Review: Lab Rat's Love

Lab Rat's Love
Lab Rat's Love by Ana J. Phoenix

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Romance Review

A chip inserted into a person's brain as the next big thing for sex toy evolution is an alluring concept. Will the person controlling the chip use their power for good or for evil?

Nex is the bad twin. His twin brother, Styx, fixes it so that Nex can have the life Styx wants him to have. Styx is the successful twin who's always been smarter, at least book smarter. Styx's dying wish is to have his business partner and best friend, Kane, find Nex. When the two meet, sparks fly in both a good and bad way.

This story is a romance between a dysfunctional drug addict and a guy who is mourning the passing of his best friend and sometimes lover. Ms. Phoenix mixes several hot buttons with drug addiction, gambling, bipolar disorder, abuse and replacement lover. The conflicts in this story are hectic. There are so many things going wrong in this story between the characters that it's a bit too over-dramatic for me.

Basically, Nex is a character who, given a choice, will make the choice which hurts himself. This type of character is not one I enjoy reading, which is why this book didn't work for me.

From a character perspective, Nex is a hot mess. He's traumatized by his childhood past. At a young age he's separated from the twin brother he's completely dependent upon. Because of his experiences, he does drugs and he gambles everything away. Basically, he can't get his shit together. He has an excuse for everything. There is no accountability. He literally needs a keeper and even when he does have one, he does everything he can to screw himself over. To top this off, he is offered a chance to straighten out his life and it's a questionable one because he is basically a physical stand-in for his brother.

The dynamics between Kane and Nex are rough. Other than the fact that Kane is a dominant and Nex is an out of control masochist, there isn't any chemistry. Kane is disgusted with Nex's choices. Nex feels he's being used like replacement lover, and to top it off, he's paid for it. Sex plus money equals whore. Newsflash, no matter how it's spun, Nex is whoring out his body for money.

Whoring out a body is not the issue for the story. It's actually the hawt part. If this went non-con or dub-con, the story would have been sizzling. Seriously, a chip which controls a person's orgasm or makes them obedient? How can this not be abused? I can think of so many delicious depraved things to do to sexy Nex. Unfortunately only a couple of unmemorable sex scenes occur between the two lovers before this experiment goes sideways. Now the story is suddenly a romance and Styx's real motives come out through letters.

This story leaves me feeling ill at ease with Kane's well intentions in a domineering manner and Nex's constant self-sabotage. Even the sex scenes are a bit off because of Nex's psychological issues, it always feels as if Kane is taking advantage of him. Plus, the isolation of Nex done with good intentions comes across as classic domestic abuse warning signs. Yet this is all rolled up in a package labeled as romance. This didn't work for me. The mix of mental instability with BDSM is something which just takes away from the overall sexiness of this book. If Ms. Phoenix would use this more as a healing growth for Nex, I could see the romance. But Nex didn't seem to grow at all from his experience. If Ms. Phoenix wrote this as a depraved mind control piece with Nex guiltily getting off as a 24/7 sex slave with humiliation and taboo BDSM scenes, it would have been fine, too.

This book is for m/m lovers who enjoy angst-ridden characters who create train wrecks.

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