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Absence is as crucial as presence.

The decision to stop dating has made Vaughn Hargrave’s life infinitely simpler: he has friends, an excellent wardrobe, and a job in the industry he loves. That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection. But when a piece is stolen from his art gallery and insurance investigator Jonah Sondern shows up, Vaughn finds himself struggling with that decision.

Jonah wants his men like his coffee: hot, intense, and daily. But Vaughn seems to be the one gay guy in Toronto who doesn’t do hookups, which is all Jonah can offer. No way can Jonah give Vaughn what he really wants, not when Jonah barely understands what love is.

When another painting goes missing, tension ramps up both on and off the clock. Vaughn and Jonah find themselves grappling not just with stolen art, but with their own differences. Because a guy who wants nothing but romance and a guy who wants nothing but sex will never work—right? Not unless they find a way to fill in the spaces between them.

Word Count: 88,700

330 pages, ebook

First published November 12, 2016

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About the author

Cass Lennox

5 books52 followers
Cass Lennox is a permanent expat who has lived in more countries than she cares to admit to and suffers from a chronic case of wanderlust as a result. She started writing stories at the tender age of eleven, but would be the first to say that the early years are best left forgotten and unread. A great believer in happy endings, she arrived at queer romance via fantasy, science fiction, literary fiction, and manga, and she can’t believe it took her that long. Her specialties are diverse characters, gooey happy ever afters, and brownies. She’s currently spinning in an Alpine meadow in Switzerland.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 196 reviews
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,513 followers
December 2, 2016
One of the things I am really, really enjoying lately, is an expansion in the M/M genre to give our characters a wider range of happy ever afters: long-term relationships that they get to define from the inside. Because, while I love (and live in) the traditional two-hearts-and-bodies-faithful-forever version of HEA, I also really believe the Tolstoy quote: “I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts.”

As we strive not to box people in about orientation, or gender, we also need to let people define what makes a mutually-happy relationship. I love seeing writers include poly guys and Ace guys and pansexual guys and men with kinks and fetishes and the rest. Especially when, as in this book, the author lets them decide simply between the mutually-consenting main characters how the ideal intersection of their emotions and physical desires will look. Some readers won't find some permutations romantic, or sexy, and that's fine. No story ever appeals to all readers. But as we open to really believing that love is love, it's very cool to see talented writers explore different images of that love.

Vaughn is a guy who tried sex in college, occasionally with women, in a relationship with a man, causally with other men, and... didn't like it. Sex for him is a brief physical satisfaction accompanied by mess, and unpleasant degrees of physical intimacy. Kissing is great, anything beyond that was a chore done to meet someone else's expectations. He knows that's not normal. He has a lot of gay friends, he dances in gay clubs, he knows normal men want sex, often, regularly, with a lot of want. While he just doesn't.

He's built an otherwise satisfying life. His family has money, which allows him a comfortable apartment with a great view. He paints, draws, and works in an art gallery where he can immerse himself in the art of others. True, his boss is a bit of a jerk, the gallery owners are demanding, and he has gone without so much as a real hug for years. But his life works. Until a third piece of art is stolen, right off the gallery walls.

Jonah was a foster kid, abandoned by his mom and then turned down for adoption, shuttled from home to home. He'd be the first to admit he has issues. Sometimes a good hard fuck is the best way to drive the thoughts of rejection from his head. He's young and he goes to the gym a lot and he's hot, and he knows how to work that - on the floor of a crowded club, there's always someone who won't reject him. He even likes public sex, and the idea that others know how he drove someone crazy, how he was wild and a bit dirty and had fun.

He's found a good job as an insurance investigator. Which is where the snag begins, because he meets a man who drives him crazy, and yet Vaughn seems oblivious to all his invitations. He isn't even sure Vaughn is gay, although he meets him again in a gay club. Maybe the attraction is all in his head. Vaughn is an itch he can't scratch, a chink in his armor of desirability, and a gorgeous man who seems just a bit lost.

Vaughn is also, of course, a possible suspect in an art theft he's investigating. It's messy. But Jonah has never been afraid of a mess, when he wants something. Which he definitely does...

This was a fun ride with a couple of great characters. The mystery was perhaps the weakest part of the book, with some big clues very early, and a bit of a slapstick reveal. But the unfolding of the relationship was great. I loved the way the ending worked, with the possibility of more slow changes and self-definition to come, especially for Jonah, but with both men eager to give the other a life that worked for them. After all, love means wanting the person you care for to be happy. And our rules about what that includes expand, in BDSM to giving them pain, in M/M/M to sharing another man, in kinks to humiliation and other things that would not appeal to most of us, but which make that guy feel truly seen and loved. And in that tradition, this book gives two excellent characters a happy ever after.

Profile Image for Lelyana's Reviews.
3,268 reviews379 followers
November 1, 2017
This book is one of those book that felt trapped on inside.
The blurb felt different after I read about the 'relationship' between Jonah (the slut extraordinaire) and Vaughn the asexual guy.
I know the concept of 'open relationship'. Believe me I know.
But when you have a relationship with an asexual, and f*** everything that move, still doing the hook up, even your 'boyfriend' is around, I'd say no. No, enough.
I had a big expectation about this book after I read the blurb, but even the blurb cheated on you. Damn.
I didn't like the feeling in my stomach. I skipped so many Jonah's hookups, especially the one with Vaughn around. Again, just no.

I tried to read it with an open mind. I tried. But ended with me needed some antacid in the middle of it. and that's not good.
So I focused on the 'mystery' , that solved after that Maurice guy appeared. Easy peasy.
Mystery done. Love affair, not my cup of tea.
They have epilogue and happy ending for sure, but...nothing's change (Jonah still the same).
And Vaughn to me is just a pathetic, doormat, desperate person. So not okay in my eyes. Hhhhh....

I'll make sure I won't read this series in the future.
As for future reader, if you have a very open mind about 'open relationship', go for it.
I can't recommend this to my friends though. Sorry.
Netgalley probably will hate me after this.

*ARC was given by publisher through Netgalley in exchange of an honest review, no high rating required.*
Profile Image for Annie ~ Queer Books Unbound.
357 reviews54 followers
October 20, 2017
Reviewed for From Top to Bottom Reviews.

