Games & Players (The Administration, #3)Games & Players by Manna Francis
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

happy valentine’s day!!

today i would like to take a minute to review this book—the third in the administration series—and confess that i am totally hooked. it is more than a dystopian s/f series, it is more than an m/m romance series. it has now worked its way into my brain and heart and if my star cat rating seems low, it is simply because some of these are stories and some of them are better than others, so i gotta round ’em. but i five-star cat these characters and their back-and-forth because their tension is killing me in an excellent way.

these books take place in a “near-future london dystopia” where the deeply flawed and sexually addicted sociopath toreth works as an interrogator (read: torturer) and meets warrick, the virtual-reality making, hobbyist baker who loves being tied up and hurt, and they form what should be the best relationship ever! but they are trying to keep it casual because of how puzzled toreth is about human emotions and how scientific warrick is forcing himself to keep himself. they plant their own obstacles and each of them feels more than they let on and it is so deeply frustrating, the way thomas hardy is so frustrating. characters—talk to each other, jeez!

but the cracks! (not those cracks, pervs) they appear and you just want them to be in love already. and admit it. there are these tiny perfect moments where toreth is just so small and sad and vulnerable. oh, it makes me want to be able to fix everything! i understand the character of sara—toreth’s assistant, who knows what he is, but still wants to break through to him emotionally. she wants what i want. (yes, all of it)

but after three books, i really care about these characters. talk about gay, right? but i do. the structure of these books is generally a novella about toreth and warrick and then some short stories that are sometimes about them, and sometimes about supporting characters. and i get angry every time it is not about them, even when they give good oblique character stuff about them.

is it condescending to wonder why she is wasting her time writing m/m fiction?? a genre with a growing, but still very small and specific audience. although—i do not care about gay male sex. i do not care about s/m. there is nothing in here that should make me feel sexified. and yet…and yet…more than any of the books i have read with the bodice rippers society, this one both got me a little flushed and also made me feel heart flutters of romance. so it seems like the audience can surprise itself, once they get over these ucky covers. i swear—these are really well-written books.

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