Review Summary: Engrossing and uplifting
A high priced male escort and a blind gay man meet by chance. What ensues is a hot, steamy romance by two men looking for something more than a one night stand. But can they reach beyond their own insecurities to grasp what they really desire?
Hunter Stephens is gay, tall, dark haired, and he’s hot. Very hot. But he doesn’t rely on the visual cues when appraising a man because he’s also blind. He listens to the timbre of their voice, trembles at the touch of their skin, and luxuriates in the deep richness of the aroma of man. He’s hard of the hand because he’s a black belt and takes no shit, but soft of the heart because he’s lonely and has been for a while.
Until he meets Dillon.
Dillon Chambers is straight man candy. He’s a high priced male escort that works with an exclusive agency who handles only the wealthiest of clients. But it wasn’t always like that for him. At sixteen he was thrown out of the house for being gay and struggled to survive, turning tricks on the street and finding food and a place to sleep wherever he could. He met two people that changed his life, but he has never met anyone who could change his heart.
“Afflicted by Love’s Madness all are blind” Sextus Propertius
Have you ever read a book that hits you in the gut from the very first page? That’s what I felt like when I started reading Afflicted. I couldn’t put this book down and read it straight through, which is unusual for me as I’ve read so many books in this genre that it takes something special to get me so absorbed and invested. Some authors write standard paint by numbers books, others are artists who envelop readers in their characters and their world and seem to write for the love of their craft, regardless whether they make any money from it. To me Brandon Shire is in the latter category, a true artist whose characters come alive on the page and stay in your head long after you finish reading. His books defy being pigeonholed and range all over the spectrum from Cold, Listening to Dust, The Value of Rain to Afflicted. One of the reasons I love his books is because they are difficult to categorize in terms of genre, and so far they are all awesome reads.
In Afflicted the prose and dialogue as well as the characters are unique, and I mean that in the real sense of the word as you would be hard pressed to find characters like Hunter and Dillon elsewhere. Hunter is a blind man who craves sex and is so openly sensuous that his emotions and desires spill on to the page. As for Dillon, when he meets Hunter he wants him like no other man. I’m still not sure how these guys wormed their way into my subconscious because they are not the typical romance heroes, but I swear they’re still there.
When Dillon saw Hunter walking down the street with his cane, raging hormones took over his body and he propositioned him like a common street hustler, something that he hadn’t done in years. In his business sex was a job and no longer an enjoyable one; he had a clientele that consisted mostly of rich older men, so he had no need for the money. Hunter refused his offer, but as Dillon was walking away he changed his mind and changed the course of his life. Their encounters were a fire that lit up the pages and then turned the embers into an inferno.
Hunter was a businessman in a niche field – his business was audio books that were off the beaten path, for a specific type of cult following, and he was a tough negotiator. He was the kind of blind man you hardly ever meet in real life; if you did he would demand that you treat him like any sighted person (or as he called us “sightlings”). What I loved when I was in Hunter’s POV were the vivid descriptions of his environment as he saw it. Being blind from birth, his way of “seeing” was very different to that of a sighted person,and the world through his eyes was expressed in the wonderful prose and amazing dialogue of his creator. He hated being treated differently because of his disability and when Dillon returned the money he had paid him for sex, he asked “The money, it’s not like last week was a mercy fuck or something, was it?” He made one thing clear ”I’m not into the poor blind guy shit. All that does is piss me off.” He refused to admit there were things he could not do that a sighted person could, except [maybe] drive, and challenged himself at every turn to prove he was as good or better than anyone else.
Dillon’s teenage years were great and he had a wonderful relationship with his father until his parents found out he was gay and kicked him out at 16. He lived on the streets doing the most degrading things to earn money to eat, and he slept in a rat hole, getting beaten up by tricks or someone just out for kicks, until he was rescued almost at the point of death by someone from a high end escort agency. Once he was cleaned up the owner offered him a job, and he soon became the most sought after escort on the roster, with his pick of clients. However he no longer wanted to live like he was disposable. As he told Hunter “…sometimes I just need a human body next to me. You know? One who wants me for me, not just because he’s paying the agency. When I work there’s no affection, there’s just the trick. .. Anyway that’s why I brought the money back. Last week … it was nice.”
Some of the prose in Affliction was like poetry because it was so descriptive that at times it was painful to read. On the other hand, Hunter was earthy – musky odours and sweat turned him on and he made it clear to Dillon that he wanted him funky, raw and smelling like prison. He loved to delve into the dark recesses of men’s bodies and getting down and dirty. As you’re probably aware if you read my reviews, I rarely read the sex scenes in most M/M books because one is pretty much a carbon copy of the other and most of the time they’re boring. This author writes sex as if he were in the scene as one of the MCs, and I was incredibly turned on when Hunter and Dillon were getting it on.
This story is one of the most charming and unusual romances I have read in a long time. As the protagonists fell in love and the relationship changed from one that was purely sexual I admired how they put everything on the line for each other and how complex the romance became. For Dillon it wasn’t just about the incredible sex, it was the experience of being with Hunter who made him ache for his touch.
When you read a book by Brandon Shire you forget it’s fiction. It becomes real as you sink into his prose, and his characters take over your heart and mind. Although Hunter was blind he could be quite descriptive and poetic and I loved to delve into his tortuous mind and emotions.
I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly tell you how much I enjoyed the secondary characters. Margie was Hunter’s business associate as well as his friend but she was way too protective of him for his liking. He made sure she knew whenever she stepped over the line and he didn’t care if she felt insulted. One woman whom he couldn’t get enough of was the server at his favourite dining establishment, the Rat Hole, who insulted him every time he showed up and she make no allowance for the fact that he was blind. Dillon’s cousin and Hunter’s mother were also well drawn and I have a feeling that I’ll be seeing a lot more of them in Afflicted II.
If you want to read a romance between an unusual couple who will make you realize how much more of a sensory experience lovemaking becomes when overlaid with touches, taste, smells, or just listening to your lover’s breath, then you shouldn’t miss Afflicted. If you’re thinking of getting this book I should warn you that some of the sex may be a little raw, which could be putting it mildly.