*I got an ARC of this book via Netgalley*

Oh this book! I have so many thoughts and things I want to say but can’t because a) they’d be spoilerish and b) way too long for a review, but.. I LOVE this book. It is, without a doubt, one of my favourite books this year. I don’t know how to put my thoughts into a coherent structure so I think I’ll just go with bullet points.

• A+ portrayal of an ace character (I have to add that this portrayal is just one experience, and not the way to be ace, but I agreed so much with Vaughns thoughts and actions. I was seeing me on page. Something that hasn’t happened to me before in this way. I had a couple of books I could relate to for different reasons but never this much. It’s not been so long that I was in his place, not knowing that there is a label that fits me.

• I loved the character development from both Vaughn and Jonah. These two grew so much over the course of the book. I enjoyed the way they got to know each other and learned that there’s no “set way” for a relationship that they could do it the way they wanted to and what felt right to them. Or how they realised that they were also not limited by their background (this is more for Jonah than Vaughn). He’s not “less” because he had a different upbringing than Vaughn, but it took him a bit to see it. There were some misunderstandings along the way. Situations when Jonah interpreted things Vaughn did as Vaughn feeling “too good for someone like Jonah”. But in the end had to realise that that was for a different reason, nothing to do with where Jonah came from but with who Vaughn is.

• This one is an important one: I loved that Jonah accepted the boundaries set by Vaughn. There was a moment where he was disbelieving when Vaughn first told him he’s asexual. But when he’s home again he does his research and sees that there’s more people who are like Vaughn. And from that moment on he doesn’t try to “cure” Vaughn. Jonah accepts him as he is and doesn’t try to push the boundaries Vaughn has set, like so many other books with asexual characters do. He even apologizes after he came on him and is overall so considerate. I just want to weep with joy and cuddle the author for writing this!In Blank Spaces no one(!) gets changed to be with the other.

It wouldn’t have felt right for either of them to change just to be together and it also wouldn’t have made them happy in the long run. I loved the differences between Vaughn and Jonah and how despite (or maybe because of them) grew together and fell in love. (And how cute it was to see them falling for each other!! *swoon*)And a thing I particularly liked was how they’re just figuring their relationship out as they go, see what maybe works, what not and if something doesn’t work go back and reevaluate.A
t the end of the book they’re still Vaughn and Jonah, they’ve grown separately and together but they are on the inside still who they were before.

• The mystery wasn’t really that mysterious but I still enjoyed the way to find out for sure. And was curious to see how it would play out.

• Okay, let’s talk about Vaughn. Because boy do I love him. And as I said that was me on page. I know this feeling of feeling “broken”. When you think of the impossibility about having a relationship when you’re this “broken” and you don’t understand why you feel that way. But you see everyone around you having happy relationships and they’re constantly talking about sex but you don’t get what the fuss is about. And then you close yourself off to any kind of relationship (that is not friendship). I know all that and I think in a way Vaughn is a step ahead of me because I’m not there yet.My heart felt so full and at times & overwhelmed with emotion while I was reading. This book is about discovering yourself, accepting who you are but also accepting others the way they are without trying to change them. And through all of it it raises hope that having a relationship isn’t such an unreachable thing. Blank Spaces is so so fantastic and I can’t put into words how special this book is to me. Because it definitely made me think (and hope) that there might be someone for me out there too.

• And Jonah. Sweet and precious Jonah. Sure you could say Jonah is a “slut” and he does use that word to describe himself, although I hate that term because yes, he likes sex, he enjoys it and enjoys it regularly (and with different people). But he’s not hurting anyone because it’s consensual and it is his decision to make. I so HATE the way people are called “sluts” as soon as they have more than one partner (and prudes when you don’t have any sex or just little).

And while I’m not like Jonah, I understand and know that different people have different needs. And it is not my place to comment on that.

Not only does he enjoy sex, but sex was also safe for him whereas letting people “in” just hurt him in the past. He definitely has abandonment issues, and acknowledges that himself, but I never felt like that was the only reason he had a lot of sex. He said again and again that he just likes it and probably would even like it when he was in a relationship with someone. And that’s fine as long as the partner is aware and okay with it.

• Drunk Vaughn is just the cutest!

• I really, really loved the secondary characters, okay except for one. xD But I really liked the rest and am very much looking forward to read Zay’s book.

• Cass Lennox has this way with words that drew me in from the first page. I immediately liked Vaughn, his humour, his nerdiness and little quirks, even his insecurities. And as a whole Ms Lennox wrote a bloody fantastic character who’s just so amazing in his vulnerability and the way he slowly figures himself out. I highly, highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Chris, the Dalek King.
1,167 reviews147 followers
November 15, 2016
A good friend of mine has been raving about this book for about a month now, and having now read it I can clearly see why. I don’t think it would be much of a shock to anyone reading this review when it comes out, but the last week has sucked. Like, a lot. To the point where I couldn’t even do much more than stare at a wall and fight the urge to scream. I couldn’t even look at my kindle. As the deadline for this review crept closer and closer I was scared that I wouldn’t even have the energy to read this book, let alone create coherent thoughts about it. But in the middle of the night, determined to at least give it a shot, I opened up my kindle, pulled up the book, and hoped that something would happen to make me be able to lose myself, for even so much as an hour.

Six hours later…I was back in reality, but it wasn’t quite as dark or quite as lonely.

This is not a normal review. Mostly because I don’t feel much like a normal person at the moment. I’m scrambling my way back up a cliff and I just don’t have it in me. So, forgive me this. It is probably a bit of a mess.

This story of Vaughn and Jonah starts with the theft of a…art thing. I’m sorry, I have no clue what it is called. Collage? Sculpture? It sounded really weird looking, to be honest. But then I don’t really get modern art on the whole. Let’s just say that a piece of artwork goes missing, and Vaughn–lowly man on the art gallery ladder–is the one to find it missing. Because it is not the first piece of art to go missing in the gallery where Vaughn works, the insurance people are rightly suspicious. They send their guys to check it out…and that’s where Jonah comes into the picture. Jonah and his supervisor are not buying the whole invisible person stole the artwork and left without a trace routine. They are determined to get to the bottom of the whole issue. Though if Jonah could stop focusing so much on the bottom of Vaughn, it would probably go a bit faster.

