Wicked Hearts by Claire Thompson

Rating: 5/10 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 
Title: Wicked Hearts
Author: Claire Thompson
Genre: Contemporary
URL: Romance Unbound
Price: $5.95
Other Information/warnings: Explicit m/m, bad language, reference to past violence
Summary [from the publisher]:
“Oh, what a tangled web we weave…”

Reese and Hank are used to taking what they want, just because they can. What begins as a cynical seduction heats into dangerous desire, threatening to shatter more than one heart in this tale of love and betrayal

My review: Les Liasons Dangereuses “is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two rivals who use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others, all the while enjoying their cruel games.” (Summary from Wikipedia.) Substitute ‘Hank and Reese’ for Valmont and Merteuil, and that’s what you have in this story – only this one has a supposedly happy ending.

Unfortunately, the ending and the characters left me stone cold. It’s a clich├ęd set up – a player goes out with someone for a bet, and ends up falling in love – and one that’s as unlikely as it’s well-worn. If a man has been playing these nasty games – for whatever motive (and the motive didn’t convince me as an excuse) – for twelve years, then there’s something very fucked up about his psyche. I don’t happen to believe in the power of love or the magic penis enough to think someone that screwed in the head can suddenly change his personality around.

Hank and Reese just aren’t nice people. Hank is a manipulative, possessive, spoiled little shit of a rich boy. Reese is from the wrong side of the tracks, firmly in Hank’s paw because of past debts (again, implausible), and has been convinced by Hank that he can never love anyone and he should treat people like objects. Uh…yeah. Because that’s how people work. They don’t think and feel for themselves, they let other people decide their motivations.

So Reese takes a bet from Hank to seduce Jeff, the innocent office geek, for $5,000, videotaping the event to prove it happened. You know what will happen to that recording, and it does. There are simply no surprises in this story. Reese finds Jeff much more attractive than he believed he would (for reasons I simply didn’t accept), falls for him from the first kiss, and true love’s path is strewn with nails and glass by the implausibly wicked Hank (who only needs a twirling moustache, seriously.) But our lovers overcome the trials, have surprisingly briefly described sex, and learn to accept themselves for what they really are. Yawn.

Cliched plot, cardboard and superficial characters, not terribly wonderful sex scenes (the cupcakes are sexier than the sex) – all these negatives are on top of a lot of infodumping and flashbacks which made for slow pacing and dull story telling. Ms Thompson is too much of a fan of ‘tell not show’ for my taste.

All in all, this just didn’t work for me. It’s a mediocre story rather than a horrible one, though. It’s not exactly taxing, so if you want a quick read, then this is the equivalent of an afternoon TV movie. I expect more from my reading. If you don’t, you will probably enjoy this more.