: To the Highest Bidder
Author: Caitlin Ricci
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: Even though there were some questionable moments in To the Highest Bidder, I could see the strength of this author’s ability to weave a fascinating story.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: The Intergalactic Star Pilot Academy has accepted Thierry Leroux into the elite class of sky year 2231. But the academy comes with a hefty price tag, and there’s no way he, a poor Sythe orphan, has the credits the academy requires. Thierry’s brother, Corbin, a high-class companion, suggests Thierry sell his virginity for the cost of tuition. It seems like a ridiculous idea, but it may be Thierry’s only shot, so Thierry asks Corbin to arrange a meeting on the pleasure planet of Wish.
On Wish, Thierry meets Corbin’s boss, Monroe, and they agree to auction off Thierry’s virginity. Thierry is grateful to the masked buyer he knows only as “Dragonfly,” and Dragonfly is gentle, making Thierry’s first time a good memory. When Dragonfly requests to see him again, and pay for the pleasure, Thierry returns to Wish. But in this game, falling in love is dangerous for the heart, and Thierry might not like the man behind the mask.
Review: Caitlin Ricci is a new author for me, and while I felt that her novel To the Highest Bidder had some questionable moments, her writing voice was so strong I truly felt compelled to read this one to the end. Was it as fully developed plot wise as I may have liked? No, but still the bones of this story were very strong, and after reading it, I knew I would be checking out other work from this author.
Corbin and Thierry are brothers and, essentially, orphans. Losing their parents many years before, the two brothers now live a spartan life, relying on Corbin’s work as an aspasian—effectively a high-class paid companion. Thierry has one dream—to become a pilot—but the money it will cost is far beyond any Corbin or Thierry ever hope to earn; until Corbin comes up with an idea. He suggests to Thierry that he sell his virginity—and since Monroe, Corbin’s boss, is able to set up the bidding, Thierry finds himself auctioned off to a masked man for one night of sex. At least, that was the idea. Before long, Thierry finds himself falling in love with the man he has nicknamed, “Dragonfly,” and it seems as though the gentleman is smitten as well. However, in a moment of passion, Thierry decides to remove the mask hiding his lover’s face and is shocked and angered to see just who his lover really is.
There were moments in this novel where I was absolutely hooked. For instance, the interactions between Dragonfly and Thierry were terribly intimate despite the fact that the older man never spoke. Then the letters back and forth between them while Thierry was at the academy really gave the story cohesion and allowed the reader to see the developing relationship. Thierry was so young—younger than his age of twenty—and I felt that was always present and clear, which made room for certain allowances when it came to his naïveté and his childish emotions.
Unfortunately, there were also some major gaps in this story. Why didn’t Corbin, who was already working in the brothel, prepare Thierry more for his first encounter? Why didn’t Thierry have a job as well? It didn’t make sense that Corbin did all the work to keep them fed. Corbin and Thierry were a special race called Sythe, and many times we read about how they possess a heightened awareness sexually. In fact, many of the students at the academy Thierry attends will not spar with him in the training classes for fear he’ll become some raving sexpot. Based on that, I really thought the rare times Thierry “opened “ himself up to feel all the emotions and physical pleasure he had with Dragonfly would have been amazing—intense, even out of control. Instead, while there was some passion, those scenes were more about the growing relationship rather than the heights of passion Sythe were supposedly capable of having. Why, then, refer to this special gift as often as the author did if there was not going to be a realization of it somewhere in the novel?
Perhaps the real nugget that left me a bit disappointed was the ending. Set several years in the future, Thierry finally gets the man he has loved all along, but their reunion was so abrupt that I was left wondering how the two of them remained in touch all those years. I felt the novel needed more meat to it—more explanation or perhaps a few scenes that took place during that decade or so that showed how these two remained involved and in love with each other. Sweeping past those years with a page or two of backstory did not really do the love story element justice.
To the Highest Bidder seemed like a partially formed story to me with serious need of further development. The author established her world so effectively and clearly and infused her novel with the makings of a wonderful love story. Even though there were some questionable moments, I could see the strength of this author’s ability to weave a fascinating story, and that is why I can assuredly say I will be checking out more of her work in the future.
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