November 1, 2011

Review: Pricks and Pragmatism by JL Merrow

I’m joining in on the fun of Virgin Hero Week with my very own review of one of the best stories featuring a virgin hero I have read: Pricks and Pragmatism by JL Merrow.

Merrow is one of my favorite m/m authors; you really need to give her books a try because they are fantastic. I think most of her books -this one included- are novellas or short stories, so they’re perfect if you don’t have that much time to read.

Pricks and Pragmatism is the story of Luke, a college student that, like most college students, is broke. But unlike your average student who works a couple of crappy jobs to support himself through college, Luke has developed a rather morally challenged method: he gets rich guys to pay for his expenses and to give him shelter in exchange of sex. You could say that he’s technically a prostitute although he doesn’t see himself as one. He enjoys the sex and the company, and he even enjoys the expiration date on the relationship because he never gets attached to his partners, or so it seems.

One day, just when he’s about to start his finals and is very close to graduating, his current “boyfriends” kick him out of the house and suddenly Luke finds himself homeless, jobless, broke, and in the middle of the most important and stressful part of college. That’s how he meets Russell, a very nerdy and homely engineer who offers him a new arrangement. But it turns out that Russell only wants company and despite Luke’s continuous offers of sex, Russell adamantly refuses. And so they begin a somewhat awkward relationship that’s more than friendship but doesn’t involve sex.

There were tons of reasons why this story worked for me. First the writing is flawless and compelling, it features three of my favorite romance tropes: virgin hero, slutty hero and ugly duckling, and both leads are likeable. Overall a very engaging story that albeit predictable, features a couple of twists that keep it refreshing and new.

Luke is a very appealing and likeable character with very unappealing and unlikeable traits. This is a guy who is too lazy and too enamored of the rich life to look for a job and stop selling himself like a piece of meat, just to be discarded when he’s no longer useful or something better comes along. He’s also narcissistic and cocky. But none of these things made him obnoxious or unpleasant, because after you see him interact with Russell, you realize that there’s more than meets the eye, and that this is a guy deeply troubled by an unhappy childhood who wants something else for himself, who isn’t as nonchalant about the life he leads as it seem and who isn’t as lazy.

Russell was more of a mystery because the story is told from Luke’s POV and we never see inside of Russell’s head. But the little we do see about him shows us a guy who has no social skills whatsoever, doesn’t really have that many friends and is just painfully lonely and desperate for someone to share his life with. It was good to see him come out of his shell although he doesn’t get an extreme makeover by any means, in fact, one of the reasons I loved this story so much was because they learn to love each other just the way they are, they learn to see beyond the front they put to protect themselves, and Russell remains the same throughout the book. He doesn’t shave and shows the world how handsome he is under all the facial hair, he doesn’t get a fashionable wardrobe, and he doesn’t join a gym and develops a six-pack overnight.

This short story packs a lot of punch and its characters truly grow and mature, Luke in particular. The love story develops slowly but steadily and is very sweet. I think in this case the short length works in favor of the story, although it is quite short, but it’s definitely worth it. Fans of m/m and contemporary romance should enjoy it. And, just in case the virgin hero trope wasn’t enough (Russell is the virgin, just in case you were wondering) the characters are British, so you get the sexy accent as well.

To find out more about Virgin Hero Week visit Joyfully Jay, there you will find reviews, book recommendations, giveaways and more!

Review by Brie
Grade: 4.5
Sensuality: McSteamy


*Easy come, easy go…until the heart gets involved.* 
Luke, a student at Southampton University, is ambitious, driven and talented.  He likes the good things in life, like handsome older men with plenty of money to spend on him.  
But when an arrangement ends three weeks before finals he needs somewhere to stay, fast.  He's even prepared to accept an offer from a bearded, geeky engineer. 
But Russell seems determined not to take advantage of Luke.  So why is Luke so desperate for that to change?  

Samhain Publishing, Ltd. September 21, 2010.


  1. Great review Brie! I loved this book too for all the reasons you mentioned. Especially the fact that Russell doesn't suddenly turn gorgeous before Luke notices him (do you hear me Harlequin?). So good.

  2. Thanks Jay!
    Yes, no makeovers for Russell, that was my favorite part about the book.

  3. I've never read a m/m romance. I'm thinking I should start with one like this. Like you said if I don't like it, it isn't too long. Thanks for putting this on my radar.

  4. Hi Alexis!

    You could also start with a hetero romance with a secondary storyline involving two guys. Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series is famous for its recurring m/m storyline, but that series has like 16 books so it’s too long. There’s an author called Louisa Edwards, she writes fantastic contemporary romance, her first trilogy features a gay couple and it’s a very engaging story, the book it’s called Can’t Stand the Heat, in case you’re curious.

    This book is a good place to start as long as you don’t mind about the unconventional hero. Let me know if you read it!

  5. Oh I loved this book! I picked it up on a total whim, having never heard of this author (awhile ago) and love love love her voice. I always anticipate her new releases now!

    LOVED both heroes in this one

  6. Hi Mandi!

    Oh yes! I love her books! My favorite is Muscling Through, which was the first one I read. I loved this one too, but I kind of want a sequel just to see Russell and Luke as a couple, because this one was more about getting there than anything else.

  7. I loved this book too, the virgin hero trope is done wonderfully here, with the 'mismatch' of those two very different MC's and Luke's growth and gradually falling for the unconventional hero.
    I've read a few other books and stories by this author and I totally love her voice and sense of humor. Wonderful review!

  8. Hi Janna!

    Yes, the virgin hero trope felt real, not gimmicky or like a device to move the plot forward. It was an important part of the character. Merrow had a great voice and writes unique characters, I can’t wait to read Wight Mischief!

    Thanks for stopping by!


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