Dear Ms. Mitchell:
Considering I put this book both on the Recommended Reads for December and on my Best of 2008 list, I figured I should actually review it. Not that it’s not a pleasure to reread such a great story.
I love the way this book starts:
Eighties dance music blasted through the Yaris’s speakers as Joey Miller flew down the passing lane of I-10, dancing in his car.
That tells us everything we need to know about Joey. He’s cute, he’s expressive, he’s impulsive, and he’s very very gay. Seconds later, he witnesses an accident and, do-gooder that he is, stops to help an unconscious woman trapped in a minivan and calms her toddler. At the accident, he meets Aaron Chase, a paramedic, equally well-described in his first words:
Flashing lights, sirens and caffeine were near the top of Aaron Chase’s very short favorites list. All three gave him a rush that was almost as good as sex-‘which took up at least the top five on that list.
They are attracted to each other and fuck in Aaron’s ambulance after all the excitement is over, starting a tentative connection that they both work hard at both torpedoing and also strengthening without quite knowing why.
Joey has two problems. First off, he falls in love very easily:
It didn’t matter how many times it had been wrong, he still wanted to believe it. Wanted to believe it when he kissed a guy and everything inside said him. It had been wrong about Mark and Noah and Jorge and Tom and the whole list going right back to kissing Eduardo under the bleachers in tenth grade. Or maybe before. When he’d been three and told his mom he was going to marry his best friend Cody.
It didn’t happen with every guy, of course. Because then Joey would have a whole hell of a lot more than-‘shit, he was into double digits-‘ten ex-boyfriends.
And second, he not only goes around with a soundtrack in his head of music that accompanies everything he does, but he has a script he expects his relationship to follow, and when they do, he gets kinda bored. This being a romance, of course, Aaron refuses to follow Joey’s scripts right from the start, making the relationship real. Master manipulator that Joey is–in the nicest, sweetest way–Aaron bulls his way through everything and just does what HE wants to do–and that’s mostly Joey.
Aaron has a few problems of his own. He’s had a very crappy childhood and isn’t really one for boyfriends — he’d much rather a quick, emotionless fuck. He’s also a bit of an asshole. But we see enough from his perspective that we understand why he’s an asshole.
You have a gift for writing sex. There are many sex scenes in this book, but not only do each of them advance the plot and the characterizations, but they also are completely different from each other without being obvious about it. It doesn’t feel like, “Well, here’s the first sex, and here’s the blowjob, and there’s the dildo scene. Oh! and spanking…” Instead, the scenes are brilliantly seamless, fun, exciting, and oh so hott! In one scene, Aaron has Joey talk him through giving Joey a handjob so he can get it right — it’s one of the hottest things I’ve ever read, because is shows how much Aaron cares about getting it right and how unabashed Joey is about sex. One spanking scene in particular brings the characters closer together in ways that only BDSM can, and you do a brilliant job of showing how and why that closeness is created and how amazingly erotic it can be.
I also really like how not only how the sex is an integral part of the story, showing us how the characters and how they grow and mature and fall in love, but their careers are too. In fact, their careers provide both the tension of and the resolution to the story and it’s so great to see jobs be more than something the characters seem to ignore while they get it on. Aaron is an adrenaline junky of a paramedic, gruff and competent, who has managed to raise four siblings through awful family circumstances and fourteen years of battles with social services. Joey, of course, is a social worker, raising all Aaron’s hackles immediately. However, while Aaron can’t stand Joey’s job, it also is an integral part of the man with whom Aaron so reluctantly falls in love. And (desperately trying to avoid all spoilers here!) their careers are what bring about the reconciliation of the story’s tension in fascinating and completely unexpected ways. Kudos for the ending, actually. I can’t talk too much about it, but it’s amazingly done.
There’s just slightly too much of Joey’s ex-boyfriend who was the hero of one of Mitchell’s previous novels. While Mitchell avoids rehashing the entire previous book, thank goodness, Noah and the new boyfriend are sometimes just a little too overpowering.
That aside, this is my favorite type of romance novel: just a romance. No mystery, no “must save the world” suspense, no paranormal aspects, nothing but two men meeting, overcoming their own internal obstacles so that they can truly fall in love, and finding a way to be together permanently. And it’s brilliantly written, with strong, witty dialogue, distinct characters, sharp descriptions, emotional depth and breadth and interest, and scorching sex.
This book can be purchased in ebook from from Samhain.