Review: The Arrangement, by Felice Stevens

Blurb:

cover-felicestevens-thearrangementCarter Haywood lives for the weekends—specifically the one weekend every month when he escapes real life, with all the pressures of work and caring for his special needs brother, to do whatever he wants, with whomever he wants. Sex is only a release; he’s not looking for love, a relationship or even a second night with the same man, until he walks into a bar and finds someone who makes leaving it all behind impossible. After one incredibly passionate encounter, he breaks his rule and goes back. He needs to see this man again. And again.

Damaged goods. That’s all Reed Kincaide sees and hears when he looks in the mirror. Anxiety and ADHD define his life and he’s learned to keep people at a distance, never letting them get close enough to know who he really is. When Carter proposes a monthly weekend of sex without strings, it’s the ideal arrangement for him. Or so he thinks. Every month, leaving Carter proves to be more and more difficult. It’s not only the intensely hot sex they have in their hotel suite; Reed wonders about the secret life Carter refuses to share.

As months pass and they grow closer Reed finds himself falling for Carter, but he needs more than hurried hugs and farewell kisses. He wants it all. Letting Reed into his carefully constructed family life could upset Carter’s whole world, but it might be the risk he’s finally willing to take, if it means keeping Reed. Once bodies are engaged, the heart is sure to follow, and Carter and Reed discover that holding on to each other is the first step in letting go of the past.


Stats:

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Genre:
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Dates read:
Edition read:
July 20, 2016
Self-Published, Felice Stevens
Contemporary, M/M, LGBT+
201 e-book pages
3rd person
Stand-Alone
July 28-30, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Review:

It appears I have a dissenting opinion from the masses of other reviews I’ve seen. Eek.

The “arrangement” trope typically bugs the crap outta me. I mean…I get the whole booty call thing. That’s fine and all, as long as parties agree to what’s what. But the premise of “we’ll get together once a month for a fuck, that’s it, don’t dare call me in between, okay maybe we’ll share a meal, and maybe we’ll snuggle for 5 minutes after” just, ya know, doesn’t fall into my scope of believability. Somehow I differentiate booty-call from an arrangement like this, even though they’re quite similar. Maybe it’s that it was a scheduled booty call.

That made me leery going into this.

But it was NEW.

Lot’s of people jumped all over it.

Also, I’d been wanting to read Felice Stevens for a while now.

It ended up working for me okay. Just okay, along with touching on some peeves.

Carter has a difficult situation. He’s got sole custody of his very young half-brother, Jacks, who has some developmental problems, maybe Autism, maybe Aspergers. It could be any number of things that I’m not schooled enough to speculate about. Change is hard for Jacks, so is trust, so is communication and socializing with others. Not to mention the fact that his mother abandoned him on his brother’s front stoop telling the kid: don’t fuck this up because nobody wants you. Carter stepped up to the plate and vowed to give little bro every opportunity and every advantage he possibly could, along with a stable home where he’d KNOW, beyond doubt, he was loved and wanted. Essentially, the childhood Carter never had. Part of that vow included Carter not dating, or bringing anyone home to disrupt the balanced calm he was trying to build and maintain. Everything he does is for Jacks, so there’s not much he’s doing for himself except the one weekend a month he reluctantly gallivants off to the city to hook up, let loose, get laid, what have ya.

Never a repeat performance with the same guy. Never a date.

Rarely paying attention to so much as a name.

Thanks for all the sex, you can go now. Here’s a pat on the ass as gratitude-n-such.

Until….

Reed.

There’s just that magical somethin’ somethin’ about Reed.

And I think that’s why I have such a hard time with this trope because it’s more heavily dependent on *magical connection* and the *electric touch* which make me roll my eyes. It’s rarely about the person until so much later in the story. I get this is also the case in other tropes, but here it’s much more in my face.

The hookup took off like a rocket. I suppose they do in general, as hookups go. I mean…some people successfully use the pickup line “wanna fuck?” I don’t think I know those people, but I’m sure it happens. Not that I was expecting wining and dining, but Carter was kissing Reed with tongue awfully fast, I thought. Maybe that’s just me, but it takes a few minutes of provocative chit chat and original flirting I can appreciate before I’m gonna consider inviting someone’s tongue in my mouth. A sweaty, dirty whirl on the dance floor where I can get a feel for their moves can help things along. Just sayin’.

I never warmed up to Carter. Props for taking care of his brother. But that wasn’t enough balance against his bad traits for me to really be on his side. One of my biggest peeves with him was turning heartfelt statements from Reed into sexual innuendo. I HATE THAT undermining bullshit when someone is sharing something meaningful that gets twisted into a stupid joke where everyone laughs and laughs. That’s the quickest way for me to walk away from a person or conversation. Because nothing said after that will be respected or heard. I lost my ability to respect him after a few of those instances. Not to mention the few times he treated Reed to some despicable behavior or contradicted himself within just a few pages.

 

Reed, though, I really liked him. He was pure kindness through and through. Struggling with balancing ADHD and Anxiety Disorder, accepting that he needed to take his meds seriously and on time, I thought he was portrayed beautifully. He had tremendous strength even though it took him a while to see his own worth. And he had the best dad ever.

Reed began nudging Carter for more than once-a-month sex-only interludes; dinner, movies, shopping, conversation, etc. in an attempt to add some variety to sweaty hotel sex. And while I felt he was selling himself short for putting up with some shitty treatment, I appreciated so much when he said he couldn’t do it anymore because it wasn’t working for him.

It also felt that the “arrangement” aspect went on way too long with a lot of the same thing, adding minor variations to chip away at Carter’s defenses until it was glaringly obvious to the characters that something needed to change. Me? I was chanting Come On Already!

I never felt the flip switch with Carter from his tom-cat ways to wanting to try a relationship. There were a few minor, almost subliminal, actions on his part but I never saw the actual A-Ha moment. It’s almost like he went into it dragging his heels…and that’s…that’s not exactly a partner I’d get all gooey over.

Once an actual relationship started falling into place, it was lovely and much easier than either of them anticipated with a few understandable bumps along the way. I wish the relationship building side had been explored a bit more to steer the focus toward brighter days and quicken the pace. Even with them as an item they had plenty of juicy adjustments and challenges to delve into. But once they were together I was all on board for a lovely ride.

It just took way too long to get there. Just like…me…getting to the end of this review.

All these gripes make it sound like I despised this book, and I didn’t. There were parts I liked and in an overall perspective I found the writing to be strong and technically sound with lots of praise worthy prose. And yes, good sex scenes.

I’m gonna pick up another Felice Stevens soon and hope for better luck next go ‘round.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Arrangement, by Felice Stevens

    • Gah! Hated those movies.
      In M/M Romancelanida, Six Degrees of Lust by Taylor V. Donovan begins almost along these same lines, but the attraction is acknowledged sooner and there was SO much else going on at the same time that it wasn’t the prevailing theme. I think that’s key – quick realization and tuck it in around a larger plot thread.

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