I’m not entirely sure what kept me so damn glued to my kindle for six hours while I read this book through from first page to last. There was no one thing. The writing was fresh and inviting. The characters were fascinating and flawed. The story was extremely well paced and kept me needing to flip page after page but never left me feeling all twisted up inside. Which, after the week I’ve had, a bit of a godsend.

Whether it was a combination of all those things, or some indefinable spark some authors have to catch me and never let me go, this book was damn great.

And, on top of all that, I adore how the asexual angle was handled in this book. I really love how the whole “what is asexuality” conversations took place. They felt extremely organic to the scenes they were in, and avoided the dreaded (at least from me) monologues that read as if lifted directly from Wikipedia.

The author was not afraid to the characters be who they were. Did not try and squeeze them into comfortable ol’ boxes even though it might have been easier on the palate of some readers. Especially in the case of Jonah. Jonah doesn’t need to reform who he is any more than Vaughn does. Yes Jonah likes sex. Yes Jonah wants sex. Yes Jonah needs sex. So…Jonah has sex. With a lot of fucking people. Just not Vaughn. Because it’s not what Vaughn wants. Monogamy is great, but it is not the be all and end all of the universe. I loved that this book went there. I love that this book showed that love can exist without sex, and that sex is not only good when confined to monogamous relationships.

There is so much heart in this book, so much *waves hands around in nonsense motions* soul, I guess. It works in a way that grabs you and then keeps laying on the layers as you go along that by the time you get to the end this fucking awesome thing is just sitting there and you are going…how the fuck did that happen?

I just really loved it, ok? It worked and I love it and I think if you give it a chance you might love it too.

This book was provided free in exchange for a fair and honest review for Love Bytes. Go there to check out other reviews, author interviews, and all those awesome giveaways. Click below.
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Profile Image for Kira.
320 reviews17 followers
February 13, 2017
4,5 stars

I read this book back to back with another one featuring LGBTetc. spectrum minorities. but man, it was as different as day and night. Blank Spaces made me believe that it's possible to write a great book that represents a minority group without making it sound like an educational pamphlet.

And it was a great book. I can't remember the last time when the non-romantic parts of a romance were so interesting. How these people live, how they make new friends and reconnect with old ones, even talks about art. I'm not a contemporary art affectionado by any means (on my latest attempt at learning how to appreciate it I was all "hmm, I think English spellings of these Korean artists' names are wrong"), yet here even that was engrossing. I loved that both of the guys have a life that doesn't always revolve around sex or an absence of sex.

Vaughn is an asexual. It's a big part of him, it shapes his life a lot, but it's not a sum of him, he is so much more. And in the first chapter from Jonah's POV I thought "Oh God, not another case of insta-lust!", but somewhere along with Jonah wondering why Vaughn wasn't checking his ass came the understanding that it wouldn't be neither that simple, nor that disappointing here. And it wasn't.
Also, Vaughn was simply awesome! He is like a living embodiment of that state of calm clear-mindedness that can be achieved through meditation, and at the same time he doesn't come across as an annoyingly perfect man. I think some of his chill even rubbed off on me, because I've been unusually zen these past few days.

What I liked most was how both main characters' sexualities reflect on the the rest of their lives and how the rest of their lives reflect on their sexualities. There was a lot of complexity and depth throughout the book that I happily chewed on. It's never spelled out for you, but you can clearly see what makes this man act and think like that and how that man's life made his attitude to sex be like that. Even something seemingly unrelated, like why Jonah monitors his calorie intake, while Vaughn is a foodie.

All that said, this book is not for everyone. Aside from an asexual character, I suspect that many people won't be able to accept the arrangement that Vaughn and Jonah made in the end. I could see it working for them, but it's not conventional by any means.
For me personally this is the best romance novel involving an asexual person that I've read so far and one of the best books of 2016.
Profile Image for Sofia.
1,144 reviews194 followers
February 7, 2017
One size does not fit all.

One of those books I read in a day. I enjoyed it, how Lennox laid it out and gave us Jonah and Vaughn so different but with the same need at the base. I did and do wonder how they are going to work out things and I find Lennox take plausible. I would love to see a bit more into the future because I'm one who likes the nitty gritty of things.

Lennox writing style is flowing, a bit preachy at times but I easily overcame these bits, as you can see I read this over the course of twenty four hours.
Profile Image for rebel.
88 reviews
September 20, 2017
Content warnings: Honestly so much sex (on the non-asexual's part, often in public places such as clubs). Sexual objectification of the ace character (by the non-ace and his friends). Nonconsensual kissing and touching. Ignoring of people's boundaries (both nonsexual and sexual). When the MCs are still strangers, the non-ace bodily drags the ace out of a public area and gets into his face in a way that echoed the beginnings of assault (no one is assaulted, and the ace later doesn't seem to have a problem with it). Issues surrounding eating and weight, with specific caloric counts being mentioned. The non-ace's background/issues revolve around child abandonment and being passed through foster homes. The non-ace explicitly uses sex as a way to numb bad emotions. Homophobic slurs. Class differences between the MCs lead the working-class MC to have feelings of inadequacy, which the upper-class MC actively tries to dispel.

Being on the ace spectrum myself, I was ECSTATIC to get my hands on this, the first published romance with an asexual character that I had ever seen. Sadly, this book disappointed me.

This book alternates POVs between Vaughn, the asexual MC, and Jonah, the non-asexual MC, but it really feels like Lennox favored writing Jonah. What we get to see of Vaughn is sweet but thin. He needs more. He doesn't have a backstory. We don't even get to see him researching asexuality and getting the feeling that yes, this fits, this is who I am--we just see him tell Jonah about it after he's figured it out and we watch Jonah react to this information. In another part, Vaughn recalls his friend offering to marry him and "cheat discretely" on the side. Vaughn notes that he is offended by the mention of cheating. Yet just a few pages later, he's offering an open relationship to Jonah, saying he's thought about this and would be completely fine with Jonah going outside their relationship to fulfill his sexual needs. This is a total about-face, and we never even see Vaughn go through the thought process it takes to get there.

