Grif's Toy (Tease and Denial Book One)
By Joseph Lance Tonlet
Barnes & Noble
Grif believes he’ll live his life as a virgin. After all, who would want him? How could anyone find him, a guy who came with less than man-sized equipment, worthy of their love?
What he hadn’t counted on were the two amazing men who would change his life. After entering college, he meets Tate, his fun-loving roommate. While years later, with Tate now just a memory, Wes, a handsome, rugged ex-marine who runs his own security firm enters his life.
Both men lead Grif through a twisted mesh of pleasure, pain, and denial, as they force him to see his value, despite his size and insecurities.
I've read his other writing and I know what Mr. Tonlet can achieve, and I am likely to read anything he puts on paper. So that being said, I find myself coming at this review from a comparison perspective, comparing this work to his others. But the 4 stars stand because of the brave nature of this work and its unique premise.
*Edit - I think I'm realizing that if I had read Grif's Toy prior to Brother's LaFon and another sampling of this authors work, I probably would have rated this higher. But knowing what he's capable of is holding me back. Is that fair? I don't know, but I just wanted to make sure that people know this is a worthy read and I have very high hopes for the sequel. I do recommend this book.
Secondary Characters - There is a nice dusting of secondary characters Pavel, Lance and Matthew Smithton. I would particularly like to learn more about Lance.
**For clarity readers should know that this story's timeline is non-linear. Pay attention to the chapter titles and dates for reading ease.**
What if I lose him over that very small part of me that few other people would ever be able to understand—let alone desire.’
This non-linear story starts out with the two protagonists, Grif and Wes enjoying an evening of fine dining. Or so we think. They don't actually quite get to their dinner, but instead jump right into dessert. "Chocolate?" And this kinky little scene makes your e-ink blur the screen right off the bat.
Then we jump back to Grif's youth and that's where we begin to get an understanding of everything that makes Grif tick. This, I think, is the best and surprisingly weakest part of the story is. Grif's vulnerability and anxiety is understandable, but I just don't think I felt it enough. Later in the book we see that Grif has succumbed to his concerns to a debilitating degree, but if I had been more touched by it earlier it would have had more impact throughout the story.
What does work is how we all have insecurities and that makes this story very relatable.
Grif goes on to college and meets Tate, his roommate, and their relationship is a very special one indeed. Tate is able to read people and he "gets" Grif like no one else can. A tragic turn here takes this story to completely unexpected territory and quite a new chapter in Grif's life, where he ultimately meets Wes.
Wes could easily be taken the wrong way. The way he handles Grif is, on the surface, shocking, but it's exactly what Grif wants. And, more importantly, this aggressive handling is what Grif needs, even if Grif is reluctant to acknowledge it. Wes is not cruel, he is brave, bold and generous. But I am left a little off kilter here about Grif's continued unease. He has seemingly given himself over to Wes, yet he is still uncomfortable at times.
From being certain true love will never be, to deeply committed devotion, this story spans a nice arc which begins to explain why Wes and Grif are one match in a million. I should also mention that the kinky, hot, weird and twisted sex is done very well. Mr. Tonlet handles that very well. It may just be his signature.
The story is strong, different and the visuals all work, but this just lacked a bit of emotional connection for me. As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Tonlet's other writing has waylaid me and touched a deep inner core of emotion that few authors have reached, so I suppose my expectations were very high.
I also had a few quibbles with parts of the story that seemed to start but not finish. For instance, Grif's family is fairly integral and fleshed out, but then we had no mention of them further into the story when major plot twists surely would have impacted them too. I, for one, would have liked to have seen Grif's mother's reaction to some of those twists. Maybe in the next book?
Another minor pique is that early on in the book we're told; No one called me Marcus. No one. Why? Being that "Grif" is part of the title it seems fairly relevant. Or irrelevant if it's not necessary to know.
Also, and this isn't a criticism, I want to know why Wes needs what he gets from Grif. I assume this is expanded on in the next book, Wes' Denial - Tease and Denial Book 2. I'll certainly look forward to reading it, because I am intrigued by the premise of Wes and Grif's relationship which delves into areas unexplored and that is why this book rated it's 4 stars.
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