Rust Belt by Jessica Freely
Publisher: Loose ID
Length: Short Story (145 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Reviewed by Fern
Times are tough in the Rust Belt, where once mighty industries now wither and die. As a city struggles for survival, two men find passion, comfort, and redemption in each other’s arms.
Seth is scarred, body and soul, by his experiences in the Pit, an illegal fighting ring where men are brutalized for the entertainment of the crowd. Though he managed to escape, Seth will never forget those he had to leave behind. When he meets David, he is instantly attracted to him but knows that the sexy, bookish blond is far beyond his reach. Then David is attacked on the street and in an eyeblink, Seth alters both of their lives forever.
For lonely, virginal David, Seth comes out of the night like a hero from one of his favorite books, only hotter. Seth’s passion and tenderness pierce the protective shell of isolation David has drawn around himself. In the wake of their shatteringly erotic encounter, David asks Seth to live with him. But just when it seems like happily ever after can happen even in Detroit, Seth’s past comes back to drag them back into the Pit.
Rust Belt is a captivating story that lures in the reader and maintains their interest throughout. From the start, I wanted to know more about the mysterious homeless man, Seth, as well as the quiet and reserved book store clerk, David. One scene and a few wonderfully crafted stanzas set the tone, but as the story progresses, it’s the ever-changing relationship between the men that fascinates and excites the reader, ensuring they won’t put the book down.
In the beginning, I didn’t know what to make of Seth. It’s apparent he has issues, but initially, you’re not told exactly what they are. When he rescues David from a group of gang members, you know he’s a noble creature, aiding and coming to the assistance of the man kind enough to give him his left over noodles when he noticed Seth dumpster diving. It’s painful to read from Seth’s point of view at times, as he’s been isolated for so long, he’s forgotten what it’s like to be in the presence of another human being.
David is a character who is equally complex. He’s also isolated, but it seems to be more of a defense mechanism than something intentional. There were times I didn’t understand him, especially when he wanted to do things such as travel alone (which resulted in his attack the first time around), but as I got to know him, I recognized his need to protect himself. In finding Seth, he has someone to care for. He’s a nurturer who, in a twist, becomes the protector and advocate.
Thanks to fantastic writing and sensitivity to the material, the darker elements of abuse and rape are handled beautifully. You have to know he torment Seth suffered in order to understand him; however, it’s done without titillation and focuses more on the damage caused after the fact. I loved the flourishing relationship between the men, as well as the sweet exchanges between them. Seth should have been the stronger of the two, yet somehow, he is the most fragile. As their roles are reversed, and David takes control, your heart will ache for each of them. I can honestly say that Seth and David are two characters I’ll never forget.
Fans of a solid M/M romance will fall in love with Rust Belt. This is a story I highly recommend and suggest you pencil onto your TBR list.