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Toy: a contemporary m/m romance.
Troy the toy isn’t looking for a relationship. He gets all the sex he needs whilst working at Priapus: a brothel in inner city Melbourne.
Over the past three years, he has learned to turn himself off and load his Tommy program whenever he is with a client. A saleable commodity in today’s consumer society, he is well aware that his cute twink appeal has an expiry date, but he is content for now with the status quo.
That is, until his homophobic high school bully books an appointment.
Seeing Nick Stephanides again after all these years gives Troy’s operating system a bit of a jolt. Troy has always assumed that Nick is straight, but Nick is gay, lonely and determined to start a bromance with Troy. How can Troy say no to those broad shoulders?
Troy and Nick begin a tentative friendship, whilst Troy continues to provide good customer service to his clients, some of whom have very interesting requests.
Offering advice and support are his friends at Priapus: Melissa, his manager, who keeps a maternal eye on her boys, Brett, the bear and Ari, the surfie dude, whose passionate love affair is the catalyst for much soul searching, Qiu, the cheery Goth and Damien, the beautiful redhead who, for some reason, tenses up at the mere suggestion that Troy might one day break his dating embargo.
And then there’s Desmond the politician, who pays to watch Troy dance.
Of course, Troy’s operating system is bound to glitch sooner or later. Will it be Nick who finally sneaks under his defences? There is that ancient proverb about Greeks bearing gifts…
Word count: 90,000 words
Rated 18 plus, due to suggestive illustrations.
Note: For illustrations, pinch and zoom, or tap twice if you're on a device.. My illustrations are in colour, which won't show up on a standard Kindle or Kindle Paperwhite eReader. You can view in colour with the Kindle App on your phone, tablet or desktop, or with a Kindle Fire device.
This ended up being really cute. The writing style is unusual for a romance, but it was a really interesting choice. Definitely not the average m/m novel, which I appreciated.
It's almost like a workplace sitcom with a romance subplot, with the bulk of our view into the sex workers' lives taking place in the staff room at the brothel where the guys work. (It takes place in Australia, where prostitution is legal and regulated by the government, so it's a contemporary, in case anyone else found the blurb as confusing as I did :)
They talk about their clients and how their days are going over coffee and lunch just like anybody else in any other industry -- except it's a brothel, so the details are weird dick shapes and lube flavors or funny kink requests. But Troy's worked there for 3 years and Damien's been there for 5, so it's just another day at the office for them -- very matter of fact in a way, but they're all friends with a good camaraderie so they tease each other and joke around between clients. It's a very laid-back atmosphere, and Troy is a very laid-back guy.
It's a completely different take on sex workers, and I absolutely loved that. There is no glamorization or hyper-sexualized characters, but it's also not angsty/danger/homeless addicts. Of course, this also makes it the least sexy novel I've ever read about sex workers, but that's the whole point :)
It's not a turnoff by any means, that's just not the point of those scenes. They are very much just slice of life/day-in-the-life-of-Troy type of scenes with almost all of the clients we read about portrayed as pleasant and easygoing. And the workers' well-being comes first, so if there's ever anything that makes them uncomfortable, they just politely decline and send the client on their way. It's actually quite thought-provoking, in its own way.
There are a few sexy moments with clients, but those aren't even full client experiences. Just a few moments here and there. The real steam doesn't come until the very end with Nick and Troy after a long, slow burn, so just be aware of that going into this one. They don't get to the steam until 83% in, although there is plenty of UST that we experience from Troy's single POV.
Nick enters the scene very early on, but he and Troy are just attempting to re-connect and build a friendship. That does start when Nick comes into the brothel where Troy works, but nothing sexual happens when he's there.
I'm not a fan of bullies-to-lover/second chance stories, but this one is very low-key and felt very realistic. The guys are only five years out of high school, where Troy fell for Nick the moment he saw him. The biggest source of angst is that even though Nick was a total 15-year-old jackass for the next year, it didn't diminish Troy's awareness of his sex appeal, so he spent all of high school with a massive crush on someone he also hated.
