“Yeah. I plan to wake up one day to find out my mother has been arrested, my father has left the country, their bank accounts are frozen, and the feds are kicking me out of my house.”
In a word: Read the thing. Though a lot of it is pretty dark, so watch out with that. After I read Adulting 101 I decided that I was probably gonna end up reading all of Lisa Henry’s books, The Good Boy ended up being the one I decided on getting next. The Good Boy (co-written with J. A. Rock) is completely different from Adulting 101, like, total opposite. Here be angst. Lane is the first character we’re introduced to and he is just pitiful. He’s just lost just about everything and is about to lose his final lifeline. Not even the introduction of Derek, the second main character and love interest, makes anything better. In fact, Derek hates Lane at first. Aside from some humorous bits in Derek’s sections, the beginning of the story is pretty bleak. Even when it starts to get a bit lighter, there’s still a sinister undercurrent under everything. Lane’s been deeply affected by what he’s gone through, and that doesn’t go away overnight, even with love and affection. A lot of this story is pretty heavy, with a lot of angst and hurt/comfort, so if that’s your thing (it certainly is mine), than you’ll enjoy this one. I loved Lane and Derek’s relationship (both the romantic/sexual/BDSM aspect and the hurt/comfort aspect), I loved that there was no ‘third act breakup’, the side characters were entertaining and frustrating in turn and only added to the story (Mr. Zimmerman is my favourite), and I was totally engrossed in the events unfolding. I have pretty much no complaints about this book and if dark stories with happy endings are your thing I would definitely have to recommend this one. (Also there is a sequel that continues Lane and Derek’s story and I have a mighty need.)
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Trigger Warning: This book contains physical and sexual abuse, date rape, dubious consent, suicide, self-hate, and victim blaming.
The Couple: Lane Moredock is a 20-year-old college student who has just had his life turned totally upside down. He’s well-known to the public as rich, spoiled brat Landon Moredock, set to follow in his parents’ footsteps and run their investment empire, sitting pretty on mounds of stolen cash as the people his family ripped off scramble to recover from their losses. The truth is that Lane is none of those things; he’s painfully shy, constantly anxious, and has no idea of how the world works and how to find a place in it. This mess his parents have landed him in has just made things even worse because now he’s alone, penniless, and desperate. Derek Fields is a 37-year-old photographer who is struggling to make ends meet, especially after losing 15, 000 dollars in the Ponzi scheme run by Lane’s parents. He has no idea what he wants out of life, aside from love and a steady income, and he’s just trying to make it day by day. Derek hates Lane. He believes what the media says about him and is quite content to write Lane off as a heartless criminal just like his parents. It’s not until Derek actually interacts with Lane does he realize that the guy is the furthest from a criminal mastermind. Contrary to what the police and tabloids would like everyone to believe, Lane is pitiful, and probably doesn’t have a malicious bone in his body. It’s enough for Derek’s protective instincts to kick in and he finds himself drawn to Lane, wanting to help him while at the same time trying to reconcile what he’s seen of Lane with how the media portrays him. By the time Lane and Derek are formally introduced, Lane is fresh out of a horrific situation and is completely alone in the world. He’s stuck in a weird place of wanting Derek’s help while at the same time being afraid of Derek. It starts out as baby steps with these two, and really it has to be. Even without the age difference, Lane is very vulnerable right now and it would be easy for him to fall into another trap. Derek and Lane’s relationship starts off very slow, they’re never quite friends, but they don’t become romantically involved right from the off. Derek’s first instinct is to take care of Lane, he hires him as an assistant at first, but eventually his intentions turn into romantic ones once he’s sure that Lane feels the same way. Lane feels safe with Derek, and he feels loved in a way he never has before. The BDSM aspect of their relationship is also introduced very slowly; bad experience has made Lane skittish about the things he wants, it’s with Derek’s help that he feels like it’s safe for him to do what makes him feel good. The two of them work well together as a couple, creating a relationship where they’re both free to express themselves in healthy ways and come out safe and loved in the end.
The So-Called Dom: Lane is penniless and desperate. Family friend Acton Wagner seems like his only hope to regain some normalcy in his life. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Acton is the ‘so-called Dom’ referenced in the book’s summary, which is a fairly accurate description. Another good description would be ‘galloping fuckwad’ but I’m not sure if you can put things like that on the back of books. Anyway, Acton has known Lane since he was a child and he’s been a friend of the Moredock family probably since before Lane was born. I don’t know how close Acton was to Lane’s parents, but they clearly saw each other often enough for Lane to think that Acton would help him in his time of need. Maybe if Acton hadn’t also lost money to the Moredock’s things would’ve turned out different. Except that Lane’s reminiscing tells us that Acton would’ve had sex with a 15-year-old Lane (who, may I remind you, he’s known since Lane was a young child), so Acton’s probably always been a major creep. (I have no problem with the large age difference between Lane and Derek because they met as adults; Acton is probably around Lane’s parents’ age, it’s fucking creepy.) Another thing about Acton is that I’m not entire sure that he’s actually into BDSM. It’s possible that he is, to some degree (BDSM-Lite?), but going by the way he treats Lane I’m thinking that he cottoned on to the fact that Lane might be into it and is using that knowledge to further torture Lane. Acton is obviously a severely disturbed person and the things he does to Lane are horrific. And he doesn’t do these things because he’s into BDSM and he gets off on it, he does it because he hates Lane and his family and he’s trying to get his own back. He’s a well-written villain, but a disgusting person.
