REVIEW: Gentlemen’s Game by Lichen Craig
When young playwright Greyson Foster agrees to attend a party at the penthouse of a millionaire, he has no idea how profoundly it will change his life. His journey will take him into spaces in his mind he never knew existed, bring him face-to-face with needs he never knew he had, and challenge him to travel to the precipice of lust, revenge, and love. From their first meeting, the powerful and charismatic Jack Miles weaves an enticing web around Greyson, drawing him into the dangerous game three millionaires play in secret. But Jack’s personal life is complicated and his demons are many, and as they strengthen they threaten to destroy all that Jack holds dear – including Greyson.
THERE WILL BE A LOT OF SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW. PLEASE ALSO BE WARNED THAT THERE IS A GRAPHIC RAPE SCENE IN THE BOOK, IF THIS IS TRIGGERING FOR YOU STAY AWAY
Dear Ms. Craig,
I bought your book because friend was singing its praises, but I had to sit down and decide whether I could be fair to the book before I clicked that buy button. I usually do that when I know that certain things in the plot and characterization may bother me. If I am sure in advance that I will not like something, I usually do not buy the book and /or do not review it. The potential problem for me was the rape of one the leads by another. I decided that while this plot development often did not work for me, it would not be something I would automatically grade the book down for and purchased the book.
Unfortunately I had other problems with plot and characterization, which I will try to explain below.
Basically the game three millionaires played for years is having sex with each other. All three of them are married, but this activity is special secret between them, one they all needed and wanted. It is not considered to be cheating (I will try to explain why they think it is not cheating later on, sorry if it will not be very clear – I could not quite grasp the “not cheating” part myself). When one of the men decides to bring young Greyson into their game, he immediately catches the attention of super powerful and mega rich Jack Miles. In fact, Jack is so enticed by Greyson that after meeting him just twice, he decides he wants a relationship with him.
All of these men have a strange aversion to the words “gay and bisexual” – apparently despite having sex with each other for years they are not gay, neither they are bisexual. Greyson is not gay or bisexual either and is determined to insist on that, even though his relationship with a very nice woman ended because she realized that his heart was not in it. So he is what exactly? The word bisexual comes to my mind. But no, neither is he gay or bisexual when he starts a relationship with Jack. And Jack insists that he did not leave his wife for a “gay love affair” even after he served his wife divorce papers to and began a permanent relationship with Greyson.
At this point I started looking at my kindle and wondered if the flying workout I wanted to give it would completely destroy it or not. Reading multiple conversations like this one was really *frustrating*. Being bisexual is not a *label*, it means that one is attracted to “men and women”. Such people do exist. It is not that I never “met” such clueless twits like Jack and Greyson in the sea of m/m romance. Tons of characters have insisted that they were straight. But you know what the difference between them and the characters in this book is? Most “gay for you” characters have learned to say the word “gay” by the end of the book. They may still have a problem with calling themselves bisexual and of course “gay for you” is a fantasy invention too, but they would not call themselves “straight” when the story ends. In this book I never saw Jack or Greyson or their friends with whom they played the Game add the words “gay and bisexual” to their vocabulary.
My problems were just starting here however. At first I thought that Game was not cheating because they were not doing anything with other women (no, not kidding), but then I learned that apparently Jack would have considered himself to be cheating on his wife, had she not been cheating on him first for years. He holds it in for seven years you see, but since she was such a terrible person (boy, she was, as we’ll see below) he finally decided that he needed a sexual release and the Game with the friends came in handy.
“But at the same time, he knew that affairs were not, sadly, uncommon in the circle they knew. Perhaps telling him was a dig. It amazed him that Daria seemed to harbor no shame around the issue. At the time, when he was nearing thirty years old, he began to understand that integrity was either inborn in a given human being… or it wasn’t.
By the time Seth was a toddler, Jack understood that compassion was also an inbred quality. And that his wife did not possess it. She especially enjoyed humiliating him in public. She would do it subtly and charmingly, her tone joking, so that others – although they might wince a bit – would quickly conclude that her intent was surely not cruel. But Jack knew better. It became a given: if they were together in a social situation, he would soon be gritting his teeth, plastering a smile on his face, and hoping that everyone knew that he wasn’t the imbecile she made him out to be.
But at his darkest times, he wondered if perhaps he was that imbecile. If perhaps he deserved the misery she brought him. After all he could have ended it years ago. He could have ended it after affair with Tom. No one would have thought ill of him if he had divorced her after she had an affair within the first year of her commitment to him. Not her parents, not his. But of course, he would have had to tell them. And what about Brandon? He would have been left to… what? Being raised by his grandparents as Daria jetted around with various lovers? What would that do to a boy? And then Seth had come, and Jack felt that his fate was sealed.”
So, let me get this straight, super mega billionaire does not want to divorce his wife because he does not want to tell anybody and worries that one of his kids would have been raised by the grandparents. So he stoically suffers, and suffers and suffers for years.
Then he finds Greyson and finally serves his wife divorce papers and of course in response she plays “the gay card” for all its worth. Eventually poor Jack gets so upset that he gets drunk and rapes Greyson after one of their Games (i.e. the orgies with the other two friends).
But the main reason why I am so angry about this book comes in the aftermath of the rape. As much as I could swallow the partners getting back together after rape, I thought the situation was handled believable enough and most importantly I could buy that Jack was in his own personal hell. For the purposes of fiction I at least was glad that he suffered and I could at least not want to strangle him and be ok with Greyson getting back with him if he wanted Jack that much.
Jack even goes to a priest (acting here mostly as a therapist) and I liked it. But I still felt that the most blame for Jack’s raping Greyson was put on his ex-wife shoulders. Here is what Jack’s servant tells Greyson:
“ He was a better man when you were there. I have been with Jack – forgive me, with Mr. Miles – for several years now, and I knew his father as well. He has not had an easy time of it with that wife of his. He has been patient – he has endured humiliations that no man should have to…” Ross looked toward the window, thinking to himself more than speaking to Greyson now. “He has been wounded by that woman. I know that there had been things he never speaks about, things that tore at his soul all these years. The man simply broke, I think…” Then suddenly Ross glanced at Greyson, “I’m sorry, Sir, I don’t mean to imply that there is any excuse for what he did, any excuse at all”.
I was sitting, horrified, as I read this. The book was well written in terms of style and technical issues, but I was so angry at the end of it that I cannot grade it any higher.