Sunday, November 24, 2013

4 stars for With or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg

Synopsis: "The most dangerous refuge could be his lover's arms. "

Everyone has at least one deep-seated fear. For Tyler, it's being in debt. He's so desperate to get out and stay out of it, he'll do almost anything-including selling his body at Saturday night sex parties.

But he refuses to open his mind to anyone, especially the men paying to use him however they want. The only time he's truly happy is during the week at college, when he can escape into his music.

The moment Haris sees Tyler playing piano at a concert, he falls hard, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to make the guy his. Even if it means-for the first time in his life-opening his wallet as wide and desperate as his heart.

20,000 to live with a good-looking guy for four months? How can Tyler resist the chance to ditch the sex party scene for good? But neither man realizes how much they're risking. And when outside forces close in, ready to destroy them, the trickiest part about the next four months could be just surviving.

Warning: Contains a "for hire" bad boy with a filthy mouth, an awkward guy with a penchant for BDSM, a hypochondriac butler who won't shut up, a dog called Alcide, and a lot of hot and dirty M/M sex.

 There's a lot I liked about this story. I've always felt that Barbara Elsborg does a very good job with M/M relationships in her books. They feel very authentic to me, so when I saw this release,I wanted to give it a read. Very hot cover, too.

In this story, Tyler is a college student paying off his loans by selling his body to other men at Saturday night "parties" set up by a man named Prescott. Tyler doesn't really like what he's doing, but he likes the money. When Tyler encourages the new boy, Jeremy, to stay away and not live this lifestyle, he buys himself a heap of trouble from Prescott, who then retaliates with demands that mess with Tyler's college music recital and his life in general.

Haris is a wealthy man who happens to be at the recital and overhears what's going on. He's intrigued and on a hunch, he follows Tyler. Good thing he does, because Tyler is in some trouble. When Haris saves him, so begins their relationship.

Haris makes a deal with Tyler to live with him, but he also has problems of his own that impact how he reacts in his life. His secrets aren't revealed until the end of the story, so its tempting to judge him as just a rich and selfish man who only knows how to buy his way into and out of relationships.

But the reader does get some of the innermost thoughts of both men. I thought this was a great way to show how these men felt about each other, but they end up acting in a different way. I liked having that glimpse into their fears and desires and watching how each interaction brought them closer to sharing what was really in their hearts. It did take a long time for that to happen, but it seemed very believable considering what these characters have been through.Some of my favorite scenes were those that had Tyler trying to break Haris from his tight shell of control.

There's a nice little mystery plot threaded through this that I really enjoyed. I appreciated the twists and turns in the story and that there were multiple villains to choose from. Kept me guessing all the way until the end.

This is a very rich story, with many twists and turns and interesting reveals of the background of both of these men. Honestly, Tyler and Haris's backstory broke my heart and I was rooting for them to overcome their history so they could find happiness together.

I read this book in less than a day. The story held my interest in a way that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens to Tyler and Haris. Even though a good part of the story was dark, I liked the complexity and diversity of it.

I think it's challenging to write sex scenes dealing with prostitution without sensationalizing sex-for-hire and Barbara Elsborg does a great job with this. I really liked the contrast between the prostitution sex and the love scenes between Tyler and Haris. That was very well done.

So great main characters, even though Haris was bit frustrating with his jumping to conclusions. I liked that his trying to use his money to buy everyone was a subject that was dealt with thanks to the fabulous and funny butler Wilson. I loved his contributions to the plot, his sense of humor and his common sense were a relief to the darkness of this story.

So overall, a good read for me. If you like M/M stories with realism, you might like this one.

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