REVIEW: Against Reason by Scarlet Blackwell
He lost his heart once. Is it too damaged for love to find it again?
In the five years since the love of his life abandoned him at the altar, Jake Morgan hasn’t left his house. The locals in this small, English town have dubbed him “Mr. Havisham”, but he’s too preoccupied wrestling his demons to care about Dickensian comparisons.
Forced to admit he’s losing the battle to keep up his large estate alone, he reluctantly places an advert for help. The striking young man who answers his call shakes him to the core.
When Darius answers the ad for the position at the mysterious mansion, the bitter, lonely master of the house tugs at his heartstrings. Setting aside his own run of bad luck, Darius batters at Jake’s emotional walls with kindness and determination that defy all attempts to drive him away.
Just as tendrils of new love begin to intertwine, though, a terrible voice from the past intrudes. And threatens to drive Jake back into the shadows where Darius can never reach him.
Warning: “Great expectations” of steamy man-on-man action, mouldering wedding cake, and heartwarming romance.
Dear Scarlet Blackwell,
When I read this novella for the first time I had many issues with the characterization and plot, but I thought that the writing tugged at my emotions enough for me to enjoy it to some degree. But then I reread the story and paid more attention to writing and character details, and I unfortunately realized that I had to lower the rating to D.
The language is over the top: there is a “cock spurting fire” and a “bottom like peach”. Plus there is an instantaneous attraction when the characters meet and TSTL main character.
As the blurb tells us, Jake had basically not left his house since his partner abandoned him on his wedding day – so it is easy to figure out that Jake is not in a good mental state. Jake also thought that it would be a good idea to keep his wedding cake in his dining room during the five years after his partner left him at the altar. I think that is a pretty strong indication that Jake will need lots and lots of therapy. Jake has a health condition (OCD), but while I am aware that it can affect people differently to a degree, I felt very uncomfortable that it was mentioned initially, but then pretty much forgotten. I think his condition was another indication that he needed therapy. But rather than taking his condition seriously I thought that the story was an example of the “love heals everything” trope and I really did not like that. I did not think that Jake was ready for the relationship at all when the story ended. Here is the example of why I felt that the story treated Jake’s OCD as a plot device rather than a part of who Jake was:
“I should go.” Darius turned the key and pulled open the door. He bounded down the steps to his car and got in. As he started the engine, Jake moved slowly. He closed the door and turned the key once, forgetting his counting. Dazed, he walked to the kitchen like an automaton and checked the soup in the pan, stirring it a couple of times. Then he walked across to the living room and sat down heavily, senses scattered.”
That happens after they kissed for the first time. I mean, it is great if it made Jake forget about his counting, but I just did not buy that. There was nothing in the scene to make such a sudden change believable to me.
Jake’s attraction to Darius starts the second they meet. And I mean “the second they meet” literally.
“The wind nearly buffeted him back. The stranger lifted his face eagerly in relief. Their eyes locked, and that troublesome heart of Jake’s, battered and broken and way beyond salvation, gave a curious little leap as he gazed upon man’s face. His stomach lurched too. Warmth spread down toward his groin. He stepped back, blushing, confused as to what had just happened”.
Jake goes through angsting about whether he should hire Darius or not, then when he hires Darius, he goes through angsting about whether to have sex with him or not – all of those emotional things just felt so fake to me, especially because everything was happening within just a few days.
Considering that I usually do not care for “love heals everything” stories at all, it is telling that my main problem with this novella was not even this trope. No, my main issue with this book was Darius. I could not shake off the impression that the author wanted me to believe that Darius was a good guy, and I instead had a mental picture of him as an ass of the highest order. When Jake is accusing Darius of using him because he needs a place to stay, Darius denies it, gets upset, etc. And I kept thinking – wait a second, did you or did you not say just a several pages ago that you would not mind using your employer because you needed a place to stay and basically if flirting would do it, that would be fine with you? Apparently trading sexual favors would be too much for Darius, but making sure Jake was interested and wanted to keep him close was totally okay.
Was I expected to forget Darius’ thoughts about that?
And then we have Darius’ doing his thing closer to the end of the story. The word “cruel” does not even begin to describe what he did in my opinion – it really goes into a very spoilerish territory so here it is under the cut:
Spoiler (Spoiler): Show
And Jake forgives Darius after month of agonizing when Darius catches him (before Jake decides to go to Nova Scotia and be a recluse there), which would have been fine, if I had seen the slightest sign that the man changed and but I really never saw that.
I wanted to reiterate that I did not feel that Jake himself was ready for any sort of relationship especially because he hesitated so much over whom he should choose to have a lasting relationship with, not deciding till the book was almost over. I thought that Jake taking Darius back was a sign of massive stupidity, instead of the everlasting love the story was trying to sell to me.
I cannot recommend this one.