And I liked adult Nick. He was not perfect and he was never fully comfortable hearing Troy talk about his job, but again, this was all very low-key and realistic. He had a tendency to talk out his ass when trying to wrap his head around this things he just couldn't quite understand, but it was never in malice and it really just served to highlight Troy's laid-back personality, which is what enabled him to do the job in the first place.
But that discomfort all takes place while they're still just friends. Even the Big Conflict, which Nick does not handle well at all, ends up serving as a catalyst for Troy to un-pause his life and get back on the track he wanted in the first place in a way that felt very right to both characters.
I had no idea what to expect with this one, so It took me a little while to get into, but once I understood the tone and settled into it, it was very enjoyable. And the ending was great. I often find the last 15-20% of a romance novel to be the least satisfying part, but it was the opposite here. I loved all the end bits with them together and felt very satisfied with the HEA -- no rushing and no "insta"-ness.
I was actually tempted to go up a star by the end, but it really does take a while to settle into the tone.
I keep coming back to comparing it to a sitcom, which probably does it a disservice since it's more pleasantly amusing than LOL funny for the most part, but it's got that almost heightened sense of reality that you'd find in a sitcom, where you're supposed to just let the amusement carry you through the moment instead of worrying about the realism of certain interactions. But that was mostly just with some of the workplace stuff -- and really Troy's whole attitude/thinking about his job -- not with the emotional relationship-building. That part was very grounded.
Conclusion: I will definitely be reading more from this author.
**This book was provided for free by the author in exchange for an honest review via the MMRG Don’t Buy My Love Program**" - Pam, Goodreads
"4 stars. A ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Review.
Troy works as a sex worker at a licensed brothel, Priapus where one day a client turns out to be his old high school bully, Nick. Things immediately go south but Nick decides to make things right and apologises for mistreating Troy when they were in high school. Nick proposes they start a bromance but things get messy when Troy realises a bromance isn’t all he wants.
With a whole host of characters, Toy is a romance about taking chances and putting yourself out there.
I really liked this story, even though it used the miscommunication trope which I really hate but it made it work. Even though all I really wanted was for Nick and Troy to talk about their feelings the fact they didn’t till the end wasn’t such a stretch of imagination and works very well given the plot.
Troy starts working part-time as a brothel as a way to support his mother while still going to Uni but when Uni gets over and Troy finds himself overqualified and under-experienced for most job opportunities and he decides to take up the work full time. I really liked the way the author handles this accept of Troy’s characterisation. I really liked the level of maturity that this book has while dealing with this topic. Also, I instantly liked Troy.
Troy is a very likeable character and I found myself invested in him very quickly. He is really lovable and fun. He radiates so much positivity that you can’t help but gravitate towards him.
I really loved all the characters at the brothel, Brett, Ari, Qiu, Melissa and Damien and even their various clients with their quirks. All those conversations in the staff room made for a lot of fun moments. Also, it was really good to revel in the level of friendship these characters share.
Nick is a nice guy and mostly I am not miffed about him and Troy getting together but it is pretty obvious from the beginning that Damien also likes Troy and while Damien’s feelings are handled very respectfully I really wanted Damien to have more of a chance because I was really intrigued with that idea. So, my opinion of Nick is very biased even though I can objectively point out the author works hard and succeeds at making Nick a three-dimensional character while limited to Troy’s POV.
In the end, this was a real slice-of-life kind of fiction, salty and sweet with all the emotions mixed it. In the end, I was really satisfied with this book and the ending we got.
This book has a bunch of illustrations and photographs that didn’t show up well on a kindle but despite that hindrance, they really added to the story and I liked the personal touch. Also, the author hid a heart in every illustration and it was fun to go back and try to find each one in the end. Overall, I had a great time reading this book.
Cover Art by R. Parr. I like the cover, I think the illustration of Troy on the cover really lends to his character and how he perceives himself." - VVivacious.
I appreciate receiving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as personal blogs.
I appreciate receiving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, as well as personal blogs.