Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Victor J. Banis
Summary: A welcome change for the long time horror writer, venturing here into the realm of m/m romance, and quite successfully, in a well paced story of mis-matched lovers finding their soulmates in one another.
The Blurb: Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic. In Rick R. Reed’s searing love story, it means all three. Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago’s Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks but nursing his wounds from a recent break-up. When the two spy each other, magic blooms. But this opposites-attract tale does not run smoothly.
By now readers are surely so accustomed to having Rick Reed scare the pants off them that it must be a welcome change to see him achieve that same result by means of romance. I don’t know if this is Rick’s first venture into the romance genre, but he shows as much aptitude for it as he has always done for horror and suspense, and he can surely get your pants off – or at least down.
Not that this novel is without suspense, but while that element adds a bit of frisson to the reading pleasure, it is really the unlikely relationship between his two protagonists that holds the story together and propels it forward, a classic case of opposites attracting. Think Hepburn and Grant in Bringing up Baby.
The beautiful Arliss, at age twenty two, is a stripper in a gay bar, Tricks. Sean, whose looks are more average, is thirty seven, and on the nerdy side. A breakup with his boyfriend, Jerome, brings heartbroken Sean into the bar one night, in time to see Arliss perform. Arliss takes note of the stranger, so unlike the men who make up the usual crowd and, oddly intrigued, works his way down the bar, intending to check him out more closely—but Sean leaves before that can happen.
Later that same night, however, they meet on the shore of Lake Michigan. Arliss delivers an impulsive kiss and when that proves welcome, he fully expects that they will do the usual and go home for some high octane sex—but to his surprise, Sean, who is not into one night stands, declines. Instead, he makes a date for dinner a few nights later.
So begins a relationship that is entirely unlike anything either has experienced before. A teenage runaway, Arliss has lived on the mean streets and has a decidedly checkered past, yet somehow he has managed to retain a certain virginal air, but Sean is the first person to really tune into this and appreciate Arliss for what he is inside. And in conservative, genuinely kind Sean, Arliss finds a kind of love he has never met before. Being with Sean is like being “home.” Despite their differences, the two become a couple.
Of course, this is a novel, and circumstances threaten. Sean is able (if barely) to put aside his unhappiness at Arliss’s “work” at Tricks, but when an attractive customer suggests something further, things go bad, and from bad to worse. This secondary plot supplies a bit of menace and suspense, but the real interest remains where it was from the first, with this seemingly mismatched couple who turn out to be so exactly right for each other.
A nice romantic read, and a welcome change of pace from this prolific author.