Can't Buy Me Love - Chris Kenry

Ladymol's review:

If you've ever wondered what gay hustlers (and isn't that a great euphemism for prostitute?) get up to (oh, yeah, pun intended) then this book is for you.

Jack is "bereaved", in that his very tolerant, older, gay lover dies and leaves him penniless. Not one to actually work, Jack decides to cash in on his evident charms: his body and his looks.

He becomes a hustler, but he finds something else growing from the seeds of this desperation: self-respect for the first time.

The cast of supporting characters in this book is wonderful, especially Mervin, a very effeminate loser who undergoes a complete transformation.

I think my main criticism of this book is that the author couldn't quite decide what he was writing. If you're looking for the "A to Z" of how to set up and run a successful gay prostitution and porn empire, then this is definitely the book for you. If you want a complex novel about a central gay relationship, then perhaps it is not. Ray, a fellow hustler, who Jack falls for, is too indistinct to be really gripping, but their scenes are touching sometimes. Love can blossom in a place where the whole focus is on the gratification of sexual need.

Oh, and if you shouldn't buy a book for its cover, the opposite must be true as well: never reject a book for its cover, either. This must be the most cheesy, awful covers ever put on a book. It doesn't even catch the feel of the story, which is anything but cheesy. Don't be put off by this awful cover.

Recommended as a fun expose on the world of gay prostitution.

Cerisaye's Review

This picaresque novel is a jolly romp through the world of gay prostitution set in mid 90s Denver . Sounds ridiculous? Okay it's probably not exactly a true to life exposť since it rather glamorises the hustler's life, but it's a lot of fun and well worth your time.

If you're thinking a book about a rent boy will be full of sex then you're in for a bit of a disappointment. Yes, it's there, and very nicely done, but only part of the story. What you do get, however, is a delightfully charming rogue, Jack, and his humorously told journey of self-discovery. If you were carrying a debt of $30, 000 and had neither job nor prospects how would you cope? Jack proves remarkably resourceful in turning adversity into opportunity to prove to himself and his family that he's not exactly the feckless ne'er do well everyone thought.

The writing is witty and sharp, and rattles along at breakneck speed. I read it in one long sitting, unable to put it down. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Jack, with his gym honed physique and enviously hedonistic lifestyle. The light-hearted nature of the book doesn't mean it's completely frothy.

Central to the story is the way people rise to the level of expectation. Jack has been programmed by society and his family to see himself as worthless, failing before he even starts his adult life due to low self esteem. The book recounts his personal growth, once he realises his best asset is himself. I think Jack has a very valid point that the literal selling of himself is no more demeaning than the figurative prostitution of those unskilled $6 an hour jobs he takes before he meets Ray and starts his life as a hustler.

The cast of supporting characters is well sketched out and there is a love story of sorts between Jack and Ray, though it tends to get a bit lost in the general fun and games. There are some darker moments, but we never get to dwell too long on the downside of Jack's life. This book makes an interesting contrast to "The Initiation" by David Keane (see review), a British novel that also concerns male prostitution.

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation. ISBN: 1575668467

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