Just when I thought I wasn’t in the mood for a book like this, I ended up devouring it. The idea of a story about a male gigolo, apart from forever reminding me of Rob Schneider in the movie Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and making me giggle like an idiot, just never appealed to me in the slightest. So, I started reading this book expecting not to be impressed. Boy, was I wrong! The story flows so naturally and so beautifully and before I realized it I was trapped in it, completely invested in the characters and their fates.
But this is not your Disney-variety love story. The hero – Adrian – is a male gigolo, a man paid for sex, a man very good at what he does and highly in demand by his exclusive clients, and the heroine – Billie – is a reporter hired to interview him and write an article on his unique lifestyle. Billie has never met anyone like Adrian before. While she knows that everything he tells her about himself and the way he acts with her is all part of his gigolo persona, he manages to get under her skin and before you know it he is all she can think about. However, it is Adrian’s reaction to Billie that is most exciting. She clearly does not belong in his world but she never judges him and offers him only kindness and honesty. By doing this, she slowly divests him of all his defenses, one by one, leaving him vulnerable and exposed. She makes him question his life choices and for the first time in his life Adrian is not in control of himself. He starts questioning everything in his life.
Adrian did nothing for me while he was in ‘gigolo mode’ but every time Christopher appeared, even just as a twinkle in Adrian’s eyes or an unguarded reaction to something that Billie said or did, my heart missed a beat. His defenselessness was intoxicating and made those scenes where he fought his feelings for Billie by maintaining his gigolo façade all the more appealing. The chemistry between Adrian/Christopher and Billie was so potent and palpable that it permeated every scene they were in together. I have rarely come across such a well-written and intense love scene as the one when they finally consummate their relationship in the biblical sense – all NINE pages of it! Words escape me, for once. It wasn’t just the perfect climax to their ever-growing attraction, it was also the perfect expression of the intensity of their feelings for each other. It literally brought tears to my eyes.
The battle in Adrian is trifold – he fights his feelings for Billie which make him lose control and remind him of someone he used to be a long time ago; he fights Billie and her feelings for him, believing that he is undeserving of her love; and he fights against himself and what is left of Christopher in him.
“In another time, another place, he could have loved this woman. He could have deserved her love. But the sentiment was as far removed from his grasp as reality was from Avalon. He’d forfeited it in exchange for life in a gilded cage, and his relationship with Billie was a casualty of that choice, plain and simple.”
Billie falls for Adrian much more easily that he does for her. She is unafraid of those feelings because she sees the man behind the gigolo act and she is willing to risk her own heartbreak while fighting for him. But she is not prepared to compromise her own integrity and what she believes real love should be like.
“Walking away from you with a broken heart is easier to handle than selling my soul to make love with you. I’m sorry, Adrian. I might be lonely, and naïve, and all the things you think about me. But I’m also true to myself, and I won’t denigrate my feelings for you. They’re much too precious in a world that offers so little love.”
This book truly blew away all my expectations. There was nothing tacky or too predictable in this story. We knew Adrian and Billie would end up together, that was a given, but I never expected to encounter such depth in the development of these characters, Adrian in particular. Maybe the ending was a bit rushed, maybe I would have preferred a lengthier anti-climax, maybe I would have liked to find out a bit more about Billie and her story, but I guess this book was all about Adrian’s journey of self-awareness, regret, forgiveness and self-acceptance. Their love story was the trigger and Adrian would have probably never made those choices without Billie’s love and support, but it did not take away from the enormousness of the journey itself.
Ms Reed is a masterful wordsmith. Her descriptions are skillfully intertwined between dialogues and they are superb – “Seconds ticked by. Dread tightened her chest, closed her throat, ached in the marrow of her bones like a pervading cancer.” Her words can manipulate every single emotion that she wishes you to feel, leaving you raw and breathless.