What a ride!
After the first few chapters, I had to stop for a cuddly baby werewolf tale
just to sooth my frayed nerves. Not many books can do that to me.
And was I expecting it? Of course not. Just like sweet naive Danny, the newest whore in the House, I had no idea: "given all the choices in the world, I wouldn't choose to be anywhere else."
Oh Danny, just you wait and see what dear Charon Marque has in store for you...
The things I liked: When the book introduced a set of diverse characters, I was elated! For once a book that doesn't center around the usual couple and a parade of secondary characters that no one is seriously interested in, least of all the author. Also, with so many eligible boys and clients, I soon started a guessing game of who might fall in love with whom. The writing was fine, too, if a bit rough around the edges, and the characterization was very well done! I liked most of the characters (especially Vincent & Aburon - mmh) and their smutty dealings with each other.
But my appreciation soon turned into apprehension. I had to realize once again that I'm not a huge fan of short stories and shifting POVs. I like to have at least one character leading me through the story. Instead, the book gave the impression of a soap opera. A sex-filled deprived soap, mind you, but sadly lacking in flow (and romance!) nevertheless.
My biggest problem, however, was the hypocritical way Marque, the adored owner of the brothel, treats his "boys" and rationalizes his actions. This whole talk about how he sees his boys as family and wants to be their guardian? Total bullshit IMO, if you let a boy be tortured and gang-raped without giving him a heads-up or a say in the matter or at least intervene when necessary supposedly the rooms are all monitored). And this is apparently to make the boy stronger, more self-assured? Utter self-delusion if nothing else. Even that would have been fine with me if the author had exposed this kind of thinking. But the abused later calling it one of Marque's "little surprises" and being proud to have gained Marque's trust and Marque going on and on about his "family"? That didn't sit well with me at all. In the end, like so often in m/m, all our heroes have nothing but good intentions. Ugh.
I also had a minor niggle with the world building (the story is set in an alternate universe): I would have appreciated a description of the social norms in this society. Every guy seemed to be into gay sex without questions asked, at the same time one of the boys left his family because he wasn't accepted there.
Oh, and I absolutely agree with Kate
about the killer scene at the end.
All of the above of course didn't prevent me from jumping right into the 2nd book, especially since the story finally unfolds.