The Night Porter

2,463 Views

Title: The Night Porter
Author: Sue Brown
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary m/m
Buy Link: The Night Porter
Length: Novella (84 pdf pages)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary Review: A lonely dreamer on the search for the love of his life and a prospective groom just prior to his wedding day share an experience which could easily change the course of both their lives – if they would only allow it.

A Guest Review by Feliz


The Blurb:

The first time Max lays eyes on Robert Armitage, he knows exactly what he wants to happen. Tall, broad, and gorgeous, Robert pushes all his buttons. When Robert asks Max to show him around town, the attraction between them only intensifies. But Max is just a night porter and Robert a guest at his hotel before his wedding, and Max knows even as they sleep together that in the morning he’ll have to send the groom on his way.

The Review:

Max Whiteley is an expatriate Texan, working as a night porter in a small, old-style London hotel. Robert Armitage checks into Max’s hotel three days before his wedding. Max has seen many men like Robert walk in through his hotel’s door (for some reason his hotel seems to be popular for prospective grooms to wait for their wedding day there), and he has seen them walk out again. Many of those men seek out a last sexual adventure before they get married, some at one of the nearby clubs, and some – with the good-looking night porter.

Max is immediately attracted to his handsome fellow countryman, but he knows from the beginning that this attraction can’t go anywhere, so he fights it. Every step of the way, as it turns out, since the two men keep running into each other, until they end up spending an entire afternoon together with Max playing tourist guide for an excited and wide-eyed Robert. It is during this afternoon that Max realizes he could easily fall for Robert. Even though Max knows that he’s already deeper in than is good for his peace of mind, he allows himself to be dragged along. He doesn’t resist Robert’s innocent curiosity, Robert’s fierce need. Max takes another step and another, indulging in a dream which he knows  is impossible to come true and yet is desperate to make happen,  until it’s too late and he wakes up in Robert’s arms.

Max and Robert are polar opposites.  Max has had countless flings, but he’s never been in a relationship. He’s strictly and openly gay whereas Robert is a virgin, as he has comitted himself to not having extramarital sex, same as his fiance with whom  he has been together for four years. He has obviously never dared to explore his own sexuality, although he seems to be tentatively interested in men as well as in women. However, Robert is a healthy twenty-three year old who is hurting for sex due to his self-inflicted celibacy, and when he picks up from Max that there might be the slightest possibility for a mutual attraction, Robert pushes and pushes until he gets what he wants – and then some, since the way Max makes him feel has the potential to actually turn Robert’s self-perception upside down.
It is Max, though, who should have nipped the whole thing in the bud. Still, Max sends out mixed signals to Robert. It is not entirely due to Robert’s pushing that they land in bed together, and it is Max who doesn’t stop Robert from going further along the way while he still can. He’s the more experienced, the one who should have known better. It is painful to watch how Max drifts off into his dream world where he can have a future with Robert.  There is one heartbreaking moment where the story is actually on a knife edge, where I as a reader sat biting my nails, wanting to yell at the guys to open their eyes, to take the leap of faith, to realize that they are made for each other… and again it’s Max who tips the scales. Now that it’s way too late for both of them, he applies full brakes. It is not so much Robert who walks out on Max, but Max who shoves Robert out of the door and into the arms of his fiancee.

Max, as a character is not easy to take to. For one, he’s an incorrigible dreamer, always looking for something, or rather someone, as in Mr. Right, while at the same time putting up with Mr. Wrong more often than not. He is also very unconfident which shows in the choices he makes: working a lonely, mundane job in an unremarkable hotel, messing around with men who he can be sure won’t want anything else but sex from him instead of really going after his stated aim. He comes across as a coward, not least because there is obviously no reason for the way he lives: he is good-looking, educated, from a wealthy family. His reasons remain veiled.
Robert, on the other hand, is easy to like; very much like a big bear cub.  He is rather naive although he goes for what he wants with determination. At times, it seems that Robert is the one who falls prey to Max instead of the other way round. Robert doesn’t emerge unscathed, not at all;  sex is a big thing for him, after all, and Max makes Robert throw all his principles overboard. What’s more, Max opens Robert’s eyes to a new image of himself, one which Robert is far from accepting, but which is bound to cast a shadow over his marriage and maybe his entire future life.

Forced separation is often used as a plot device, although it has usually happened in the past with the respective story starting when the heroes meet unexpectedly, years later. What we have here is the back story without the HEA resolve, unhappiness in the making, and it’s so sad to watch. It’s also true, for that’s what life is like most of the times.

Opinions may differ on this story. It doesn’t  end on a hopeful note, it leaves the reader hanging there, longing, just like it leaves Max, but still…still…there’s the what if, there’s the if only, and the imagination starts spinning – all by itself.

The writing, by the way, was great, although I didn’t much care for the author chewing away at  the “Buttercup and Westley” motive.

Don’t read this when you’re already depressed, it will move you to tears.  This story is a perfect match for Dreamspinner’s “Bittersweet Dreams” motto, a love which is foredoomed to failure and yet strong enough to touch people’s hearts. It did mine, anyhow.

22 thoughts on “The Night Porter

  1. Cole

    I really want to read this, but I’m scared… I’m scared Feliz! I like my men to end up together and happy, especially if there’s another person one might go back to… so I’m not sure if this is for me, unless I’m feeling particularly masochistic, that is :)

    Please tell me that hope is not lost, lol.

