Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerMerrow is one of my favorite m/m authors; you really need to give her books a try because they are fantastic. I think most of her books -this one included- are novellas or short stories, so they’re perfect if you don’t have that much time to read.Pricks and Pragmatism is the story of Luke, a college student that, like most college students, is broke. But unlike your average student who works a couple of crappy jobs to support himself through college, Luke has developed a rather morally challenged method: he gets rich guys to pay for his expenses and to give him shelter in exchange of sex. You could say that he’s technically a prostitute although he doesn’t see himself as one. He enjoys the sex and the company, and he even enjoys the expiration date on the relationship because he never gets attached to his partners, or so it seems.One day, just when he’s about to start his finals and is very close to graduating, his current “boyfriends” kick him out of the house and suddenly Luke finds himself homeless, jobless, broke, and in the middle of the most important and stressful part of college. That’s how he meets Russell, a very nerdy and homely engineer who offers him a new arrangement. But it turns out that Russell only wants company and despite Luke’s continuous offers of sex, Russell adamantly refuses. And so they begin a somewhat awkward relationship that’s more than friendship but doesn’t involve sex.There were tons of reasons why this story worked for me. First the writing is flawless and compelling, it features three of my favorite romance tropes: virgin hero, slutty hero and ugly duckling, and both leads are likeable. Overall a very engaging story that albeit predictable, features a couple of twists that keep it refreshing and new.Luke is a very appealing and likeable character with very unappealing and unlikeable traits. This is a guy who is too lazy and too enamored of the rich life to look for a job and stop selling himself like a piece of meat, just to be discarded when he’s no longer useful or something better comes along. He’s also narcissistic and cocky. But none of these things made him obnoxious or unpleasant, because after you see him interact with Russell, you realize that there’s more than meets the eye, and that this is a guy deeply troubled by an unhappy childhood who wants something else for himself, who isn’t as nonchalant about the life he leads as it seem and who isn’t as lazy.Russell was more of a mystery because the story is told from Luke’s POV and we never see inside of Russell’s head. But the little we do see about him shows us a guy who has no social skills whatsoever, doesn’t really have that many friends and is just painfully lonely and desperate for someone to share his life with. It was good to see him come out of his shell although he doesn’t get an extreme makeover by any means, in fact, one of the reasons I loved this story so much was because they learn to love each other just the way they are, they learn to see beyond the front they put to protect themselves, and Russell remains the same throughout the book. He doesn’t shave and shows the world how handsome he is under all the facial hair, he doesn’t get a fashionable wardrobe, and he doesn’t join a gym and develops a six-pack overnight.This short story packs a lot of punch and its characters truly grow and mature, Luke in particular. The love story develops slowly but steadily and is very sweet. I think in this case the short length works in favor of the story, although it is quite short, but it’s definitely worth it. Fans of m/m and contemporary romance should enjoy it.