Title: Wicked Hearts
Author: Claire Thompson
Publisher: Romance Unbound
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: M/M contemporary romance
Length: 42,310 words
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Jenre
A pretty good, if rather predictable, romance where a handsome cold-hearted man is taught the meaning of love by a shy, nerdy work colleague.
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…”
Reese and Hank are used to taking what they want, just because they can. They set their sights on the office geek, a painfully shy whiz kid named Jeff. Hank bets Reese he can’t get the guy in bed within a week – he makes the pot very sweet with an offer of $5,000, if Reese can do the job – on tape.
Reese, usually so cocky and sure, is completely disarmed by the quiet but intense Jeff.
What begins as a cynical seduction rapidly heats into flames of dangerous desire. Reese finds himself falling, hard, but disentangling himself from Hank is even harder. Jealousy, lust and unraveling lies threaten to shatter more than one heart in this tale of love and betrayal.
Reese and Hank have been good friends since high school. Their friendship is very uneven though, as rich Hank holds a great deal of power over Reese. Over the years, the two men have played various cruel games on unsuspecting men, with Hank choosing men for Reese to seduce and offering big money if Reese can win the bet. Reese is getting tired of this game and tired of Hank’s control, but agrees to play the game one more time because his bank balance is getting low. This time Hank chooses Jeff, one of the IT techs from Reese’s new place of work. What Reese didn’t count on was falling for Jeff’s goodness, leading to consequences both for his friendship with Hank and his new found feelings for Jeff.
One of my first thoughts when finishing this book was ‘well that was OK, but I still can’t see what Jeff liked about Reese’ – and this was my biggest problem with the book, I suppose, that I either didn’t like, or didn’t care for the characters in the book. Hank especially was just a horrid man. He’s spoiled, manipulative, uncaring and downright nasty for most of the book. The fact that Reese has stuck with Hank for years, put up with his casual cruelty and effectively allowed the man to dominate his life, doesn’t make Reese a particularly sympathetic character. The way Reese makes his move on Jeff creeped me out, the tricks and lies he told to him, make me dislike him even more. I know that I was supposed to dislike Reese at the beginning, but his subsequent falling in love doesn’t actually change him that much. He still lies, still deceives Jeff until circumstances force him to admit his error.
The character of Jeff was a little more likeable, but then again very inconsistent. One minute he’s determined that he’s not going to make the mistakes of his past and the next he’s chucking that out of the window because a handsome man is suddenly paying him some attention. He’s canny enough to get an inkling that Reese isn’t being entirely honest with him, but still allows himself to be seduced – even giving his heart to the man when he knows next to nothing about him. To me this made Jeff weak and lacking in self-control. Even though the shy, nerdy guy character is one of my favourites, I never warmed to Jeff.
The plot itself brought no surprises. I could have predicted accurately the exact turn of events from the start. Having said that, it was still well written, and those of you who don’t mind unsympathetic characters, or who won’t have the same hang-ups as I did, will find this a pleasant, if undemanding, read.
As for me, I felt that this book fit squarely in the three stars – a comfortable, average read. One thing I am interested in reading is the sequel to this book, which has Hank as the hero. If I found it difficult to like Reese, then my feelings for Hank are much worse than that and I shall be very curious to see whether Claire Thompson can redeem him.