Jonah, on the other hand, gets better characterization and a backstory. He also loves sex and loves having public sex (usually in clubs). As an ace reader who came to this book expecting a warm ace space, this was a lot. I'm not even sex-repulsed; I can enjoy sex scenes when I care about the characters involved. But Jonah's not having sex with anyone we know, just random strangers (again, mostly in public places), and that was too much. I didn't want to read about it. I don't think most other ace readers want to read about it, either.

Honestly, for much of the book, I read Jonah as aromantic with an extremely high sex drive. (He does get romantic feelings towards the end, though.) It seems a really strange choice to pair him with an asexual character, especially one who has chosen to never have sex or allow his genitals to be touched. They seem completely incompatible. When they finally get together, in their very first foray into nakedness with each other, Jonah is already wondering if he can push Vaughn's sexual boundaries. Add to this mix the fact that Jonah has issues that clearly need therapy and admits to using sex as a way to not have to think about them. Jonah isn't ready for a serious relationship. He's not a hero that I want to see in an asexual romance story. If it was up to me, I would send the author back to the drawing board--keep Vaughn, flesh him out, and give him a hero aces deserve.

On a positive note, kudos to Lennox for not having Vaughn choose to have penetrative or oral sex with Jonah to keep him happy. The only stories I've been able to read with ace characters up until now have been fanfiction, and that's usually the case in those stories. Of course, some aces do choose to do this in order to satisfy their partners. It was just nice to see a different take.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jordan.
379 reviews44 followers
November 13, 2016
I don't know if I could have loved this book more. This is my first Cass Lennox read and I can guarantee that it will not be my last. And can we all take a second to just appreciate that cover? I will be shameless and admit that I picked this one up solely based on the cover. And I’m really glad I did.

First off, I need to just give a round of applause for writing a character like Vaughn. And I don’t mean in his asexuality, I mean in his complexity. Vaughn was a character that was creative and affectionate with a just a touch of entitlement and I absolutely loved him. Just when I thought I had him figured out he would do something that left me puzzled and questioning whether I really knew him.

And Jonah, wow. Where do I start? Jonah's complete and utter respect for Vaughns's boundaries despite not fully understanding them made Blank Spaces really stand out in a genre of books that parade around as featuring an "asexual" MC that is later forced to give in or walk away. Vaughn did neither. Although their solution wasn't ideal, things rarely are in relationships like this. A compromise had to be made and I am really proud that Lennox wrote this in a way that didn’t require either of our MC’s to give up their fundamental needs or values OR completely sweep the elephant under the rug and let it fester.

Vaughn wasn't pushed into anything he wasn't okay with and neither was Jonah. They found something that would work out for the both of them without getting in the way of their feelings for each other. It’s not exactly the ending I would have chosen, but I still felt like this was an HEA for these two.

I laughed all the way through this book and I’m pretty happy I decided to read it. There's no way I couldn't give this book 5 stars. I will be continuing this series and keeping my eye out for other Cass Lennox works in the future.

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Reviewed by Jordan at Alpha Book Club.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the author or the publisher in any way.

Profile Image for Bárbara.
1,130 reviews71 followers
October 16, 2016
*ARC provided by Riptide Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Where do I EVEN start?

By 5% (no, I didn't swallow any digits, I did mean FIVE PERCENT) of the book, I had the mystery part solved.

By 24%, I was already convinced that the so-called relationship would be unsatisfying for me

This story had more weaknesses than strenghts. It was cringe-worthy more often than not for me. True, maybe it wasn't the story for me, for my liking or whatever. But there were so many things that were so horribly dealt with!
-As aforementioned: the mystery part was weakest of all.
-The relationship (okay, this one is strictly a personal opinion) was fucked up.
-There was little to no character development (at times, it even seemed that the characters were involutioning, rather.
-The characters were BEYOND incompatible, but not only that: the "okay but the chemistry" part that usually comes along with pairings where the people are complete opposites? Nope. The whole thing felt forced more often than not. I wasn't feeling it.

Okay, maybe I should have to say something possitive, now? Not to sound like a complete bitch or something?

I think the approach to asexuality was at least tasteful and nice. Also, some of the supporting characters didn't suck, a few were great, even!

So there's that. But, unfortunately, little else.

This was definitely not the book for me.
Profile Image for Skye Kilaen.
Author 15 books304 followers
December 25, 2018
An endearing opposites-attract romance, with a side of art theft mystery and class difference, between quiet asexual artist Vaughn Hargrave and brash insurance investigator Jonah, a gay former foster child who deals with stress by having quasi-public and often rough sex.

This book has positive reviews on Goodreads from people on the ace spectrum, and Cass Lennox is ace, so yay for #ownvoices and good ace rep. Plus, this book has two of the most interesting, well-developed character growth arcs I've seen. Vaughn doesn't find the asexual identity that makes sense of his underwhelming sexual experiences until partway through the book. It's a lightbulb moment for Vaughn that gives him confidence to negotiate for what he wants with Jonah. Baffled Jonah has to struggle to accept that someone might value him as a person, and freely give him affection and comfort. That's more of an emotional barrier for him than his and Vaughn's different sexual preferences. So proud of both these guys! Who are fictional characters, yes, but still!

Content note: If you are not cool with the idea that leads in a romance novel might have sex with other people, this is not the book for you, for various reasons.
Profile Image for abbie.
57 reviews9 followers
November 8, 2021
IF YOU ARE ACE SPEC, DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW. run as far away as you can from this book because it has the most harmful aphobia i've read.

