Book Review: Stripped Clean (The Escapade #1) by Ellis Carrington
The chemistry between the two main characters, Carlos and Greg, is near instantaneous but slowly builds over the first half the book as they get to know each other and deal with their own personal demons. Carlos’s job isn’t glamorous – he works in Greg’s strip club as a janitor – and he hasn’t made the best life decisions, but his intentions are pure and he’s working hard to get his life back on track. His self esteem is fairly low and there were times my heart really ached for him.
Greg is probably the book’s most complex character; determined and a little gruff, this man is direct, yet knows how to diffuse difficult situations without using aggression. He’s a unique combination of masculine strength (even though Carlos is technically bigger and stronger) and conflicted emotional sentimentality. While Carlos’s motivations and characterization are fairly straightforward, Greg’s personality and history peel slowly away as the story moves through critical events. Ricky, Greg’s co-owner of the club, is a memorable secondary character with a great sense of humor who knows when to be serious and when he can joke around. I enjoyed every scene he was in.
The only thing that really bothered me about the story was repetitive word usage. “Stuff” and “things” were used so many times I actually did a word count to see just how many times I’d read it (59 and 108 mentions, respectively). I felt like the over-usage of these plebeian terms made the men seem less intelligent and gave them a lower class feel during scenes where I really wanted them to come across as stark and strong and confident in their language.
Overall, Stripped Clean is a solid, contemporary m/m romance with a Happily Ever After ending. There’s some relationship angst but it’s understandable (and expected!) considering the serious emotional baggage both these guys carry around. It’s not glamorous (one owns a strip club and the other meets him while working there as the after-hours one-man cleaning crew) and, while both are attractive, neither of them is badass or overly-anything. They feel like real men with real histories and their own assortments of family drama and life regrets and hopes and dreams. If that genre of romance is your style, definitely take a look at this book. Ms. Carrington does a great job of bringing these characters to life and tethering them to one another from the heart without sacrificing who they are or bending her own story rules to get them into easier situations. If you’re a fan of Cardeno C. romances, where the story is the journey and the HEA is guaranteed, Stripped Clean will be just your speed!