Friday, February 26, 2021

Cass Lennox - Blank Spaces

The decision to stop dating has made Vaughn Hargrave’s life infinitely simpler: he has friends, an excellent wardrobe, and a job in the industry he loves. That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection. But when a piece is stolen from his art gallery and insurance investigator Jonah Sondern shows up, Vaughn finds himself struggling with that decision.
Jonah wants his men like his coffee: hot, intense, and daily. But Vaughn seems to be the one gay guy in Toronto who doesn’t do hookups, which is all Jonah can offer. No way can Jonah give Vaughn what he really wants, not when Jonah barely understands what love is.
When another painting goes missing, tension ramps up both on and off the clock. Vaughn and Jonah find themselves grappling not just with stolen art, but with their own differences. Because a guy who wants nothing but romance and a guy who wants nothing but sex will never work—right? Not unless they find a way to fill in the spaces between them.

Comment: I had this book to read for a while now and I added it to my TBR because it would feature an asexual character, something not often seen in romances.

In this book we meet Vaughn Hargrave, a young man who loves art. He works for an at gallery in Toronto but things seem to be going badly because when the story begins, a painting has been stolen and it' not the first time it happens. By calling the insurance people, he expects things to go as they did but the experts think something weird is going on. One of them is Jonah, who when meeting Vaughn feels immediately attracted but it doesn't seem he is reciprocated. As the insurance issue keeps being dealt with, the two start spending time together here and there, especially because Jonah is a party man, always going from one hookup to another in the clubs. Vaughn, on the other hand, only goes out clubbing to dance and spend some time with his friends, since he isn't even interested in sex, which seems to be the goal of going out for most people. As things develop between them, though, can they be equals at all since they are so different in everything?

I feel like I could discuss pretty much every chapter of this book because in most of them there was something I found so annoying or so sad that it is difficult to be concise enough to actually write something that can make sense. I think the idea the author had of writing a series about different kinds of relationships (this being the 1st) is a great one, since evolution is slowly allowing people to be who they are and it is important for everyone to be represented on paper. I say this for the fact Vaughn is asexual seems to be the key element among several, to better appreciate this novel.

In fact, Vaughn's discovery of his sexual identity is my favorite part of the story and I think it was subtle and well paced and it probably helped those readers who identify themselves as asexual too, especially because it's not something that happens very often. Also, I should say that this is a romance and is marketed as such which very likely gave some readers curiosity in how things would be developed between someone asexual and someone who is a serial hookup defender...the two are, sort of, in the two extremes of the sexual will after all.

I suppose I can say I just summarized the things that felt special about this book because from now on, I'm afraid I don't have many positive things to say and will include spoilers...

Again, spoilers ahead!

I think Jonah is an extremely complex character, seriously in need of therapy for abandonment issues and his role as the significant other for Vaughn completely out of tune. I am not convinced these two characters would have what was necessary to be a full time couple because what they want out of a relationship is too different. They work as friends and I could buy into the connection they form, I could almost welcome how much of a shoulder Vaughn can be for Jonah in the hard times, as well as good friend Jonah can be for Vaughn with his doubts on  who he is.

This is not the question, they are good together but NOT as a couple. I just don't buy it and the fact things end with an open relationship between them where their emotional connection, their feelings are in sync but the rest isn't, not only feels like a weak power balance but it's an unfair one too, for both of them: Can Vaughn hold on to the fact he only has a part of Jonah and so breezily accept his other sexual encounters when he only wants his emotional closeness? And is it that positive for Jonah to maintain his emotional and sexual needs so several apart?

The thing is, reading about Jonah makes me think of that song by Kelly Clarkson, "piece by piece" because in the root of Jonah's (seemingly) sexual addiction is an absolute sense of abandonment and not just an intense appreciation for sex. I feel if it was so, then his emotional behavior would read how that affects Vaughn or any partner he might have and it feels like he will never go past that. He needs therapy to deal with such strong issues... and thus why I didn't like this novel more, I just can't understand how this was not addressed and, in contrast, it seems as if the author wanted to be unconventional by letting the guys fall into an "open relationship" which feels really unbalanced,no matter how the parties go into it or whatever expectations they want out of one. 

I just feel Jonah has too many things to deal with - some we see happen during the plot's development - and he doesn't really reach that point of letting himself change for the better. Isn't that what one would want of a mature and stable relationship, whatever label it might have? I think Vaughn gained something from being with Jonah but it isn't fair to him how things end and Jonah doesn't really learn whatever he needs to be able to be with someone... I'm not saying people should not be in open relationships (although I personally don't believe in the concept) but how could this be a choice for someone like Jonah who does it because of a false response to a problem he isn't coping with well? At least not without addressing it in the first place.

I feel sad for Jonah, reading the kind of emotions he has over being abandoned by his mother, I wish I could help him, even though he is a fictional character... I just think it's so sad he is in such a place and the story had so much going on (plot, Vaughn's asexuality, Jonah's behavior) that all the scenes with his casual hookups make me angry, they were so mean at times and I'm sad that he wasn't given the chance to properly cope... ah well....

So, although there is a lot going on - I won't even mention the art gallery plot because it's rather simple - the focus for me was definitely in this and even though Vaughn's character is interesting, I feel I can't get past the things I disliked/feel weren't done well enough. I would not call this a romance because if there was one things this certainly was it would be romantic.

Grade: 5/10

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