CW: aphobia

to start, please DO NOT read this book.

i'm not holding back on spoilers but please, if you want to read an asexual book, do not read this one. i don't advise aces to read this review, but allos if you still think this book is a good idea, keep reading. or if you don't know what aphobia is, also keep reading for a guide on what NOT to do.

if it were /only/ about vaughn and didn't also star a dick crazed, self obsessed, boundary crossing love interest named jonah, then my thoughts would be different. but alas, that is not the case.

it /had/ potential at first. vaughn as a character has potential to show a side of asexuality that's not often shown: an adult character, out of university, who has had sex before and is just now discovering asexuality and realizing he is a sex repulsed ace and that it's okay. he has an "aha" moment about his sexuality after hearing a (horrendous, more about that later) conversation about asexuality and it clicked. and the book /had/ potential to show how ace/allo relationships can work.

now, the first half of the book follows vaughn and jonah. vaughn dropping hints toward his asexuality but not having the vocabulary to understand himself. not really any internalized aphobia or anything coming from him. then we have jonah, the love interest. the dick crazed character who is oversexualized and knows no boundaries. he constantly pursues vaughn despite vaughn's refusals and shows no remorse for constantly pushing himself on vaughn. his agenda has only one thing: sex with vaughn. he is relentless on getting this and pesters vaughn (in public) about why he won't have sex and tries to dig for information that vaughn clearly indicates he is uncomfortable discussing with him, going so far as to asking about various kinks (again, still in public where vaughn has verbally stated he is uncomfortable discussing this) to try and get to the bottom of vaughn's sexuality.

moving onto the halfway mark. the toga party. vaughn expressed disinterest in going to the party and told jonah no, but jonah insisted. vaughn shows up with his toga in a bag and asks to change, to which no one offers a private space and he feels pressured to just get it over with, changing infront of literal strangers who he has never met and who are oggling him like he is the sexiest being alive. he then is repeatedly told his toga is too modest and one character tries to readjust it so vaughn's nipples are exposed. this party is full of unwanted groping of genitals, kissing with out consent, and people constantly trying to get vaughn to have sex and jonah's friend confronting vaughn about denying jonah sex at the party.

then we have our first sighting of the word asexuality. and it's mentioned in a debate. about whether asexuals are included in the queer community (spoiler alert: WE ARE. the A in LGBTQIAP+ stands for asexual, aromantic, and agender). yes, it's aphobic to say asexuality is the same as celibacy (it's not. celibacy is a choice. asexuality is not). yes, it's aphobic to say asexuality is a lack of a sexuality (asexual is a sexual orientation defined as experiencing little to no sexual attraction. but it is not a lack of anything). yes, it's aphobic to imply that opposite sex couples can't be queer (also biphobic). even the character arguing for asexual inclusion in the queer community isn't done well. they only argue for aces who still have sex (hello, sex repulsed aces exist) and argue that all aces still want relationships (again, false). yes, there's so many ways to be asexual, but you can't do asexuality justice by not acknowledging the broadness of the spectrum.

also, remember, this huge debate is the first time we see the word asexual on page. it's the first time vaughn hears the word. it's his "aha" moment that he's asexual. imagine, how would you feel if the first time you heard the term for how you identify, it was portrayed in such bad light? you'd feel pretty bad right? i'd surely feel even more "other" and ostracized than before i had the correct terminology. that amount of gatekeeping would make me repress my feelings even more.

now, i tortured myself and kept reading because the next scene was vaughn's coming out scene to jonah (remember, jonah's only thoughts are where he can stick his dick). i didn't even make it all the way through this scene because the aphobia didn't let up any. not to mention, jonah's thoughts going over to vaughn's place are how he needs to redo their last kiss and have sex with him because the last time he tried to kiss vaughn and come onto him went poorly (aka ended with rejection). so the first thing he does upon seeing vaughn is drag him into a non-consentual kiss and pout when vaughn says they have to talk. vaughn tries to come out and jonah literally cannot wrap his head around the fact that vaughn doesn't like sex. the /only/ way jonah can somewhat understand (and really, he doesn't) is by likening sexuality to chocolate (which was in a previous scene as well). vaughn tries to explain that whereas jonah likes dark chocolate best but settles for milk chocolate (milk chocolate being kinks he's not into but does it for the sex anyway), vaughn doesn't like chocolate at all. now, we really don't need to liken asexuality to food here just to make it somewhat understandable. it makes it feel like some sort of bad, secret thing because it can't even be properly talked about by name. during all of this, they're sitting close enough that vaughn gets a boner and it starts jonah on how vaughn must be lying and how anyone who gets a boner must want sex (spoiler alert: NO. bodies can react, become aroused, without being sexually attracted to the person and/or wanting to have sex. and people on the asexual spectrum can also react and become aroused without erasing their asexuality). this all leads into jonah then interrogating vaughn on his sexual history, asking if he's had sex, with which genders, more than once, etc etc etc.

this is where i called it. there is no justification for any of this. this is blatant aphobia and is only going to spread misinformation. there is also no coming back from this. no matter what happens between vaughn and jonah, nothing can or will make up for any of this. i've read books with aphobia in partners before but never to this extent, and they always ended in the mc leaving that person. but from reading a few reviews, vaughn doesn't cut jonah out.

so please, PLEASE, do not read this book. do not take this as a good representation of asexuality. there are so many amazing books out there.

and allos, especially my allo friends, if you read this and liked it, please reflect on everything i've said here. ask yourself why you didn't question any of the above behaviors, or if you did, why you dismissed them and failed to speak up about them. and do me a favor please, go find a /good/ asexual book and read it. i recommend upside down by nr walker for a m/m asexual romance instead of whatever this is.
Profile Image for Beebs.
549 reviews41 followers
October 26, 2016
While I liked both characters in this book, I really struggle with open relationships. I understand that this may work for some people but I have a hard time believing that it can ever lead to a HEA.

I felt that Jonah's constant need for sex and the reasons for it were pretty much glossed over, also the fact that Vaughn's friends and just about everyone else considers Jonah a "slut" was just brushed aside as irrelevant. I think that is something that would be very relevant in a long term relationship, at no time does Vaughn defend Jonah to his friends or anyone else for that matter.

So while I appreciated the author's effort to represent other identities on the spectrum I think that there were issues that could have been explored further.

*Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Daniel.
693 reviews46 followers
May 24, 2021
Good. A good book. First romance I've read with an ace MC. I liked it enough to forgive the fact that the "whodunit" aspect was painfully obvious from the get-go. And that absolutely zero time was spent on the investigation despite one of the MCs being an "insurance investigator". Despite the fact whatever Vaughn initially saw in Jonah really didn't come across at all. And that extremely contrived coincidental discussion at the "toga party". And I'm pretty sure Chekhov has some things to say about that bag of chips. But the characters and relationship were handled very well, imo.

