Pricks and Pragmatism (Southampton Stories #1)


Title: Pricks and Pragmatism
Author: JL Merrow
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: Novella / 50 pages
Rating: 4.25 out of 5

A guest review by Kassa


THE BLURB:

Easy come, easy go…until the heart gets involved.

English student and aspiring journalist Luke Corbin should be studying. Instead he’s facing homelessness, thanks to the lover who’s just kicking him out of their posh digs. It’s not his first rejection—his father tossed him out at age sixteen—but Luke has no problem trading his favors for a home and security. Especially with rich, powerful, handsome men.

Except now, with finals bearing down, there’s no time to be choosy. He needs a roof over his head and he needs it now. Even if it means settling temporarily for a geeky, less-than-well-off chemical engineer called Russell.

Luke’s fully prepared to put out for the guy—because after all, in this world no one gets something for nothing. But Russell isn’t just a nerd; he’s an honourable nerd who wants to save himself for someone special.

At first Luke is annoyed, but the more time he spends with Russell, the closer he comes to a devastating realization. He wants to be that someone special. Except he’s fallen for the one man he can’t seem to charm…

THE REVIEW:

Pricks and Pragmatism is a delightful and absorbing read. It’s just a quick novella – 50 pages – but it’s worth reading. The writing is clever, sly, and witty with a lot of quick one-liners and classic characters. The tension and conflict plays off obvious and exaggerated tropes but that doesn’t diminish the entertainment factor. Luke will warm your heart while Russell is adorable as geek. They don’t stretch beyond their pre-determined boxes but the strong writing makes this worthwhile reading.

Luke is an English major that manages to support himself by finding rich men to support him in exchange for sex and companionship. He’s an easy going guy that can cook and loves sex so he doesn’t have much trouble finding a new man to land with and is always calm and appreciative when he’s told to go. When his last man asks him to leave a mere three weeks before finals, Luke ends up with Russell. Russell is not his type – a geeky engineer who’s still a virgin at 30 – but not only that, Russell doesn’t let Luke pay his way with sex. Instead the two develop a friendship which may turn into something else if only both men can admit their feelings.

The story relies on some classic tropes that are a stretch but not so much it’ll affect your enjoyment. For starters Luke is an affable, handsome young man that never has trouble finding a new man to house and feed him for as long as the sex remains good between them. He’s desperate to be loved and wanted but is convinced no one ever will so he’s constantly quick to jump to the conclusion he’s being told to leave. To his credit, it’s often true but this defense mechanism causes the most conflict and tension between him and Russell. For Russell’s side he’s a thirty year old virgin, which I can’t imagine he couldn’t find –anyone- in all that time that he liked enough to have sex. Russell isn’t really socially backward or unattractive so I wish that hadn’t been so exaggerated. Yet he’s a solid, warm hearted man that wants to help Luke with no ulterior motive.

The two are an interesting pair in that not quite opposites attract way. The attraction is there at the start but deepens as their friendship becomes something real. This is where the story really shines in how Russell becomes more attractive to Luke the more time they spend together. Luke realizes he appreciates Russell’s sense of humor, the laugh lines around his eyes, and other small details and slowly falls in love. It’s not immediate and not based on sex at all, but instead shared interests and deepening emotion. There is conflict of course because Luke believes Russell doesn’t want him and Russell figures Luke will leave him for the next handsome man so of course that takes the course of the story to figure out and end happily.

The writing and quick wit displayed throughout in addition to the solid characters makes the story simply fun to read. There are numerous touches of humor and dry wit that come across, mostly in Luke’s thoughts, but they keep the story engaging and entertaining even if the story may be predictable and familiar. An example of one of the many quips offered is where early on Luke tries to seduce Russell thinking that working out naked may attract Russell and keep them on an even footing, but of course that doesn’t happen.

“Well, that went well,” I muttered to my cock, which had optimistically jumped up when I did. All pumped up with nowhere to go. I took it for a shower and gave it a few strokes to make it feel better, but it wasn’t fooled. It knew it was just my hand tugging on it. (pg. 19)

For a quick novella, the story just delivers. It’s a familiar one that readers have read before but still works due to the fresh writing and good characterization. I think it’ll be a big hit with romance fans.

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