Reviewed by Helyce
From Goodreads: Bookworm Rhys lives in the idyllic town of Hawks Bridge and spends his days working at the local library, his evenings quietly reading. He thinks it’s all about books and even the occasional interruption ‘real life’ throws his way cannot change his beliefs. When car thief Darren arrives to do his community service, Rhys’s world is turned upside down. Rhys thinks the man is uneducated, only to find him reading classics. He expects him to behave like the criminal he is, only Darren doesn’t. While Rhys isn’t exactly out and proud, Darren is in denial about his sexuality. They are wrong for each other on so many levels, yet rejection only makes the need greater…
I was so pleasantly surprised with this short story. With its opposites attract theme, the author manages to give us a well rounded story with both humor and emotional angst in just 100 pages. Incredible!
Rhys is admittedly a bookworm/nerd of the highest order. He loves his librarian job, completely at home amongst the rows and rows of books. At home, he’s the same, perfectly content to while away the hours immersed in a book, escaping into whatever story he chooses. For the most part he is content. So he’s incredibly surprised by his reaction to Darren, the young man sent to the library to complete his community service hours for stealing a car.
“He wasn’t spotty, nor was he a kid-maybe nineteen years old, only four years younger than Rhys, with the freshest, clearest skin Rhys had ever seen, and the palest, greenest eyes like exotic seas. He’d never seen eyes like that before and he found himself staring, wondering if the man wore contact lenses.”
They immediately get off on the wrong foot and Rhys is released, Darren being transferred to another librarian to mentor. And this is where the story gets interesting and the title of the book comes into play. Rhys expected a thug, but he was so mistaken. After he catches Darren reading or having literary discussions with the other workers, he’s even more confused. His intelligence shines through and Rhys’s initial attraction grows. While Rhys hasn’t hid the fact that he’s gay, he certainly doesn’t flaunt it. But Darren comes off as ruler straight-until he steals a kiss that turns Rhys’s world upside down.
The angst and emotion come through in the form of a brutal beating to Rhys by a friend of Darren’s who means to “teach him a lesson”. While difficult to read, I found these gritty, violent scenes well written and emotionally charged. They further show that Darren is clearly confused and unmistakably caught between two worlds. Rhys, not wanting to risk any further confrontations, does nothing and attempts to just ignore Darren. But Darren is having none of that and continues to push himself into Rhys’s life.
Don’t want to give too much away, as this is a short story. We are left with an HFN and my favorite line in the book after Rhys reminds Darren that he’s said he isn’t gay.
“I lied. I’m bent as fuck.”
Ms. Blackwell is a new to me author, and after reading this, I’m looking forward to exploring her extensive backlist.