Very sweet. I liked it. 5/5

Profile Image for Stephanie Hiddleston.
361 reviews11 followers
February 15, 2020
This was my first romance book with an asexual character and a sexual character coordinating their desires (and non-desires) around each other and figuring out together how they'll work and then still having sexy times but with a fixed line and I've never loved anything as much as this.
Profile Image for Angie Elle.
864 reviews101 followers
February 9, 2017
ARC from Netgalley

3.5 stars

This book took me so long to get into, and quite frankly, I’m not sure why I stuck with it. But I am really glad I did, as I ended up enjoying it. I adored Vaughn and his easygoing, and at times, boyish nature. He was so honest and kind, just the sort of guy you’d want in your circle of friends. I love that he was so willing to just go with the flow. He wasn’t one to question why life was the way it was. It just was, and he was going with it. Jonah, on the other hand, was Vaughn’s complete opposite. I felt like he went with the flow, but it was a deliberate choice instead of being part of his nature. Jonah spent his life trying to appear normal, but I get the feeling that he was really looking for love…in all the wrong places, as they say. This book gives a new meaning to slow build, and I’m sure that was intentional and directly related to Vaughn’s indifference (or possibly aversion) to sex.

Now, I loved the friendship portion of this story. I like that Jonah found Vaughn intriguing enough that he was willing to stop bringing sex into their relationship and try to be buddies. But the part where they actually do decide to delve into relationship territory and make the choices that would work best for them was a bit dicey for me. I didn’t understand the haste behind their decisions, and why there weren’t different things they could try. But I’m going to be honest – after this book, I don’t think I have a grasp on what asexuality is at all, and while I don’t understand their choices, I don’t think the credibility of them depends on me ‘getting it.’ So while I’m not totally sold on the way things ended up, I did appreciate this story.

The ‘mystery’ behind the missing paintings was predictable, but that was fine with me, because that was just the catalyst for what brought Jonah and Vaughn together. I don’t think it was really meant to be suspenseful or a whodunnit. I think the pacing of this one was OK; if it had been a bit tighter, maybe the story would have gripped me from the beginning. The highlight of this book for me was ‘the drunk scene.’ It was quite possibly the best drunk scene I have ever read, and it left me in stitches. Just when I thought Vaughn couldn’t get any more adorable, he goes and turns into the giddiest drunk ever and proved me wrong!

When Blank Spaces finally pulled me in, it pulled me all the way in, and I ended up loving this story. If you’re a fan of quirky characters and hard won relationships, this book is right up your alley.

This review was originally posted on Books & Beauty Are My Bag.
Profile Image for Christi Snow.
Author 70 books743 followers
November 15, 2016
My Review:
Aww...this book...so much love for this story and these guys...who are such complete opposites it's hard to see how they can possibly make this work. Vaughn is asexual and Jonah is quite the opposite. In fact, I'd almost hazard to say that Jonah is the male version of a nymphomaniac. He has sex...a lot of it...and truly can't live without it. Vaughn comes from money...a lot of it. Jonah is a product of the foster system. But they're drawn to one another and become friends...friends who know they aren't sexually compatible...even though they're attracted to one another.

It's a hard book...just because things are so impossible between them, but it's also so good for exactly that same reason. I loved these two guys together. Even when they're hurting by being close, they know that they are better together. And they truly are better together. They both have hangups and stresses that are eased when the other is close by. But that doesn't change how different the two are.

I had an idea of where the book was going and I was right, but I enjoyed every single minute of getting there. It was interesting diving into Vaughn's art world...from the gallery to his own creation of art. I liked their very different groups of friends and the dynamics within them. I just enjoyed all the time I spent reading this one. It was my first book I've read by this author and I think she has a great voice. I look forward to more.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Profile Image for Notthatcatwoman.
154 reviews1 follower
October 25, 2016
This book was disappointing. Asexuals seem to be the unicorns of the LGBT book world, so to find a book where the main character identifies as asexual is rare. Unfortunately this book just makes him look like a weak guy who wants a relationship so badly that he's willing to let his 'boyfriend' sleep with any dick that moves. The whole thing just left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

That aside the actually plot was soooooo drawn out. There was thefts, the bad guy was caught and the two main characters got together. That was it. And it took 234 pages. It desperately needed an editor to go through it with a red pen and just slash out whole paragraphs as unnecessary. It was almost like instead of saying "they got up and got ready" the author said "they opened their eyes, stretched, put their feet on the floor and got out of bed. then they walked across the bedroom into the bathroom before picking up their toothbrush and toothpaste" etc, etc.

The characters weren't that great. Vaughn was a pushover and he didn't seem to take advantage of or enjoy the fact that he had money, a great job and loving parents. Jonah was a slut and while it was implied that there was underlying reasons for it nothing was explained.

In the end I was left feeling like the author had written a gay novella, had decided to plump it up with filler and change a character to a unicorn asexual.
Profile Image for Shelba.
1,999 reviews42 followers
February 19, 2021
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the ace representation. I think this is one of the few MM books I've read with an ace MC that hasn't put asexuals in a clearly labelled box. The fact that it is mentioned that what is true for one ace, isn't necessarily true for another. I love that Vaughn was a sex-repulsed ace who's sex repulsion isn’t cured by the power of love so that the author can write in a gratuitous sex scene or two. Had Vaughn been presented in a way that I often see ace characters presented, a.k.a. "I'm asexual and asexuals don't have sex" followed by the "I love you so much I'll dick you anyway", I'd probably have thrown the book down in disgust and blacklisted the author. As it stands, I'll be checking out more of their works in the future.
Profile Image for Lila Hunter.
Author 11 books81 followers
February 10, 2017
My View: I have read several books with asexual characters and I think this one does the best establishing a loving relationship in which one of the partners is asexual. But the best part is how the author shows the character self-discovery and how it changes him.

