characters are not concerned with appearances, the author is actually constantly whispering into my ear: “My characters are hot, not ugly. Muscled, not fat. Don’t hate them, please!”
Of course, Roland is rich. He can afford to live on a yacht for some time. The author tells me that when Roland found his now-ex cheating on him with a younger man, he magnanimously lets Kenneth keep the house because Roland can afford to get a new place anytime. His current place is four stories high and he has a male housekeeper that has been working for his family since he was in high school.
As a result, Roland comes off like some insincere twat that will constantly insist at how humble and simple he is, while at the same time talking about how he can’t help being hot and beautiful, and how ghastly it is that people that are poorer, having to hold actual dead-end jobs, and getting fat and ugly dare to get fillers to make themselves look younger and feel better. Plebeian scums should know their place and wallow in their mediocre, sad, unattractive lives while privileged twats like Roland moan about how hard it is to be so rich and attractive.
Roland suddenly had a brilliant idea. “How would you like to make five hundred dollars in cash, for a few minutes of work?”
I hate this guy. Even when he acts like a generous bloke, he still comes off as a sanctimonious, self-absorbed douche-nozzle.
He wants to hire hustler Josh Holden to be his date at a charity event, because he’d hate to be viewed as single in the event where Kenneth will be showing off his younger new beau. That makes it worse, right, this sanctimonious asshole throwing money away for frivolous reasons? It makes me want to join an Antifa protest right away.
“Ah, well,” the guy said, “I usually only make two hundred an hour. What do I have to do? I’m not into any weird, kinky shit, man. And I only top.”
This guy is supposed to be a successful hustler? He’s not a porn star or some Instagram thirst-pic poster with a huge following, so I can’t imagine how he could be a successful gigolo when he’s just a bookstore owner during the day. Is there a huge market for vanilla sex with a guy that shows zero versatility and won’t entertain any special requests? Especially if the above is how he’d talk to a prospective client? My god, am I reading a story set in some kind of alternate universe?
Of course, Josh isn’t a ho ho. He’s not putting out because he loves money, he’s only doing this because he wants to support his son, which he had with his ex-wife turned supportive gay man’s purse. Roland isn’t a horny horn. He’s not going to spread his southern loaf and ask for a filling because he wants to exploit the poor for sex or anything nasty like that, no. So, really, these two having numerous sex scenes from the moment they meet, it’s not like some seedy business transaction. It’s definitely not seminal infusion for cash transfusion, not at all!
The rest of the story will be familiar with folks that have watched that movie Pretty Woman—well, with a title like Pretty Man, that’s a given—but the author tries way too hard to pass off the story as something it isn’t. This is a case of the author protesting too much. Ryan Field wants his cake and eat it too, so he has his characters hopping straight into bed, despite the main characters saying that they really don’t have to as they are nice and honorable types, doing kinky things after Josh saying that he won’t, and so forth.
I would appreciate the story better if the author had owned up to the exploitative premise of the story and just dived into it, because there is still something darkly sweet and romantic about two amoral buggers that manage to fall in love despite their best efforts to avoid messy emotions. Roland is perfect as the quintessential privileged brat that cares only for his own pleasures, while Josh would have been a much more convincing character if he had been a hustler that wanted money to buy an iPhone and party up.
However, the author instead prefers to insist that these characters are perfect, perfect saintly people, and the premise is nowhere exploitative at all, no indeed, and everyone is just doing it for reasons that won’t trigger sensitive yet judgmental readers into writing walls of scolding text on social media. The result is a thoroughly insulting story that assumes that I have all the intelligence of a moldy slab of bread. Pretty Man, hideous misfire.