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REVIEW: Collision Course by K.A. Mitchell

Dear Ms. Mitchell:

Collision Course coverConsidering 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.

Grade: A-

This book can be purchased in ebook from from Samhain.

Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

17 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 04:10:58

    I am so glad you liked this one. It really is one of the best m/m stories of 2008, and possibly ever. Excellent review, too.

    ReplyReply

  2. jmc
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 08:41:09

    I downloaded a copy of this when it was listed as a good December read here at DA. When I realized it was the sequel to Diving in Deep, I was a little concerned — while it wasn’t bad, I wasn’t thrilled with the characters (Cam, mostly) or the ending, which seemed abrupt and incomplete. My worries were completely blown away by Collision Course. It’s going to be on my best of 2008 list. Thanks for including it in the best of, and for this review.

    ReplyReply

  3. cs
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 08:47:02

    For me Diving in Deep was better (maybe because I enjoyed the premise more). This book was highly enjoyable though, probably a B- for me. I don’t like Joey very much, for some reason. But I loved both Aaron (and Cam) so that says something ;)

    ReplyReply

  4. CJ
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 10:51:57

    I picked this up based on a recommendation here, and though it took me a while to warm to it, by then end I absolutely loved it. My biggest problem with the book was Aaron, who I felt was areally big ass with really big issues (and I know all about issues-eventually, you just have to get over them). But by the end, I didn’t hate him. Can’t say as I totally liked him, but I didn’t hate him.

    I think my favorite thing about the story is how well the characters’ careers were used to fuel the plot. Often times, these are just pointless background details, but in this case it had so much to do with the story they could have been considered secondary characters (and much more interesting than the twin brothers). I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it done so well.

    For me, it was probably more of a B- review, really because I didn’t care that much for Aaron.

    ReplyReply

  5. Lynne Connolly
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 13:03:23

    I am so not an m/m reader, but because of recommendations here and elsewhere, I gave it a try, and I loved it. Fully realised characters and an involving story.

    ReplyReply

  6. orannia
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 21:35:02

    Thank you Joan/Sarah! You had me hooked on the book right from the beginning of the review. I’ve really only discovered m/m romance this year and am now playing catch up. I was all enthusiatic about purchasing it and then I read it was only available as an eBook. If you could only see my face now… I’m gutted. Incidences like this just keep proving to me that I need to get an eBook reader. Unforunately, I’m Ms InDecision when it comes to buying anything, particular electronics! Hopefully this will make me get my A into G :)

    ReplyReply

  7. Ann Somerville
    Dec 24, 2008 @ 21:38:17

    @orannia:
    All Samhain’s ebooks open easily on any PC, so you don’t need an ereader to read them.

    And if they follow normal practice, I’d expect to see this one coming out in print before the end of 2009. It certainly deserves it.

    ReplyReply

  8. Andi
    Dec 26, 2008 @ 15:17:14

    I gave in and read this, my first ever m/m. I loved the writing, the zippy dialogue, the characterization. I want a Joey of my own.

    That said, there was just way too much _fucking_ for my taste (and I’d have felt the same way about a het romance). After the third scene, I skimmed through the rest of them.

    The character of Joey, though, is a definite winner. He’s the only reason why I finished the book.

    ReplyReply

  9. Ann Somerville
    Dec 26, 2008 @ 15:27:15

    @Andi:

    there was just way too much _fucking_ for my taste

    Normally I’d be right there with you on this, but all I can say is that not only did I read and enjoy every sex scene, I read and enjoyed them *twice*.

    Which is a major miracle for me. The only other author who gets away with that is P L Nunn, and she writes incredibly kinky porny romances with enormous cocks. Not exactly the same as Mitchell’s :)

    Joey is a love. Though I suspect in real life, I’d want to smack him, lots.

    ReplyReply

  10. K.A. Mitchell
    Dec 26, 2008 @ 20:46:33

    Wow! Thank you so much for the great review. I’m thrilled every time a reader enjoys my work, but it’s really great to see it discussed here with references and comments. I’m so glad that all the elements of the book worked together for you. I always hope to get my books to that point for a reader.

    It’s exciting to see my characters discussed the way I often discuss characters in other works that I’ve read. Once you create them and turn them loose, other people get to interpret them through their own experiences and that’s really amazing to read about.

    Truthfully, while I do fall in love with them when I’m writing them and adore them ever-after, I don’t know that I’d want to take a long bus ride with any of them in real life. :)

    Thanks again.

    ReplyReply

  11. Georgina
    Feb 14, 2009 @ 00:46:14

    Damn, that’s a good book.

    I read it on the basis of your review and though I had more problems with the story than you did, the characters propelled me through. I’ve a weakness for screwed-up heroes who don’t mope and whine but simply get on with life, and I really loved Aaron. Joey veered between adorable and over-the-top for me, and I found his actions near the end to be a bit ridiculous, but I closed the book with a big smile on my face and the belief that those two really will have a HEA. It’s hard to argue with that!

    Am going back now to read your other m/m reviews, to see what other gems I’ve missed.

    Cheers.

    ReplyReply

  12. Joan/SarahF
    Feb 14, 2009 @ 08:03:48

    @Georgina: Yay!! You just made my day! Hope you can find some others.

    ReplyReply

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    [...] are also important in the development of the story. I’m not the only one who loved it, as Dear Author’s Joan gave it an A- and jessewave gave it 5 [...]

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  15. Roselyn
    Aug 02, 2009 @ 06:08:46

    Just finished reading CC. I enjoyed reading it even the sex scenes. It gave me an insight into m/m romance and sex, which I found hot…especially in the ambulance (great job!), I liked Joey and Aaron’s characters, they are so different yet they gave each other what the other was missing. They also seemed very real. I will definitely give Diving in Deep a read (even if this should probably be the book I had to read first). Hope Joey’s and Aaron’s relationship lasts :)

    ReplyReply

  16. REVIEW: No Souvenirs by K.A. Mitchell | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
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