The Parents: Lane’s parents are Laura and Stephen Moredock, and they are awful people. First of all: they stole a bunch of people’s money and ruined a lot of lives. The entire scope of their crime isn’t really touched on too much in the book (them and their crime aren’t really the focus), it’s really obvious that what they did was horrible and a lot of people are suffering, but aside from Acton Wagner’s situation (and who cares about him, really?) and Derek’s losses we don’t hear many specifics about their victims. Personally, the only reason I hate them so much is because I got emotionally attached to Lane and they treat him terribly. Awful people, awful parents. The fact that they committed a crime as huge as they did makes it really obvious that they’re awful people, but the way they treat Lane just makes them even worse. It’s one thing to hurt people you don’t know, the people they stole from were mostly complete strangers, practically faceless. But Lane is their son and they are his parents; there should be some feeling there. But once Laura gets arrested, and with Stephen out of the country, Lane is left completely on his own. He’s alone with no one to help him, except for Acton Wagner, and look how that turned out. Laura probably couldn’t have done much from prison (except maybe try to get the lawyer to help out?), but then Stephen was already out of the country and he didn’t even contact Lane aside from an initial email telling him to ‘hang in there’. He even dodges Lane’s calls and I don’t think he would’ve come back to the States on his own if it hadn’t been for Derek. And on top of all that, they even used Lane to help steal money without his even knowing! Terrible people.
The Side Characters: Aside from Lane’s parents and Acton Wagner, there are quite a few side characters that help make the story what it is (and provide some humour, because fuck knows we definitely need some). Some of them are very minor, like the FBI agents and the reporter that are always on Lane’s case. They’re pretty much one-note characters only there to advance the plot and create drama. The real magic is when we’re introduced to Derek’s friends and family. Derek has two friends, Brin and Ferg, who are in a 24/7 D/s arrangement (Brin is a brat and Ferg keeps him in line, or something? Theirs isn’t the main relationship so we don’t delve too deep into it and I don’t know enough about it to explain it). Ferg is a mostly stoic character; I think the only time he gets significantly emotional is when he’s scolding Brin for something. He’s also very nurturing towards the people he cares about (which eventually comes to include Lane). Brin is Ferg’s total opposite and I didn’t really like him much at first. Brin is loud, crude, rude, and doesn’t hold anything back. He got on my nerves pretty quickly, but I started to warm up to him a bit the more I read of him. He starts off hating Lane, but once he’s done with that the two of them actually become pretty good friends. Derek has a sister named Christy, who works at a no-kill animal shelter and is obsessed with trying to save ALL THE ANIMALS! And the best thing about her is the menagerie she lives with (so many animals), the stars of which are Andy, a sweet dog who is terrified of people, and Mr Zimmerman, a foul-mouth macaw who is hilarious and one of my favourite parts of the book. Last in the side character roundup is Derek and Christy’s mother, Erin, who does not at all understand Derek’s BDSM lifestyle but nevertheless tries to set him up with men she knows who look like they’d enjoy a spanking. She’s always good for a laugh.
The Sex: There are a few scenes between Lane and Acton, and they are as disgusting as you would expect (not really in the way they’re written, but in the circumstances, though they really aren’t meant to be appealing or sexy). Derek and Lane’s scenes are a lot better. And a lot more emotional. Derek is into BDSM, and he makes no secret of it to his family and close friends. Lane has always thought that he might be into BDSM, but his experiences with Acton have soured that for him. Lane wants things that he thinks he shouldn’t want, and it only gets more complicated after Acton. Sex and scenes between Derek and Lane serve as both a way for them to get off together, and to help with Lane’s healing and to make him feel better about wanting the things he does. Most of their sex scenes involve kink. There’s some puppy play (though it isn’t always sexual), pain play, and spanking. Every scene has a D/s tint to it, with Derek as the Dom and Lane as the Sub. Even if BDSM isn’t necessarily your thing, these scenes are still enjoyable for the hurt/comfort aspects.
The Writing: ANGST! The beginning of the book is really bleak. And also really suspenseful because you know that something bad is gonna happen but it doesn’t happen immediately. The summary tells us about Lane falling into the hands of someone who hurts him, but the story itself starts out a bit before that happens. Really, I just wanted to skip all that and get to the healing, sadly that’s not how it works. Although it made it all the more worth it once the comfort part finally started. The writing is great; there were no typos, grammatical errors, or weird vocabulary. Some of the events are told in flashbacks and slightly out of order, so watch out for that.
[The Good Boy was published March 26, 2013, by Loose Id LLC, it is available both in print and as an ebook]