Fantasy for a Gentleman, by Caitlin Ricci
Series: A Planet Called Wish, Book 2 (Stand-alone)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: February 19, 2016
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
For two decades Corbin Leroux has worked on the planet Wish as a high-priced companion. He loves his life where physical pleasure is encouraged and has no intention of quitting it. Corbin sees his clients almost as part of his family. Not even when bounty hunter Emmanuel Leoniste comes to kill him will Corbin roll over and give up his lifestyle.
Despite being a hired killer, Emmanuel lives by a strict moral code. Killing whores is acceptable, and easy. Or it was until he met up with Corbin. Worn down by the pesky Corbin’s resolve, Emmanuel accepts Corbin’s bribe and calls off the hit. But the truce might not last. Emmanuel’s mounting desires for Corbin cause problems. He refuses to allow anyone close enough to become intimate with him, especially someone like Corbin. Yet with each smile and soft kiss, Emmanuel’s emotional shield is dismantled piece by piece.
Gay M/M Romance
Enemies to Lovers
This book was troubling to me on a number of levels. It wasn’t the subject material itself that I struggled with. The main character is a professional sex worker (an aspasian, which means he is specialized, highly-trained, and focuses more on intimacy and emotion than just sex) who ends up falling in love with the bounty hunter sent to kill him. Corbin is an alien species that it naturally very sensitive, meaning he’s very responsive during sex, and he loves being able to help his clients and give them sex, friendship, or just someone to talk to.
There are some minor problems with the story itself, which I could have overlooked in favor of an interesting plot with a trope that I enjoy reading:
- The writing is repetitive. Corbin reminds us that he’s an aspasian over and over, and I got sick of hearing about his purple skin.
- The characters are aliens who all happen to look like perfect human male specimens, complete with the same parts in the same places.
- Corbin himself is a shallow, hedonistic character, which makes the novel difficult to read, as it’s entirely from his first-person point of view.
But what bothers me most about this novel is the way Emmanuel, the bounty hunter, refuses over and over to accept Corbin for who and what he is.
- He constantly degrades Corbin’s work, calling him a “whore” and being outright cruel. Corbin, for some reason, continues to allow this with only the lightest of rebukes, even though it clearly upsets him.
- Em refuses to be with Corbin unless Corbin gives up the lifestyle that makes him happy. To me that’s not romance. Yes, characters change; but Corbin literally spends 75% of the novel saying that he loves his job, he identifies himself by his occupation first and foremost, and he will never give that up. And then… he gives it up. Because Em makes him. Because Em emotionally bribes him, saying “I won’t love you unless you change who you are.”
- And the icing on the cake here is that Em refuses to reciprocate. Corbin asks him to stop being a bounty hunter, as he’s always afraid for Em’s life. And Em refuses. He decides that he’ll work part-time at Corbin’s brothel (where Corbin will no longer take sexual clients because of aforementioned emotional bribery), but the rest of the time he’s going to go off and kill people. Because it’s his job and his reputation on the line.
What this book says to me is that the author believes that killing people for money is a more valid lifestyle choice than having sex for money. And I’m almost certain that it’s not meant that way, but that’s how it comes off to me.
I kept reading this novel, hoping that it would redeem itself. It did not. It was chock-full of slut-shaming and degrading comments. Add in some other troubling scenes (a client kidnaps Corbin at one point, forces him to have sex*, threatens to keep him prisoner forever, and Corbin… literally does not react. He’s like “Oh, Em will rescue me, but I’m not afraid, it’s okay”) and I nearly DNF’ed this novel a dozen times over.
* I tagged this as rape (off-screen), although I think many people will read it as dubious consent.
I can see some fans of Firefly enjoying this novel, especially if you really loved the Mal/Inara subplot, and wanted Inara to quit being a Companion to be with Mal. Corbin reminds me of Inara in some ways, with Em then being the rogue with a heart of gold like Mal.
Caitlin has several novels that I do enjoy, and this one experience won’t stop me from reading her future works! (My reviews of her books.)
A Forever Home series (Contemporary, PNR (werewolves), Gay M/M, asexual (book 2))
Thornwood (Contemporary, Gay M/M, Romance)
Several fantastic YA novels
You can find Caitlin on her website: http://www.caitlinricci.com/ and on Twitter: @CaitlinRicci.
I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.