Vaughn is perfect. He has all he needs at the moment and meeting Jonah just opens the door for him to fulfill a piece of his life he didn't know was missing. Not because someone's expectations, but because it makes sense to him.

Jonah is young and a contradiction. He loves the life he has, but is working hard to do better. His constant hook ups work for him and give him the release he needs to focus in his work. He uses sex as a coping mechanism but he's not jaded about it.

I love Vaughn's and Jonah's friendship. It's fun, interesting, and refreshing; just like the main characters. They are the book and we see them grow as we discover more about their lives.

Only the last part felt out of place for me. I understand how they work as a couple, but the easy talk about it, in public, seems out of place for such a lovely moment they were enjoying as a couple.

The mystery element is interesting, and keeps bringing the main characters together. The rest of the cast complemented the main story and set some strings for future stories.

What I liked the most: How well the asexuality topic is weaved in the story.

I wanted more/less: More time with Vaughn and Jonah as a couple, out with their friends; everyday activities like waking up together, catching up breakfast, etc.

Who should read it: Fans of a diverse cast of characters.

Originally reviewed for Someone Else's Stories.

ARC provided by Riptide, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Lovingbooks1.
1,185 reviews23 followers
October 31, 2016
*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review.*

I love this story so much I almost cried when it ended. This is not your usual m/m romance or erotic, it is unusual and that's what's makes it unique in my mind.

Jonah's cockiness and Vaughn's calmness was a joy to read about. Their differences are well described in a not so obvious way, but you still get it.

I liked the writing style of this author very much, it's light and easy even when it still is about a heavy topic. The description of the characters are very good and I felt like I got to know them well. Both of them essentially longing for love and affection.

This was a story about a man used to be abounded and never felt like he was loved growing up in different foster homes. He ends up with replacing his need for love and care with shallow sex.
Then he meets a man growing up in a loving wealthy family, who is not in to sex and has given up on ever having a relationship because of that.

I thought the ending would bothered me more because it was surprising, but actually after finishing the book I found I liked this ending, it showed that two people can accept each other's different needs.

I could write so much more about this book but then I would give away things that you would want to read yourself.

I would certainly read more from this author.
Profile Image for namericanwordcat.
2,442 reviews408 followers
June 25, 2017
I liked both leads and the caper part of the romance was interesting. However, it is hard for me to settle into a book with a love story when at least one of the characters needs therapy and doesn't get it.

This is an intersting exploration of two very different people who are attracted to each other and like each other but not a book I will be rereading.
Profile Image for pi.
215 reviews42 followers
November 19, 2016
A canonically gay, ace main character? Openly talking about asexuality? Acknowledging open relationships exist? Hell yes! This book is awesome!!

Ok, I admit the beginning of the story was a bit slow, and that mystery was more than predictable. Also, some of the things the different characters said or thought made me cringe. However, when I got to the second half of the book, I couldn’t put it down and now I’m completely sold. I adored it!

It’s very difficult to find books with a good portrayal of ace characters, but I think Cass Lennox did a good job here (always having in mind that the asexual spectrum is very large and every person is different). And I love how the book focuses in the difficulty of label yourself, the importance of discovering your own sexuality (or lack off), that there is an entire community that identifies the same way you do, that you’re not broken, that there’s nothing wrong with you, that you are lovable.

Another thing I loved about “Blank Spaces” is the character development and how the relationship between Vaughn and Jonah evolves. They leave behind that awful first impressions and prejudices, get to know each other, become friends, and trust one another. And I love, I love, I love how they make their relationship work, making agreements that satisfy both of them so that no one needs to change who they are or what they like to be together. They are super cute and I hope they make some appearance in the next books.

*I received a digital copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rhode PVD.
2,341 reviews23 followers
May 5, 2017
Wow. I adored this and it came along at just the right moment.

Way too many romances focus on sexy times as the primary conduit to love these days. While sex is great in its place (which isn't automatically locked to love IMO), I love a book that can separate these things. There's loving to hang out with someone, there's being at their back when they are attacked, theres looking after/caring over someone when they need help, there's glorious comfort from touch/hugs and smell... and all those things matter just as much as, or frankly more than sex.

This book was such a relief to read because it affirmed all these things. While also saying yeah sex is fun too, as is a job or hobby you are passionate about.
As are a circle of friends. All equally important. But outside of food and shelter, money is not, nor is status.

Yup. Massive yup.

On the parent front, although one of the characters is a foster child, this was one of the RARE times the theme was used for more than some tearjerking backstory. It was truly woven in, thoughtful and not gratuitous. Plus the character used it to become a better person. Fantastic.

Lastly, this gave a hint of how open relationships can really work. Not that they require asexuality or high libido, but that you can love someone and not be jealous and be calm. Yup. It's absolutely my cup of tea.

I gotta run, but really happy. This book was an A+ on so many levels for me.
Profile Image for WhatAStrangeDuck.
474 reviews35 followers
December 18, 2016
Not only is it super rare to find a romance with a MC who is on the ace spectrum anyhow but the few I've read didn't quite work for me. This one does. On the one hand it is respectful in its depiction of Vaughn who just doesn't get what's supposed to be so great about sex. On the other hand it doesn't vilify Jonah for having sexual urges and the need to satisfy them. I can understand that some people have a problem with the solution to this dilemma but I thought that it made a whole lot of sense. A few reviewers mentioned that Vaughn was "weak" or "a doormat" but actually I didn't see him that way at all. IMO he is just being his own person. Instead of getting themselves into a situation where either one or the other will be unhappy because they have to act against their nature, they find a solution that works for both of them. They have to work for it and that is not always pretty to behold, yes, but that makes it even more believable.

I'm certainly not saying that this is the solution for every relationship between asexual and sexual people but in this book it made sense to me and that's really all I care about.

The writing is charming and funny and I liked the characters a lot. The weakest part is the mystery but that's okay because it's just a plot device to get the MCs to interact.

Profile Image for Kate Lynn.
60 reviews13 followers
February 23, 2018
I’ve got a few complaints about how the character’s sexualities are presented, but it’s over all a very cute read.

I was excited about a book with an asexual main character. The descriptions about him discovering his sexuality really resonated with me and it made me tear up seeing my own thoughts reflected in a book.


