Friday, April 1, 2016

Book Review: Downpayment by A.J. Mars

Mike Barrow and his friends are among many boys in Manchester who think the city will be their chance to improve themselves. But for now Mike is living in a damp flat with his friend Callum, and they’re both making ends meet by working the streets. When Mike meets Chris Wildsmith, a late-twenties entrepreneur, he thinks he’s hooked a job that will pay his rent for several weeks—a windfall already.

But his connection with Chris quickly goes beyond what’s normal between rent boy and client. Mike meets Chris’s friends, goes to Chris’s parties with him as his “boyfriend,” and finds himself swept up in a world he’s never known. He’s sure it’s all going to go horribly wrong, and when Chris’s work colleague figures them out and becomes violent, he’s almost proven right. But Mike isn’t the only one who has confused professionalism with something else. The breakup that follows gives Mike the impetus he needs to relaunch himself as somebody else, a man who will hopefully be someone Chris very much wants to be with. 

Todd's rating:

In my humble opinion, this one was definitely a huge winner, guys.

Were there similarities between this story and Pretty Woman? Yes, there were a few; however, not enough for it to become a distraction or to take away from my enjoyment of the story and make it feel any less original.

At 19, Mike has been a rent boy for what I surmised to be maybe a couple of years. He ran away from his mother's home to escape a physically abusive father-in-law, landing barely on his feet in Manchester.

With no job and no money, he runs into Callum, another runaway who makes his living on the streets, selling his wares, so to speak. Callum rescues Mike, gives him a place to live and teaches him the proverbial tricks of the trade, only a slight pun intended there.

Then one night, after finding out that party boy Callum spent all of their rent money on drugs, Mike heads to an upscale bar in search of companionship. And replacement rent money. Okay, straight up, he's after rent money.

There Mike meets Chris, an extremely successful, late 20's club owner and they strike a deal. $1,050 and one PayPal transaction later, Mike is Chris' for the entire night. (Who knew that rent boys took PayPal? I had zero idea.)

The boys hit it off so well that Chris hires Mike for the entire week, which thrills Mike, since that's $7,000 in his bank account that he most definitely didn't have before.

But as the two get to know one another, their easy companionship becomes more of a friendship. Well a friendship where they have sex. Hot sex. And lots of cash changes hands. But a true friendship, none the less.

I have to say that I truly fell in love with both Chris, who despite his circumstances remained positive and highly amusing, and Chris, who had started to lose a bit of his former spark to a dance music industry that he used to love.

Over the course of the story, Mike finally learned that maybe he wanted more out of life than his current lot and Chris learned that there was still a lot of joy to be found, even when doing nothing more than eating ice cream in bed and cuddling. As long as doing something 'ordinary' was with someone with whom you felt a connection.

One thing that I initially didn't truly appreciate, or really even understand, were the diary entries, by Mike, plopped down in the middle of chapters here and there. Looking back on the time that he'd spent with Chris. While the events were still occurring. It felt strangely out of place when it first happened, but I quickly began looking forward to them. Like little Easter eggs, if you will.

The story actually had a lot more feels than I'd anticipated, which was a nice surprise; however, since this was still a story about a hooker with a heart of gold meeting his Mr. Right, we still get a fair bit of sex, but not so much that it feels gratuitous.

There is one sizzling scene that I must make note of, though. Mike has this thing about trying to read people's body language and non-verbal queues to figure out what they *really* want. What turns their proverbial (and literal) crank like nothing else. The scene where Mike puts a verbal spotlight on what gets Chris off, that has to be one of the hottest things I've ever read. Period. Not to be missed, folks. I felt a bit sweaty even overhearing that shit. I kid you not.

Sorry for that sidetrack. And now back to our story.

After a very eventful , impromptu night of clubbing in Paris, the week does end and the guys are separated for a while, but hearts only grow fonder during the time apart, so they are, of course, reunited and the story ends with what I'd consider a very firm HFN, but rapidly heading toward a full-on HEA.

So yeah, this one checked off every single one of my "Hell Yeah" boxes and I'd rate it a strong 4.5 stars.

I'd definitely recommend this low angst, feel good story to anyone who won't get too annoyed by a few similarities to Pretty Woman and enjoys seeing a reformed working girl, I mean boy, finally get his due.

** Note: I'd absolutely love to read Callum's story, if a sequel might be within the realm of possibility.

My copy of the story was provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair, unbiased review.

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