Title: The Guy With The Suitcase
Series: Once Upon a Guy, Book One
Author: Chris Ethan
Genre: Gay Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Pierce is homeless.
Young and strong-willed Pierce has been living in the streets of New York City for six months, since his parents kicked him out of their perfect, Christian, suburban house. Pierce is gay. And he is suffering the consequences for being true to himself.
Rafe is homeless.
He is also sick. Impressionable, but far from innocent, Rafe ran away from home almost a year ago. His sickness is slowly killing him. But Rafe is not a hopeless case. He has learned to get by. Nights of paid passion turn to sheltering warmth from the imminent New York winter.
And then there’s a suitcase. Pierce’s suitcase, which holds secrets from everyone including its owner.
When their worlds collide, their lives intertwine and when the world seems bent on bringing the two souls to their knees, fate has other plans for them.
Caution: Contains adult language, New York City streets, tough life choices, sexual tension, stubborn brutes and swoon-worthy romance.
RGR received a free advanced review copy for the purpose of an honest review.
I have to admit that I have been sitting here for a long time, changing my review back and forth, unsure exactly how to put my thoughts into words. I finished reading the book last night and I had very different reactions to it.
First, let me talk about something that is beyond dispute for me. The cover image and the chapter design were brilliant. The cover looks really cool and made me interested in reading this story.
The title made me curious. It’s a bit mysterious and as a reader wanting to find out more about a book is always a good sign.
However, the story itself had aspects I absolutely loved and that touched me emotionally and parts that just didn’t click for me.
The story is told from two perspectives, two guys who ended up on the street and are trying to survive. From the beginning it becomes obvious that the author has no interest in romanticising homelessness in any way. Readers will experience many different ways in which the guys are humiliated, attacked, discriminated against and generally treated unfairly.
We see people using their power and authority to personally benefit from those who rely on them. We see families throwing away the children they were supposed to love unconditionally. We see people who physically or sexually attack or humiliate those they deem as worth less than themselves. We see terrible discrimination and hardships like weathering the icy and potentially deadly weather and having to let go of personal convictions like veganism and vegetarianism in order to survive. In the end, when everything else is stripped away, Survival is the one important thing.
However, we also see the people who do good and help where they can. The people who stop to give money, food or just to show that they are not closing their eyes and SEE the people on the streets and do as much as they can. We see people help who we might not have expected to help, and places that seem unwelcoming at first turn into unexpected sanctuaries. We see people put their jobs on the line to help, even if in small ways and people who change their minds and decide to do good. I really loved that while the story did not shy away from the bad that can and does happen to homeless people every day, it also shows the good in the world.
Personally, I think the most powerful aspect of the book was the way I realized as reader that I was not completely free of prejudices either. I have often thought about that I own much more than I need (even being on a student budget) and that I would always be able to find a job somewhere, even if things turned bad for me.
I think it was good that one of the main characters used to be an average college student not long ago and how fast and easy he lost any foundation for the life he was used to. Still, even if I would personally be able to bounce back, reading this book made me realize how privileged my life has been. My parents made sure I received good education and enabled me to get an International Baccalaureate and I live in a country with free access to university education. I have the financial and emotional support of my family and a strong support network of friends, even after coming out and my boyfriend is always behind my back. I’m a white guy, born into a comfortable middle-class in a democratic country with strong social values and though I’m gay, I can easily ‘pass’ as straight if wanted or needed, but I have received a lot of support from the LGBT+ community. It is always possible to lose everything, but without my doing, by mere chance, I have a much stronger safety net than many others.
I try to never look down on others and to instead have a positive impact on others if I can. However, reading this book made me realized that many avenues that would be available to me right now if my luck turned aren’t available to others. Especially those, who would need it the most.
Reading about Rafe selling his body to get enough money for his medication to stay alive, unable to come up with the money even though he feels like every time he does it steals something from his soul and how he is not able to get medicaid, because he is so poor that he does not even have the home address or the income to get medicaid, made me very sad. How can we refuse to help those, who need it the most, just because they are not in a position to even meet the minimum criteria?
