Thursday, May 2, 2024

Jesi Lea Ryan - Surreal Estate

Sasha Michaels is a psychic with an affinity for houses. And he’s homeless. Go figure. After months of sleeping rough, he stumbles upon an abandoned house, and the lonely place beckons him inside. He’s finally safe . . . until someone comes blundering in to his hideaway.
House-flipper Nick Cooper lost everything in the recession. Desperate to revive his business, he turns to a loan shark to fund his comeback project: flipping an abandoned house full of potential. But it turns out the house has an unexpected occupant.
Nick and Sasha make a deal: Sasha can stay in exchange for helping with the renovation. To both of their surprise, the closer they get to the loan shark’s due date, the stronger their feelings for each other grow. Problem is, Nick isn’t the only one with feelings for Sasha, and now the house doesn’t want to let Sasha go.

Comment: This book went into my TBR after I saw a positive review about it and decided that a story about a homeless psychic guy and a renovation expert down on his luck would be quite the challenge...

In this story we meet Sasha Michaels, who left home and became homeless when his he had a fallout with his mother, especially because he could not live with her addiction and what that meant. He has a small psychic power, though, a connection to houses, which made everything worse, as the vibe inside the house where his mother did things he doesn't want to imagine proves to be too strong. He stumbles upon an abandoned house one day and feels welcomed enough to try to sleep there, but is still surprised when Nick Cooper shows up and tells him he will flip the house to sell it.
Realizing Sasha's condition, Nick decides to let him stay in exchange for some with the renovation, but Sasha's family issues, his psychic issues and now Nick's deal with a loan shark make for a good reason to spend time together, and Nick learns he might not be as straight as he imagined, but is there any future for them?

At first, I felt this was quite the story and I confess I pictured many scenarios in how this plot would go, but the reality wasn't as smooth as I would have preferred. I should also say that I thought the loan shark part would be minimal and the story would be more focused on the romance, but that clearly was not the author's intention. That means that while the beginning was great and the end happier than what I assumed at some point, it still grated on my nerves how many pages included the loan shark and the negative aspects of Nick's deal, which is an elements I tend to dislike.

The story isn't bad if I only think about it in general terms. I don't mind that both protagonists were in a low moment of their lives but it is true that it would have been easier if one of them had been more at ease or had more confidence in his life, because that way the extra things to the romance could have meant more emphasis on it, instead of in trying to fix up some problems. I also would have liked that Nick could be at a better stage of his professional life for that, because then the story could more about the house flipping details - which I would have liked more - than the issues he had with shady deals.

The romance was also a little disappointing. Sasha is gay and is attracted to Nick, but Nick never saw himself as such, perhaps he contemplated the bi idea, but only now, and being divorced, is he seeing Sasha as more than just a guy who needs some help. There is also a small age gap between them, which doesn't tend to be a deal breaker for me if done convincingly, but I just could not see how their connection could be that amazing from the start. I don't think the author wrote things as well as it could be to give me the notion they were truly a devoted couple. Yes, they supported each other with actions, but I just could not be emotionally invested in them as a couple.

Nick has his money issues but he is a good guy, has a supporting family... he just read as a little immature (in my opinion) for someone who is in his mid to late 30s. Despite having problems and worries, I just could not see him as seriously as his character would have demanded.
As for Sasha, he is homeless but by his own decision, after certain circumstances which I can accept. He was more intriguing, and not only because of his affinity to houses. I think his family issues were dealt with in a good enough way, at least until the end.

Once the biggest conflicts about the house and Nick's issues are sort of solved (or oriented towards a positive outcome), the only big issue to fix is related to Sasha's mother and I'll say that the way this was done was incredibly thin in my opinion, not that believable, to be honest. I think the author wanted to portray things in a hopeful way, but to me it read as lacking plausibility. To me, the story would have been better if focused on the main characters's differences and what could bring them together. I'd also have preferred more house stuff and more psychic content, than the secondary family issues and the loan shark deal.
Still, this was readable.... perhaps not as wonderful as I imagined, but it did entertain enough.
Grade: 6/10


  1. What a shame! The general premise---homeless guy with an "affinity for houses" and guy who really needs to flip a house, coming together, then the house objecting--in intriguing, but trying to sort that conflict plus the shark loan plus one character's seems as if the story would lack focus. Also, the whole, "oh, I didn't realize I also liked guys" can very easily slip into "gay for you", which is a whole level of problematic.

    1. Hi!
      I don't generally hate the GFY idea, because I recognize that premise for what it is: the guy "discovering" he likes another guy wasn't really straight to begin with. Sometimes the emotional journey along with the physical can be interesting.
      I think my issue here was Nick's personality/characterization... I don't think the author wrote him in the best way. In regards to his sexuality, he does admit at some point he had thought about guys before, just never acted on it.