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“Rent boy rule number one: Never fall in love with a customer.”
Life as a rent boy is not a long-term career goal for Nathan, who’s determined to get an education. But when he turns up for his first day at college he’s horrified to find his English teacher is one of his regular customers: Stephen, the one Nathan dubbed The Voice for his educated, honeyed tones.
Stephen’s just as shocked to see Nathan sitting in his class, not to mention terrified he’s about to be exposed as having paid for sex with a student which would mean public humiliation and maybe the loss of his job. Yet it’s clear Nathan is only interested in getting his A Levels, not in blackmail. And Stephen realizes there’s more to the nineteen-year-old than meets the eye.
Nathan still has to earn a living, though, and when a customer turns ugly, he finds himself homeless and unable to work. Stephen steps in to help, and Nathan starts to think they could have a future together if Stephen’s guilt and lack of trust don’t end their back-to-front romance before it starts.
It’s true that I kept hearing my favorite Brit’s accent in my head when reading this story, but personal unique selling points aside; this was a delightful read. If you figure that very little can go wrong with a May-December romance between a rent boy and his client who one day turns out to be – sensation and scandal! – his erudite English professor, you’re right.
Raising the Rent is an extended, revamped version of the short story ‘Beauty Does’, that was previously published in the Sindustry anthology. Merrow was glad to be given the chance by her new publisher to let this short story breathe a little more. And honestly, you’d have to force me to read a stripped-down version; this new 75 pages novella is perfect as it is. BTW, now that I’m mentioning the page count; don’t let the supposed 98 pages mislead you (87 pages on my ereader). These include 10 pages of adverts and excerpts for other books. With a novella there’s already so few pages to enjoy. Don’t pubs realize how disappointing it is to happily read a story, thinking you have at least another 10 pages to go, only to discover that your story ends on the very next page? Personally, it puts a bit of a damper on my overall enjoyment.
Anyway, back to the book itself. Raising the Rent is not one of those books where you have to suspend all disbelief to enjoy the characters’ actions and adventures. Merrow doesn’t make use of soap opera-ish elements or grand gestures to keep her story rolling. Instead, both the story, despite its swoon-worthy Pretty Woman echoes, and its characters feel very real. Add to that a few spoons of British charm, a pinch of humor, a streetwise rent boy and his sophisticated English professor, a dash of angst, a few condoms too many, but above all; a gently flowing love story that may or may not have made me reread it the minute I finished it. Recommended? Yes, luv!