    1. Feliz Post author

      Hi Cole,

      you’re busy as of late, kudos to you!
      The Night Porter is a wonderful story, and no, I don’t think hope is lost entirely. The author leaves both the reader and Max hanging with her last sentence in a very artful way, don’t know how else I should say it. She closes the novel and still leaves everything open. So it depends on how you read it, you might still find hope.

  2. Wave

    Very moving story Feliz. I was almost in tears reading how this story took a turn…. and not where I wanted it to go.

    I know that this is a Bittersweet Dreams title but still …..

    Great job on the review Feliz.

    1. Feliz Post author

      Thanks Wave,

      Those Bittersweets…I think this a wonderful idea from DSP. The Night Porter shows in a wonderful way how a story can follow “familiar m/m patterns” and still be so very different, and with nothing lacking.

      Hamlet doesn’t have a HEA, either, and it’s still great ;-) ;-)

  3. Buda

    Feliz, I’ve been waiting weeks for your review! I absolutely loved this book and I’m glad to see it affected you, too.

    You mentioned you thought Max cowardly, but I thought of him as lost–and stuck to some extent. He knows what he wants, but he doesn’t really know how to get it. Or, perhaps, he is afraid to get it. Either way, I wanted to pull a Cher in Moonstruck in the end: smack them across the face and yell, “Snap out of it!”

    Great review! I’m looking forward to more Bittersweet Dreams titles.

    1. Feliz Post author

      Hi Buda,

      I agree, Max is stuck somehow. But I think it’s his own fault; as I said, he could easily have another life would he only grab it. Coward might be too hard a word; on the other hand how do you call a man who should know better, who could have better but is too afraid to go for it?
      However, I wanted to smack him, too.

  4. Tam

    Okay, I’m passing on this one. Too much of a depressing ending even if the story itself was well done. No tears for me, I have enough real life for that. :-)

  5. LadyM

    I’m skipping all Bittersweet Dreams for obvious reasons. I have enough reality in everyday life, I need my escapism. ~_^ If the writers decide to write the sequels – I’ll think about it, but at this point, I have to have at least HFN.

    Thank you for the review. It would be nice if all the reviewers mention which stories belonged to BD so the readers like me can just look elsewhere. XD

    1. Wave

      LadyM
      I think so far only Feliz has reviewed Bittersweet Dreams titles so you’re safe. lol. However I’ll make a note and ask the guest reviewers to note in their reviews any books that are BD titles.

      To make it up to you, look out for my review tomorrow of a wonderful romance that will lift you up. lol

  6. Amanda

    Feliz great review. I am also a person that will not be reading this book because I prefer HEA or HFN. That said I am really glad that DP started the Bittersweet Dream books. It shows growth in the genre and that I feel is a good thing.

  7. S.

    I am normally an always, always HEA (or HFN) type of reader, but sometimes, I really want to feel that heart-wrenching pain from stories.

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Bittersweet Dreams, and I think it’s a fantastic idea! As a reader, I know now that when I feel like reading something angsty without resolve, I’ll know where to look.

    Thanks for this great review – both Max and Robert described here are characters I want to get to know, and this book is going to go on my TBR next pile. :)

  8. Lily

    Wonderful review, Feliz!

    I’m also skipping the Bittersweet Dreams line. Frankly I’ve got enough on my plate without having my romances ending on a sad note. I read for entertainment and escape from RL and always looking forward to a HEA or HFN.

  9. Sue Brown

    Thank you so much, Feliz, for your review. I really do appreciate it.

    I can appreciate that the ending isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I like a HEA as much as anybody else. It just wasn’t for this story and I was thrilled Dreamspinner offered somewhere to publish it.

  10. Feliz Post author

    Hi Sue,

    I liked your story a great deal. I don’t always need a HEA, and you did a great job with leaving the end open for speculations. On the other hand, I’d also love watching Max and Robert meeting again ten years or so later….:-D

  11. Val Kovalin

    Fabulous review, Feliz! You’ve made me want to pick this one up, and I’m not sure I would’ve noticed it otherwise. I prefer happy endings, but I’m okay with Bittersweet line. I, too, am very glad Dreamspinner is doing it. Like Amanda said above, it’s creating an opportunity for growth in our genre.

  12. Lasha

    I read this story when it was posted elsewhere on the ‘Net last year. I wasn’t very impressed by it then, not because of the lack of a HEA, but because the writing was stilted, the main character was not very sympathetic and it needed a lot of editing (grammar and punctuation problems). Were those issues fixed, Feliz? If so, I might take a second shot at it.

    1. Feliz Post author

      I didn’t notice any grammar, spelling and so on problems, and I didn’t think the writing stilted. This seems fixed, then. On the other hand, if you think the main character sympathetic or not depends, in my opinion. I didn’t love Max, although I connected with him.

      1. Lasha

        I just didn’t find Max very likable, I didn’t understand his motives, so I guess that did not change when it was rewritten/edited. So I guess I will hold off on buying this. I appreciate you answering me. TY.

  13. Sirius11214

    I enjoyed this one Feliz, thank you for the great review. I also usually prefer HEA or HFN, but as long as guys do not die, I can read and enjoy any ending.

    Interesting, while I did not agree with Max’s choices, I disliked Robert much more than him :)

Comments are closed.