Blank Spaces, by Cass Lennox
Series: Toronto Connections, Book 1
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Release Date: November 14, 2016
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Please note that this review contains mild spoilers,
which are marked should you wish to skip them.
Absence is as crucial as presence.
The decision to stop dating has made Vaughn Hargrave’s life infinitely simpler: he has friends, an excellent wardrobe, and a job in the industry he loves. That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection. But when a piece is stolen from his art gallery and insurance investigator Jonah Sondern shows up, Vaughn finds himself struggling with that decision.
Jonah wants his men like his coffee: hot, intense, and daily. But Vaughn seems to be the one gay guy in Toronto who doesn’t do hookups, which is all Jonah can offer. No way can Jonah give Vaughn what he really wants, not when Jonah barely understands what love is.
When another painting goes missing, tension ramps up both on and off the clock. Vaughn and Jonah find themselves grappling not just with stolen art, but with their own differences. Because a guy who wants nothing but romance and a guy who wants nothing but sex will never work—right? Not unless they find a way to fill in the spaces between them.
Asexual (Homoromantic) Character
(highlight above for possible spoiler)
Blank Spaces has been on my radar since earlier this year, before it had even been officially announced, when someone at Riptide told me to expect an awesome asexual M/M romance at the end of the year.
I spent more than eight months getting my hopes up about this book, and I’m thrilled to say that I was not remotely disappointed! Blank Spaces is well worth all of the hype, and I devoured it in record time the day I received the ARC. Since then, I’ve re-read it a couple of times (including yesterday!), and I wanted to talk about the two main reasons why I adore this book so much:
If he were to paint his feelings about sex, the colours would be a bland, muddy neutral somewhere between grey and darker grey.
I’ve read books with fantastic ace rep, and books where the ace rep makes me cringe. (Which is not to say the negative ace rep was not asexual; asexuality is a spectrum, and any asexual experience is valid even if it doesn’t match my own.) What Cass does here is write a book that isn’t about asexuality, but instead about how asexuality doesn’t limit or define a romantic relationship. As an ace person myself, this is a massively important message. And she does this by showing two extremes: asexuality and hypersexuality. Jonah loves sex– needs it, in a way that is unfortunately not addressed as the coping mechanism that it is– and is often judged and belittled for that. It’s totally unexpected: Vaughn doesn’t want to have sex and no one seems to mind, and Jonah wants to have all the sex and is considered ‘broken’ and ‘wrong’… a reversal of the experiences many ace people face. But because Vaughn understands what it’s like to be different, and to need (or not need!) specific things, he’s able to accept Jonah as-is.
He’d never been in a relationship long enough to experience monogamy, let alone variations of it.
The romance community, from what I’ve seen, often views any deviation from committed monogamy (or closed/committed menage) as scandalous at best, and cheating at worst, even when it’s consensual for all parties involved. “Open relationship?” Some readers will nope out with just those two words. But Cass shows two men who are in love, who are committed to each other, and who need different things in a relationship. To go along with her food metaphor from the book: Jonah loves chocolate, and Vaughn doesn’t, but Vaughn doesn’t mind if Jonah goes out to eat chocolate sometimes when he’s not around. Sex is a physical need, not a defining basis of a relationship, and Cass shows that with such beauty and elegance that I swooned in my seat.
In my opinion, Blank Spaces is an incredibly important book in the queer romance genre. It’s an extremely well-written portrayal of an asexual character, and also shows a type of relationship that is often ignored in romance. As you can see from my conversation with Cass, open relationships in queer romance are few and far between, so it’s an absolute pleasure to see it written with respect and clear consent in this novel.
As for the rest of the story? Cass builds an intriguing (if somewhat simple) mystery in the background, driving the plot and characters forward. The fact that it was predictable didn’t make it less enjoyable, and instead added more depth to the novel. As I said before, I do wish that Jonah’s use of sex as a way to escape difficult emotions was addressed further, because behavior like that can be harmful.
But overall this is a fantastic story with an exceptional relationship, and a book that will always remain very important to me.
Disclaimer: Cass is a good friend, and writing about a subject that means a lot to both of us on a very personal level.
Cass Lennox is a permanent expat who has lived in more countries than she cares to admit to and suffers from a chronic case of wanderlust as a result. She started writing stories at the tender age of eleven, but would be the first to say that the early years are best left forgotten and unread. A great believer in happy endings, she arrived at queer romance via fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, and manga, and she can’t believe it took her that long. Her specialties are diverse characters, gooey happy ever afters, and brownies. She’s currently sequestered in a valley in southeast England.
Find out more about Lennox and her books over at her website http://www.casslennox.wordpress.com
You can purchase Blank Spaces from:
Barnes & Noble
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.