Author: Edmond Manning
Publisher: Wilde City
Rating: 4 stars
Type: Standalone Novel
Received From Publisher
Blurb: Keldon Thurman hates his job, purchasing serial killer art for a private investor. He would quit if he weren’t completely impoverished, but with no life skills and no ways to generate income, Keldon has no options.
However, Acquisition Number Five proves to be more challenging than expected. Wheel-chair bound Irene Woullet and her handsome nurse caretaker, Joshua Greene, refuse to cooperate. Keldon’s only chance is to seduce the old-fashioned, simple-living Josh in the hopes that Joshua can persuade Irene. But Keldon has to work fast—he has only two dates to win Josh’s affection.
With love’s potential in bloom, how can Keldon live with his own worsening conscience as he gathers these filthy acquisitions?
Review: Keldon Thurman’s self esteem is in the basement. He’s made a lot of mistakes in life, including prostitution, and he’s reached a point where his levels of disgust with himself are peaking. It doesn’t help that his current job is to collect 15 pieces of “art” painted by a convicted serial-killer for his mysterious benefactress. It only adds to his disgust that Keldon knows he’s incredibly good at emotionally manipulating the people from whom he’s tasked to acquire the paintings. Understanding people’s motivations and desires then using those things to get his way were skills Keldon developed as a kept man. To make matters more stressful, Keldon cannot ask his employer, Mrs. Maggiara, why she is collecting the art. When he finally acquires the last painting he’ll receive a very large sum of money. Enough money that he can go back to college. He’ll be able to get a respectable set of life skills. This ghoulish job is his second chance at life.
The fifth painting is owned by Irene Woullet. She’s a wonderful older woman with serious health problems and significant medical bills. She is unaware she has anything painted by a serial-killer. Mrs. Woullet also has a gorgeous nurse, Joshua. Mrs. Woullet and Joshua want to know which painting is of interest to Mrs. Maggiara, as she has offered to buy every piece of art Mrs. Woullet owns for a very generous price. In an attempt to ferret out more information for Mrs. Woullet, Joshua agrees to go on two dates with Keldon. It’s a good situation for Keldon, as he has more opportunity to sway Joshua and get help influencing Mrs. Woullet.
One date is planned by Keldon and one by Joshua. Keldon treats Joshua to an extravagant night in Chicago. It’s the kind of dazzling, sweep a guy off his feet date that Keldon used to have with his wealthy, older boyfriends. Keldon knows what he’s doing is manipulation. He can’t stop himself. He’s begun to wonder if he even knows how to simply enjoy himself for the sake of enjoyment. Does he even have his own wishes and desires when it comes to dating? The date was enjoyed by both men even if neither side really gained any information about the painting. Both men gained a lot of information about each other. Joshua and Keldon continue to talk to each other as they await their next date. Keldon continues to acquire more paintings for Mrs. Maggiara.
The second date takes place in Madison. Keldon again finds himself being swept off his feet by a man showing him what the world has to offer. This time it’s an experience of Farmer’s Markets in the morning, shared community, the beauty of the earth itself, and a companion who is showing interest in the real Keldon and his opinions. Joshua doesn’t value Keldon for his ability to be a mirror of Joshua. Unfortunately, Keldon learns that sets him up for rejection. Real rejection. Keldon also learns some people view integrity as more important than creature comforts and judging a person solely by the actions you are able to see can be misleading.
Keldon was heartbreaking. He was desperate for a second chance and an opportunity to have integrity. That he found himself forced to use his most hated talents to obtain that second chance further compromised his integrity. Or at least he thought it did. Personally, I thought the twist was rather obvious. I think Keldon should have found it obvious, also. Leaving internet research aside, I feel someone with the skills to intuit the motivations and desires of others would have realized Mrs. Maggiara’s intentions or at least her feelings toward the “art.” However, even knowing that particular twist was coming I was stunned at the depth of emotion I felt during the scene where Keldon reached the end of his rope and attempted to quit his job. I was very impressed by how much I felt the impact of something I was expecting.
I don’t want to give the impression I disliked this book. I’ve already recommended it to friends, but I certainly had a couple of issues. In a book about people getting second chances for all manner of things in life, I feel Keldon should have realized he deserves a second chance. Keldon wanted forgiveness from Joshua, yet I don’t feel he forgave himself. But I loved that Keldon’s second chance at college and developing respectable skills were borne of Mrs. Maggiara’s second chance. I loved the bonds between employers and employees, even if they were nascent, as well as the slow building of the bond between Joshua and Keldon. Yes, there was attraction when they met, but Joshua and Keldon had time to get to know each other and see the potential to fall in love with the real man. Not only was that deeply important for Keldon and his quest to be honest with himself, but it was refreshing amongst a sea of books with characters who fall instantly in lust and in love not long after that.