Reading about Pierce cleaning himself up, even creating a resumé in an internet café and not even getting the chance to get an interview or leave a copy of his resumé, because people first want him to get his act together… thereby taking the chance away from him to do just that, made me very thoughtful. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we actually tried to take care of each other and took more chances on people. So many people are willing to learn and work hard and never get a chance, because they were never born into privilege or lost it in some way.
There is also a lot of hope in this story and it makes me want to be more socially aware and more helpful to those in need. The stories of both of these guys are very emotional and powerful and very well-written. The guys were relatable, likable and I wanted the best for them and cared about their fate.
However, I did not really feel their chemistry. Given that the romance is a big aspect of this story that was very unfortunate. This may be very subjective, but the relationship didn’t completely click with me and while I loved all the other aspects of the book that took a lot away for me.
There is a secondary character Pierce befriends in the book and their connection felt much more powerful to me. It might just be because I didn’t understand the attraction and draw between Rafe and Pierce, even though I loved each of them as characters. I really, really wanted to get them.
Still, I really enjoyed the story and think many other readers will, too. Perhaps you will even love their relationship. They are awesome guys in any case, who went through a lot and deserve happiness.Their story made me thoughtful and I hope it will have a similar effect on others, so we never forget to keep our eyes and hearts.
7/10 Pots of Gold (70% Recommended) – Compares to 3.5/5 Stars
Prize Bundle: The Guy With The Suitcase Mug, Chris Ethan pen, and $5 Amazon Gift Card
A couple of men, dressed in tight tank tops and leather shorts, walked in, followed by a drag queen with fuchsia hair that towered over her head in a lopsided pyramid. All three had pink glitter eyeshadow covering their eyes and ruby red lipstick across their lips.
They all cheered when they saw Charlie and they embraced one another in an orderly fashion. They were Conclabia and her Pubescent Pubes, a comedy act from the club two stores down. Regular customers and some of the loudest patrons.
Charlie and the gang exchanged niceties, muscle compliments, and makeup adoration before Rafe appeared and embraced each and every one of them intimately, leaving one of the Pubes for last, a tall, buff blond with brown eyes and pink blusher. He squeezed Rafe’s butt-cheek while they were holding the hug longer than usual, Rafe barely reacting to the violation of his privacy.
It wasn’t that Pierce totally ignored Rafe’s last profession, but he disliked seeing him in anything other than his arms. He considered anything mildly sexual involving Rafe as a crime against his innocence. And yes, Pierce also knew that the guy he thought so innocent had been a rentboy, but he didn’t think he could ever see Rafe as anything but the young kid who’d ran from home for liking Britney and Katy Perry.
Rafe threw himself over the bar and pinched Pierce’s nipple over his shirt. “Hey, I’m talking to you,” he laughed, and so did his company.
Pierce blinked and focused his eyes on Rafe’s beautiful irises staring back at him. “Yes?”
“I said, I’ll see you later, distraído,” Rafe giggled and joined his friends in leaving the bar to start their night out somewhere further down, in the heart of the Village.
Business picked up and Pierce was forced to put Rafe — and whatever he was up to — on the backseat of his mind. The young man, however, seemed to have called shotgun on his every thought.
“Fucking dickhead,” he spat while he was making a Cosmopolitan.
His colleague, also working behind the bar, turned and asked him what had happened.
“Nothing. Just…cocktails. Hate those fuckers,” he murmured.
About the Author
Chris Ethan is a book whore. He enjoys selling his feelings for money and other pleasures and is blatantly unashamed to do so for as long as he breathes. Chris Ethan is also a persona for Rhys Christopher Ethan, author of fantasy and sci-fi. He uses Chris Ethan to share stories of adult queer romance with those who need it. Before you delve into his books however, be warned. He likes putting his characters through shitstorms and hates anything conventional. But then there’s that darned happy-ever-after. Also, he likes swearing. Deal with it!