At Any Price by Brenna Aubrey

At Any Price - Brenna Aubrey

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If you are (unlike me) looking for your next Fifty Shades of Greyfix, At Any Price will be right up your alley. Well, if you like you FSoG with less kink. And that instead of not signing the contract, they aren't having sex (they still have sexy times, so don't worry). At Any Price is a lot like FSoG, albeit better in some regards. The writing is much better. It isn't as disturbing as FSoG, but nevertheless, it's far from great either.

At Any Price is the story of Mia. A twenty-something young woman that is struggling. She is focused on getting into medical school, but on her free time she's a gamer and blogs about what she plays. A rather big blogger, as well. That, on top of her mother's medical bills and the fear of losing their family home, Mia is in dire need of money. So, naturally, she finds something she can sell: her virginity. She auctions out to the highest bidder and enter does Adam Drake. Multimillionaire, game developer and now owner of a huge company. Adam Drake can pretty much be described as perfect apart from the fact that he works over ten hours per day. But other than that, yup, perfect. He wins the auction. Mia and Adam make up plans to... progress the transaction. Unfortunately, the big even is postponed when other events get in the way. Both of them have secrets though, and as they spend time together they also grow closer.

Some parts of the book, I did like. Mia was a decent character (read: she didn't slut-shame other women) who tried to take charge of her life despite the hand she had to work with. And Adam Drake was all right at times. Not ideal, but who wants perfect anyway? I liked that this book tried to shed light on some gender issues (some in the gaming world as well as other norms in Western Society). However, they weren't great, just okay. The best thing is probably the writing, which was overall quite good.

However, what brings down this book are three things.
1. Its predictability.
2. The Fifty Shades of Grey themes.
3. The treatment of sexuality

Let's take a look at the first one. The twist that is the game changer in this book? I guessed it at 7%. Almost every scene is predictable. A few times I could more or less predict the scenes down to actual lines in the dialogue. Just... predictable. And as I said, I guessed the twist 7 percent(!) into the story. Everything after that was just an endless ride for Mia to get on the fucking train and get what happened. I kept waiting until 80 percent mark until the twist came around. By that time, I was so over it.

The second. Okay, maybe these things aren't solely FSoG themes or scenes or dialogues, but still... Let's make a list:
1. Adam demands Mia to eat. Ring a bell? Remember Christian's obessisve need with Ana to eat her food even when she didn't want to. Yup, Adam does tit too.
2. They sign an NDA. Christian, is that you?
3. Mia/Ana needs to have "vanilla" sex before she is able to try anything that would fall outside the hetero-sex spectrum. This is also a part of the sexuality issue as well. And now is the time when I regret saying Adam Drake was a decent character. Forget I ever mentioned that part.
4. The young hot billionaire CEO. Definitely you, Christian.
5. When the woman declines to sign the contract/continue their relationship, the man stalks her to demand/force her to explain herself. Disturbing.
6. The man is the one to decide when the woman loses her virginity.
7. The hero buys the heroine items (such as a computer) on loan.

I think you catch my drift.

Let's go to the last part. The sexuality. This upset me for so many reasons. I'd like to begin with how the one gay character is presented.

Heath was not obviously gay in any way.

He wasn’t “fabulous” or flamboyant. He was very masculine in his behavior and mannerisms, so he rarely set off people’s gaydar.

But he’s not that kind of gay.

Imagine that first sentence, but instead of gay it said straight. I mean, most people wouldn't comprehend the sentence. Because you'd never say he was obviously straight in any way. That just doesn't happen. And by writing this sentence you're dismissing an entire sexuality. (The second quote is basically a continuation on this theme and I won't go further into the issue.) The last sentence... How about we do another switch. Exchange "gay" for "black" or "Mexican" and some will call it racism. So yeah, this is another way of dismissing and belittle gay people. Not to mention reinforcing the stereotypes. All of this together is reducing gay men and women to static identities who are define solely by their sexuality as if that is what will the define their entire personality.

Moving on to my second issue with the sexuality portrayal.

No fetish. No bondage. Nothing unusual. You’re a virgin for chrissakes, it’s not like you would be into any of that.

So we've established that Mia is a virgin. So, naturally, before she can know what she wants, she must have straight vanilla sex. There's no possibility whatsoever that she might already know what turns her own. Because obviously she can't have fantasies.

“You haven’t lived, my dear. But just wait, once you get a taste, I have a feeling you’ll be wanting all sorts of flavors after this."

As I said, she must have straight vanilla sex. It's forced on the reader that this is the only way to debut as a young woman. But, after you've had that, you can have all the unconventional sex you want. But only after you've tried straight vanilla sex.

Who’d wondered for at least a year if I might be a lesbian because I didn’t find any men I met attractive?

I get the whole "wondering if you're lesbian" theme. Sexuality isn't a simple thing. It's complex. But to put it in these terms, that she's wondering if it might be true because she doesn't find men attractive? If it was a spring of the moment though, fine. But to think about it for an entire year? Hey, it's easy to find out. Do you find women attractive? Do they get your motor running, so to speak? No? Then fine, you're not interested in women in a sexual way. Easy cake.

My main issue with the portrayal of sexuality is how it is presented. The whole "straight vanilla sex" thing bothered me and upset me a great deal. Listen, not every woman will want to do their debut with a man in the missionary position. Some women will already know they have inklings to other kinks (or not kinks). Rant ended on this topic.

Did I enjoy this book? At times. There's some fun dialogue and I truly liked the gamer aspect to it. That's a rare treat in this genre that I'd love to read more of. Unfortunately the similarities to FSoG, the predictability and the portrayal of sexuality didn't suit me at all.