REVIEW: Pent Up by Damon Suede
PENT UP: Mix business with pleasure and take cover.
Ruben Oso moves to Manhattan to start his life over as a low-rent bodyguard and stumbles into a gig in a swanky Park Avenue penthouse. What begins as executive protection turns personal working for a debonair zillionaire who makes Ruben question everything about himself.
Watching over financial hotshot Andy Bauer puts Ruben in an impossible position. He knows zero about shady trading and his cocky boss lives barricaded in a glass tower with wall-to-wall secrets and hot-and-cold-running paranoia. Can the danger be real? Is Andy for real?
What’s a bullet catcher to do? Ruben knows his emotions are out of control even as he races to untangle a high-priced conspiracy and his crazy feelings before somebody gets dead. If his suspicions are right, Andy will pay a price neither can afford, and Ruben may discover there’s no way to guard a heart.
Dear Damon Suede,
Let me get something out of the way first: I did not want this book to be another “Hot Head”. Honestly, I did not. I really enjoyed your first offering, but it was not my favorite trope and it had more sex than I usually prefer in my books. I enjoyed it because of your writing, and when I picked this book up I just wanted to be swept away in the story.
When I read the blurb and realized that it promised a romantic suspense storyline, I was even more excited. See, I am usually cautious about contemporary m/m romances – more often than not I try to make sure that the guys have something to do besides falling in love and having sex. So a mystery storyline in addition to romance, a suspense storyline in addition to romance, would make me buy the book faster. Alas, the suspense storyline was a big fail for this reader.
First and foremost, since I had this conversation with several book buddies on Amazon board, I want to issue a warning. Ruben struggles with alcohol addiction – he is recovering, but his struggle is very much front and center during the whole book. If this is something which you find painful to read about, I strongly suggest you don’t buy this book.
As the blurb tells you, Ruben moves to Manhattan from Florida after his divorce to work for his brother Charles, who has an executive protection agency. Luckily for Ruben (or maybe not so luckily), when Andy Bauer comes to Charles to find himself a bodyguard, he decides he wants Ruben to take the job.
Ruben is eager to work, but he does not like Andy from the moment he sets eyes on the man and is hesitant to take the job. Andy insists he is in danger, but Charles does not really believe him. He thinks the job would be piece of cake for Ruben and very well paid at that. Ruben does not have much choice because he needs work very badly, so he agrees.
At first Ruben thinks that Andy is making up stuff, for reasons he cannot figure out, however he soon realizes that the danger is very real. Ruben also realizes that he is in over his head. To make a long story short, Ruben may be a good fighter, but he is not a very competent bodyguard. If you have read my reviews before, you know how I feel about romance characters who cannot do their jobs well, but still continue to do them while having passionate relationships with their bosses.
I have to give the story credit where it is due. Ruben knows that he is in over his head. He insists that Andy should hire somebody else (probably not from Charles’ agency since things turned out to be way too complicated) and he tells this to Andy several times. So, at the very least he is self–aware and the narrative does not pretend otherwise. Andy, however, insists that he needs Ruben and Ruben only. Granted, by this time they have given in to their mutual attraction, but it is clear that there is a second story-related reason why Andy wants Ruben and Ruben only. Eventually we get the explanation, and the explanation was not satisfactory for me, to put it mildly.
I started to wonder how this alleged genius thought his plan was going to work. I am still not sure how it was all supposed to work. I am also not sure how his plan at the end to avoid the consequences of his behavior was supposed to work for other people involved. SPOILERS. NOTE THERE IS A LOT OF THE STORYLINE UNDER THE CUT, BUT NO IDENTITY OF THE VILLAIN, I TRIED TO AVOID THAT.
Hopefully I was able to explain why suspense part of the story made no sense to me. I hope I am not generalizing when I am going to venture a guess that at least some readers will be mostly interested in the love story. Well, I can confirm that the sex was very hot, scorching hot in fact. I also liked that the first half of the story was mostly building sexual tension, but don’t worry, the second part has plenty of sex scenes. The story is GFY, which I am not very fond of in the first place; however this bothered me least of all in this book. Andy had had some sex with guys in the past and more than once, so in my mind I firmly placed him as bisexual and Ruben, well I get that he was written as GFY, but I do not remember the narrative coming out and saying that he did not like women anymore, so whatever the authorial intent was, I decided he was bisexual as well.
If you are going to get this book strictly for the love story and the sex, I think you will like it more than I did. Neither Andy nor Ruben was very likeable, in fact they were both struggling with addiction, but for me “not likeable” does not automatically mean I will dislike the story. I sympathized with Ruben’s struggle with alcoholism, and I think the attempt to make a parallel that Andy was also addicted to what he was doing and found it hard to quit did not work all that well, but I kind of appreciated that the narrative made the parallel in the first place.
This review made my day! I also dislike romance characters who are bad at their jobs.
Damon Suede is one of those authors that I want to like more than I actually do. I think I’ll skip this one.
@cleo: Thanks! The funny thing is that at least the fact that Ruben is bad at his job is acknowledged in the narrative, but I got the impression that I was supposed to believe that Andy was very good at his too. That I could not agree with at all.
Great review as usual, Sirius. I’ve been unsure if I should read this book or not because the reviews have been all over the place and more negative or meh than positive. At least I know if I do read it, not to expect much from the mystery aspect. :-D
@Liz (Bugetta): I am happy my review helped :-) and thanks.
Hi Sirius, thanks for this review. I agree completely with your assessment of the book, and yet I enjoyed it thoroughly, especially the first half. I pretty much ignored the suspense storyline – didn’t make sense to me either – and focused on the relationship/sexual tension. I love Damon Suede’s version of the slow burn. He makes words that should be a turn-off like “smeary” and “leaky” work for me. A couple of things tripped me up though. I hated that Ruben admitted to repeatedly cheating on his ex-wife. It was while he was enslaved to alcohol and I think he realized it was a crappy thing to do, but to me there wasn’t enough remorse for that behaviour. And the author mentioned Andy’s square-shaped head so many times that I was picturing Prince Charming from the Shrek movie — not a great image.
@Eliza: absolutely – I think sexual tension was so palpable in the first half one can feel it. So funny about Shrek image – I did not think about it but you are absolutely right. I am glad you enjoyed the book.