Author: Scarlet Blackwell
Publisher: eXtasy Books
Buy Link: Buy Link Lonely
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: novella (123 pages/22,835 words)
Rating: 1 star out of 5
A Guest Review by Sammy
REVIEW SUMMARY: Dubious consent, sex for services rendered, and a veterinarian who should have his license removed make for a less than stellar contemporary romance.
BLURB: When Austin Bale’s dog is seriously injured, he has a crisis on his hands. He doesn’t have the money to pay vet Lynton Brooke for Rupert’s treatment. Picking up on Lynton’s interest, Austin offers the only thing he can: himself.
I want to preface this review with a caution. While some may feel that an author must always pump out one stellar novel after another, I believe that realistically there are bound to be some stories that fall short of the intended goal. It is when I review such a novel that I like to remind myself that behind the author there is often a body of work that was very satisfying and could quantitatively be labeled as good. It is with this in mind, that I give you my review of Lonely by Scarlett Blackwell.
Austin, down and out, in a low-paying job, cast out from his family, barely surviving, has one thing and only one thing that keeps him sane, his dog, Rupert. As the story opens, a bleeding and injured Rupert is being rushed into the animal clinic by a frantic Austin who makes the hasty decision that he will offer the veterinarian himself in lieu of paying for the operation to save Rupert’s life. Much to my chagrin, Dr. Lynton Brooke accepts the offer.
Eventually, Austin falls even further, losing his job and his bank account, minimal at best, goes totally broke. He is desperate, depressed and trying to come to terms with the fact that while he is prostituting himself, he has somehow also begun developing a strong attraction for the man who is using him rather blatantly and cruelly. Prior to their first sexual encounter, which culminates in Lynton throwing Austin out the door immediately after sex, Austin tries to rationalize his hasty decision to offer himself so that Rupert could receive medical treatment by thinking this:
“If you went out with a man and he paid for your meals and drinks all night, then he expected sex at the end of it, was that any different from prostitution? No. Austin had offered him a service in exchange for a service and now Lynton was collecting. Such was life.”
This is at the end of the third chapter…and it was then that I knew this novella was in trouble…how big that trouble was going to be was no longer a mystery now, because you see Austin’s convoluted and desperately sad justification was preceded by Lynton thinking this:
“Austin had offered to prostitute himself because he loved his dog so much. And instead of feeling appalled that it would come to that, Lynton had merely fantasized about taking advantage of him in the worst possible way. He turned onto his side, staring unseeingly through the dark. He was the lowest of the low. But he was only a man, after all.”
Oh dear. I had such a difficult time with this section. I felt that the author wanted us to believe that the justification for one man using…oh let’s just call it what it was–the justification for nearly raping another man was somehow okay because, “he was only a man, after all”.
At this point, to be painfully honest with you dear reader, had I not been committed to reviewing this novella I would have firmly placed it on my DNF shelf and walked away. But I remembered that I liked this author–some of her past work was very good, so I plowed on. Some 60 pages later after Austin loses his job, then falls into a deep depression and has several more sexual encounters that were halfhearted attempts at tenderness, then Ms. Blackwell gives us this:
“You’re a wonderful man.
Lynton held him close. “No, I’m not, but thank you.”
Austin’s hold on him tightened. “Yes you are. I knew Rupert was in the safest of hands the first time I met you.”
Lynton drew back, He cupped Austin’s cheek. “So are you,” he said, “if you’ll forget my appalling behavior and trust me.”
And there it was…that qualifier–if you forget–not forgive–forget my behavior then you are a wonderful man. Meaning that poor Austin could not be wonderful if he could not forget the degrading sex that had been forced upon him by this man who now was confessing to having fallen in love with him. I really had issue with this story. I wanted to like Lynton, I did. I wanted to forgive the fact that he blamed all his greed, his unkind and cruel actions toward Austin on his overactive libido. I could not.
I tried to think of Austin as more than a doormat–to be used and discarded and happy for any scraps that Lynton would throw his way. I tried to push away the disappointment when Austin was actually grateful that Lynton wanted him–a man who had done what was just short of rape–this was Austin’s hero.
I also could not divorce my feelings that this was akin to a feminist rant on men. indeed, that this was in some ways reinforcing the very wrong belief that gay men are nothing more than sex machines who will do anything and anyone to get off. Perhaps I read too much into this little novella–perhaps.
But, in the end, this story simply did not work for me. I could not come to terms with a HEA for these two men after the blatant misuse of one human being by another in the first two thirds of the book.
So, dear reader, I am giving this novella, Lonely, by Scarlett Blackwell one star. I will leave you with this however. I have read other work by this author and enjoyed them–immensely. So, even though this little novella was a pass for me, I still maintain that Ms. Blackwell has and, I am sure, will continue to give us good reads.