Price of a Kiss, by Linda Kage

Price of a Kiss

Grade: C+

Doing it at: 85%

Catnip: Just a Gigolo; Hot Neighbor; Dangerous Ex; Friends to Lovers

Shame Scale: Not the high shame book that I wanted.

Fantasy Cast: Theo James, Teresa Palmer

What does he taste like?: Relief and devotion

Book Description:

I don’t care what my cousin says; I am not the queen of impossible relationships. I mean, just because my last boyfriend tried to kill me and left a bit of a scar on my neck, then forced me to move across the country and legally change my name to Reese Randall to escape him, does not mean-

Oh, who am I kidding? For a freshman in college, I have to have the worst dating track record ever.

It’s no wonder love is the last thing on my mind when Mason Lowe enters my life. But the chemistry between us is like bam! Our connection defies logic. And he’s just so freaking hot. Being around him makes me feel more alive than I’ve ever felt before. I even like bickering with him. He could be my soul mate…except for one teeny tiny glitch.

He’s a gigolo.

Boy, do I know how to pick them.

This was the second book I read in Linda Kage’s Forbidden Men series. I broke my “read all series in order” rule, and started out with To Professor, with Love back when I was on a teacher/student kick (I just like that stuff, ok?), and enjoyed it much more than I was expecting. When I saw that Cleone had dropped this one in the family library, I was super excited to read it while on my vacation – the whole stripper/hooker trope is right up there with stepbrothers for me.

This was the first book I read on our trip, when all my traveling companions learned that, “What are you reading?” will usually get you something like, “Well it’s about a girl who had to change her name and go into hiding because her ex-boyfriend tried to kill her, and she meets this guy who’s stupid hot, who turns out to be a gigolo, and they both really want each other, but he can’t quit his job because he needs to support his mother and disabled sister. It’s really emotional.”

At least that’s how I described it to my cousin who is literally a rocket scientist. He was reading non-fiction, did not seem interested in reading my book, and consequently I’m positive he did not enjoy his vacation nearly as much as I did. Nine days of pina coladas and ten trash books, vs nine days of pina coladas and one boring non-fiction book about the history of the conflict in Iran? Clearly I was YOLO’ing way harder than him.

Reese has just transferred to a community college, and the book opens with her and her cousin talking about the Hot Thing across the quad. Her cousin is all, “Yeah, he’s the hottest of all time, but you can’t afford him. Literally. He’s a gigolo.” Then Reese and Hot Thing share some sizzling eye contact – until he notices her cousin with her, and then he glares at them like they’re a bunch of girls gossiping about him being a sex worker (which they are), and storms off.

Later, Reese shows up to her new babysitting job, which turns out to be at Mason’s (Hot Thing’s) house, babysitting his young teen sister who has cerebral palsy. Mason is very protective of his sister, and acts over the top standoffish to Reese. When Mason returns home that night, Reese accidentally walks in on him post shower. She ogles him like he’s a juicy steak, and manages to reference the fact that she knows what his “real” job is. In other words, she does not endear herself to Mason who already seems to hate her, and who is only selling his body to take care of his mother and sister. He’s a noble prostitute, you guys.

The next day, Reese sees Mason at school, and decides to try and apologize to him by giving him her breakfast. It works, they strike up a friendship, largely based on Mason eating any and all food she may have on her. Between seeing each other at school and at Mason’s house when Reese is babysitting, the two of them really start to fall for each other. There’s lots of lingering touches, long smoldering looks, almost kisses… but Reese knows that she absolutely can not have a relationship with a man who is sleeping with other women for money.

Mason on the other hand, feels trapped – he’s torn between his growing feelings for Reese, and supporting his mother and sister. Every time he has tried to get out of the gigolo life in the past, money has gotten tight and his clients have offered more and more money. He also has some pretty rough self esteem issues, seeing himself as permanently dirty, tainted from what he’s had to do with his hot, hot body.

Because things have been rough for Mason. In a flashback, we learn that he lost his virginity to his horrid landlord at age 18, when she told him he could bang her and pay off their back rent, or not bang her and get evicted. The landlord is still around, pulling Mason’s strings and setting him up with new clients. This story does not romanticize prostitution in anyway, it’s pretty heavy actually. And I’m not too proud to admit that as well done as this was, I was kind of looking for something a little more on the lighter, fun side of the skin industry. Maybe a little more Pretty Woman, a little less American Gigolo.

Also – there’s a secondary plot involving Reese’s ex boyfriend, who tried to kill her, and forced her to change her name and go into hiding. Despite having all the elements of a ridiculous, bananas romance, Kage manages to pull it all together, into something surprisingly serious and emotional.

And I liked Reese a lot. She’s honest and cheeky, with a decent backbone.

“Right,” I finished slowly. “Well… this should be fun.” I couldn’t wait to meet his cherry-popping cougar pimp landlady again. Said no one ever.

My big complaint about this book? You guys, it’s about a gigolo. And there was no hokey pokey till 85%. I know, I know. This book had a pretty big focus on how hard it was for Mason, being coerced into an occupation he hated and objectified by every woman he met. And I get that prostitution is not a fun thing, but I just thought there should be a little more D in a romance with a hot cover, thats about a male prostitute.

Also, gigolo is just an inherently silly word that brings things like this to mind:

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