I understand that Jonah’s sexual identity is the complete opposite of an a-spec person. Still, the amount of sexual descriptions really got to me. Tread carefully if you’re looking for an asexual story without sex, because you won’t find it here.
Profile Image for Blaise Kyrios.
267 reviews16 followers
May 13, 2023
I liked Vaughn. I do not understand why Vaughn liked Jonah at all. Jonah was a dick. Asexuallity was very nicely covered in this though.
Profile Image for Barb ~rede-2-read~.
3,168 reviews87 followers
December 17, 2016
ARC provided by the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an impartial review.

Unique, enjoyable, interesting, fun, amazing, and heartwarming are just a few adjectives that describe this story from Cass Lennox, in what might be their debut novel.

Vaughn Hargrave doesn’t like sex. He’s had it, and it’s okay, but it’s pretty much nothing special. He’s never felt that’s okay, so he avoids situations in which he might be expected to “put out.” He has a few close friends and will go out to bars with them, but they know he’s going to leave when he gets uncomfortable and don’t put pressure on him, at least they don’t anymore. His world is turned topsy-turvy when he meets Jonah Sondern. Jonah is his total opposite, and when they first meet in a work-related art theft investigation, Jonah is annoyed that Vaughn doesn’t react to him as he expects. After all, Jonah is one smokin’ hot guy and everyone should acknowledge that. But not Vaughn, and it bugs Jonah for reasons he can’t define.

Both of these characters are highly enjoyable, and the very slow buildup of their attraction for each other—their non-sexual friendly attraction to each other—makes this story what it is. I learned more about what it truly means to be asexual from this one story than I ever have from all my other reading, including online research. And yet, it wasn’t the least bit preachy or offensive or boring. The men develop a friendship after Jonah’s reunited college friend explains the concept of being friends with someone and forces Jonah to commit to following through with his attraction to Vaughn but to keep it strictly platonic. And when Vaughn agrees to attend a toga party where Jonah is ready to party, Jonah is excited until Vaughn tells him no, yet again.

However, at that party, as Vaughn is simply hanging out, he overhears a heated discussion on sexuality and an unusual term that piques his interest. That term is asexual, and it’s the beginning of a new understanding and a positive self-reinforcement for Vaughn. In the meantime, Jonah starts to realize that maybe a part of why he needs to get off with anonymous guys a few times a week (sometimes a few times a night) just might have something to do with his abandonment issues. His mother left him in front of a shop when he was only five (that just broke my heart!), and he’s recently learned a bit more about that.

Both men evolve and change and come to a better understanding of themselves and each other in this book. And they acknowledge how much they care for each other and are able to establish something special and unique to them. It’s not at all what I’d want or expect, but it is absolutely perfect for them. I loved them and wanted to see the story end on a positive note, and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. Being on their journey with them was uplifting and eye-opening, and I want to revisit them in a few years because I just know they will still be together, and they will have grown in their love and commitment. I hate to put this one down. I highly recommend it to everyone.
Profile Image for ren.
178 reviews39 followers
November 5, 2016
Also posted on my blog.

ARC acquired through Netgalley.

So, I loved this book.

Like, really, really loved it.

One of the reasons is fairly obvious: one of the main characters, Vaughn, is ace, and he’s one of the best ace characters I’ve ever read (granted that they aren’t many, but Vaughn was great). The author is ace too if I’m not mistaken, which would explain how Vaughn’s experiences felt so genuine to me. In fact, I think that’s one of the first times where I identified almost completely with an ace character based on said character’s experiences/feelings about their asexuality. It was that good.

I also liked Jonah, but obviously didn’t relate that much to him since he’s Vaughn’s opposite and sleeps around a lot + sees sex as something essential. I still found him an interesting character, though, and like how the author handled his inner conflict.

Another reason I liked Blank Spaces so much is that the relationship between Jonah and Vaughn is awesome. I enjoyed how it developed and how they interacted with each other, and loved how they resolved their issues re: sex. Mixed relationships (ace char + allo char) aren’t rare in the few books with ace main characters out there (in fact, they are the norm) but what is rare is that the allo char accepts that the ace char isn’t okay with sex. Usually the ace char is the one who has to compromise and that’s beyond annoying (and sends a not so nice message to all aces). So I’m glad it worked out differently in Blank Spaces.

The mystery of who robbed the painting was the only weak thread in the book for me. It was fairly obvious who the thief was & the Agatha Christie fan in me is totally against everything being solved by chance. Still, I don’t think this subplot was meant to be important? I mean, it was obviously what brought the main characters together, but to me it didn’t feel like we should care much about who was stealing the paintings. YMMV though.

Last reason I liked this book is simple: the characters. All of them were well developed and even the secondary characters felt fleshed out/real (with the exception of Maurice, who was kind of cartoonish to me). Vaughn was by far my favorite. His love for art was adorable, as was every single of his quirks. He’s so interesting and fresh and relatable it was a pleasure to see the story through his eyes.

So, 5.0 stars for Blank Spaces. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Profile Image for Blue.
1,441 reviews21 followers
September 30, 2016
An ARC of this book was generously provided to me from the publisher via NetGalley.
If you are looking for a unique romance story, have an open mind, and are okay with an emotional relationship rather than a sexual one, this book is highly recommend for you! This book is all about emotion, a slow-build relationship involving 2 distinctive men who are opposites in most ways. Each fighting their own battles, their personal growth throughout the story is wonderful to witness. It tugged at my heart strings quite a few times. With the art world as the backdrop, robberies and some twists and turns involving background characters, this was a great overall story. The writing itself is done wonderfully, strong story-telling and vivid descriptions that put me into the story and the characters heads/emotions. Without giving too much away, I said there’s really no sex in the book, there is, not in a fade-to-black kind of way, and not between the 2 main characters. As I said, you need somewhat of an open mind about this book, sex, and different kinds of love. My motto is ‘love is love’, and it truly fits this book. It’s ultimately about growth, acceptance, and a heart-tugging romantic connection. I definitely recommend this book and will be looking for future work from this new author. I feel she has real talent as a romantic storyteller.
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