I’m not a motorcycle club romance kind of girl. I tend to like my books heavy on the courtship, with scenes that really show the relationship building. Most MC club books are about the sexy and tend to have heroes who throw around the words “bitch” and “whore” way too much for my taste. Which is why I was so surprised to find myself utterly engrossed by this novella about an ex-con MC member and – this is the literal term for it – a club whore.
Bo Phelps has had something of a difficult life. His father disappeared (Bo firmly believes he was killed) which resulted in his mom shacking up with a guy from the local biker gang called The Gutters. When he was just 18, and in order to stay on the good side of the club, Bo wound up in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Out after six long years, he doesn’t find much to look forward to in the future. All he is sure of is that working for The Gutters isn’t the life he wants. Nevertheless, after a disappointing first night home that features a dinner with his murdering stepdad and a night on his brother’s lumpy couch, he finds himself at the Gut Shot bar awaiting orders from the leader of the MC club.
His first assignment is easy: get laid. After some debate as to just whom he should sleep with it’s determined that he should be with Sydney. She’s lowest on the totem pole of club whores since she’s no one’s favorite, but as property of the Gutters it’s her duty to let the guys do whatever they want to her whenever they want. Bo heads to her trailer expecting a woman who is fat, ugly, lazy or all three combined. He’s shocked by what he finds.
Sydney is pretty, patient and kind. She’s not a favorite with the club because she doesn’t fake orgasms or make them in any way feel good about themselves. However, the fact that Bo is interested enough to give her pleasure has her giving it back to him in spades. Bo finds his second night of freedom much better than the first. From the supreme pizza to the endless sex combined with surprisingly good conversation his time with this near stranger is far superior to the time he spends with his family and supposed friends. It doesn’t take long before he knows he wants to stake Sydney out as his favorite, keeping the rest of the Gutters away from her. But even if he does that, where will that leave them? Are both of them destined to be the property of this gang forever, constantly afraid that saying or doing the wrong thing could get them killed?
This isn’t a pretty story. The language is crude, the sex is graphic and the setting is as far removed from glamorous as one can get.
But this is an amazing romance. The sex goes from meaningless coupling to actual love-making very quickly. Sydney and Bo care about each other and like each other, even when their relationship isn’t meant to be anything more than a hooker/john affair. They fall into love in a sort of bemused fashion, neither having expected it and initially, neither accepting that the feelings are as strong and as real as they are. When people say silly things like “I would trade everything I have for a love like that” what Bo and Sydney have is what they mean. Their connection is strong, visceral, and life-changing. They’re the Romeo and Juliet of the trailer-park set.
Both of these characters are fringe members of the world in which they dwell, which might be why I found I could relate to them a little better than I normally do to people in MC club books. Bo has been a part of this particular violent universe since his stepdad moved in, but he has memories of being just a regular kid in a working class family. He longs to go back to that. That longing and those memories mean that unlike the other gang affiliates he doesn’t have a deep scorn for all women, doesn’t crave violence and isn’t even into drugs. He just wants an ordinary, everyday life and as much as he can he fakes having one till he can make it actually happen. Don’t get me wrong, he still starts out treating Sydney like she somehow owes him sex, but he brings a kindness and thoughtfulness to that asinine behavior that makes his gradual change into a decent man and loving partner believable.
Sydney is a good girl who life knocked into a bad path, and she still carries a certain naiveté and sweetness about her. She knows she is unlikely to keep that if her life keeps going down this road. Her plans to fix her problems aren’t ideal but you get a strong sense that this is a choice made when good decisions aren’t really an option. I can’t say that I liked and respected her, but I also didn’t feel it was my place to judge. She transcended character in a romance into real person just enough that I accepted her for who she was rather than how I felt she should have been written.
The book did have some flaws. Sydney is prey to what I call “must love daddy” syndrome, a common ailment among romance heroines in which a daughter is literally willing to sell her freaking soul to pay off her father’s debts/fix his problems/keep him from getting killed/make him smile or earn his approval. I really wish they would find a cure for that since it has taken so many good women. Yes, these ladies find true love but I yearn for that discovery to come with a nice backbone. But I digress. The other problems all tend to be typical romance novel tropes as well – a too sweet HEA, enough forgiveness/open-mindedness to make the characters look like angels rather than actual humans, and a rather neat and tidy ending. Those quibbles were just enough to keep this from reaching DIK status but not enough to keep me from urging you to drop everything and buy this book.
This is my first novel by this author, bought and read on a whim after reading a few too many “sweet” romances. I wanted something a bit gritty and frankly expected to DNF it. I received much more than I ever expected and am so happy to be able to recommend Used to other readers.