Author: Gene Gant
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Length: 86 Pages
Category: Contemporary, New Adult
At a Glance: In the end, Bender is a powerful novella that gives the reader a glimpse into what it is to be asexual and find a lover who is willing to understand your needs.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: At nineteen, college freshman Mace Danner works as an escort, hiring himself out to customers who want a submissive they can dominate. Having no carnal urges himself, the sexual side of his job leaves him cold, but he sees the pain inflicted on him by his clients as punishment for causing his brother’s death when he was in high school. Pain is not enough, however, to wash away his guilt, and Mace starts binge drinking in an effort to escape his remorse.
The dorm’s resident advisor, Dex Hammel, sees Mace spiraling out of control and strives to help him. Despite the mutual attraction between them, Mace is disturbed that he still feels no sexual desire for anyone. Even with Dex’s support, Mace’s self-destructive behavior escalates, leading to a situation that endangers his life.
Review: Mason has sex for pay—abusive, no holds barred sex. Punishment is what it actually is, both in his mind and in reality—punishment for an accident he blames himself for every single day, an accident that cost his brother his life. He is a freshman in college and determined to atone for his part in his brother’s death for as long as it takes. It doesn’t matter that it was also the way he funded his tuition, and that was important, but the brutal pain is what truly drives him. The saddest thing was that Mason derived no pleasure, could not achieve an erection from any kind of sex, for you see, that is not what he craved. Closeness, cuddling, intimacy of emotions and conversation, these gave him pleasure. Mason is asexual and he doesn’t really understand it fully until he meets Dex, the dorm RA who somehow breaks through the miasma of pain and guilt that holds Mason captive.
Oh, Gene Gant, what are you doing to me? Once again you have delivered a searing, gorgeous story that invades every sense and leaves behind such conflicted emotions. I loved and hated this novella. I was completely caught up in the living hell of a life Mason had created for himself and, at one point, when he is ambushed, I read in horror as he dealt with the aftermath of that brutality. I despised those thugs, and I wanted there to be some great deus ex machina that would rescue Mason, but a good book never gives over to the easiest solution. So I read on and wept just a bit for the suffering this young man brought on himself, all in order to bear up under a warped sense of paying his dues for the death of the brother he loved.
I admit it, I wanted to reach into this story and rescue this boy, and I was so very happy when Dex tried to do just that. But, in true form, careful to create as realistic a story as possible, the author did not allow for an easy fix. And so, in the span of a mere eighty pages or so, we watch the future unfold—such as it is—for our lost and hurting boy. This was not the easiest of novellas to read, and if you are easily triggered by the mention of rape or turned off by a harsh form of what I would very loosely term BDSM, then it may not be the book for you. I say loosely because consensual BDSM is between two like-minded and often loving partners, and this was certainly not that. This was so much less than that, and not in a pretty way. However, I believe it was written in order to expose Mason’s state of mind, and I felt each scene or mere mention was important to furthering the plot and establishing the character.
In the end, Bender is a powerful novella that gives the reader a glimpse into what it is to be asexual and find a lover who is willing to understand your needs, and often hold back their own. It is a love story–admittedly, an unusual one–but that makes it no less a wonderful novella that is teeming with hope and forgiveness.
You can buy Bender here: