I love both Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov’s writing, so I was incredibly excited to read a collaboration between them. Their writing styles are so different I was curious how they would work together, and I must say I was thrilled with the results.
In Country Mouse, American tourist Owen Watson is visiting London with this ex-girlfriend who has abandoned him for the night to hook up with an old flame. Owen wanders into a bar where among the crowd he spots a gorgeous guy in an expensive suit. When Malcolm Kavanagh approaches Owen, things immediately begin to crackle between them. Malcolm is bossy, arrogant, and controlling, but also incredibly hot and appealing. Owen finds he can’t resist accepting Malcolm’s offer for dinner and more.
Malcolm is a workaholic banker with a high stress job where he is expected to be macho, tough, and give his life over to his work. Malcolm is tightly controlled, extremely disciplined, and wants everything he does to be perfect. He loves to control every aspect of his sexual encounters and has a dom side that he is eager to share with Owen.
Malcolm sees the younger man as a bit of a meek country mouse and assumes this night will be like so many spent with nameless hook ups who are forgotten soon after. But Owen is no pushover, not only asserting himself, but also forcing Malcolm out of his rigid comfort zone. As the men get together, Malcolm quickly finds himself losing control, the intensity between them causing him to live in the moment rather than his preplanned sexual storyline. One night soon leads the way to a weekend together, where Malcolm and Owen spend time not only having lots of sex, but also getting to know and truly care for each other. With Owen’s help, Malcolm begins to break down his walls, opening himself up to enjoying his life and his sexual encounters without the rigid rules he has made for himself. Even in such a short time, he is so much happier and the men form a real connection. But with Owen set to move on with his trip at the end of the weekend, both men wonder if there is hope for more between them.
I loved the tone of this story and Lane and Voinov write such lively dialog that just snaps with energy. This is especially true in the scenes where Owen and Malcolm are challenging one another, as Malcolm tries to assert his control and dominance and Owen pushes him to open up and let go of the plan. This scene at the beginning when Malcolm first picks up Owen at the bar really captures both Owen’s personality as well as the dynamic between the men. Owen is texting with his friend Jenny to let her know he is leaving with Malcolm:
Mysterious Stranger raised his eyebrow, and then leaned intimidatingly close—close enough to see Jenny’s text: Where R U?
Some bar in Soho. He looked meaningfully at Mysterious Stranger and added, Getting hit on by some prick who hasn’t even told me his name.
A soft exhalation told him the man had read that and was highly amused. Good. Let him be amused. But he was going to have to cough up a name before he got Owen anywhere near a bottle of lube and a (shudder) blindfold and plug. (Okay, where had the plug come in?)
Is he cute?! was the reply.
He’s really hot, if you like uptight yuppies with too much hair gel.
The sound behind Owen was indignant this time, and a pointed chin dug into his shoulder as the stranger cast all the rest of his personal space in the crapper and got close enough behind him to breathe in his ear. Which, of course, so not fair.
But you DO like uptight yuppies with too much hair gel! Jenny complained, and Owen closed his eyes in embarrassment. Of course—the problem with friends was that they knew you.
“You’ll like me, I swear,” Mysterious Stranger promised.
Aren’t you supposed to be getting laid? Owen asked Jenny, scowling.
Yeah, but that was a SHORT performance. He could almost hear her answering scowl in the words on the small screen.
“Sign off,” Bossy Stranger muttered in his ear. “You talk too bloody much on the phone, too.”
“Not until I get a name,” Owen replied pertly. “I need to tell her who to have the police searching for when I don’t show up in the morning.”
I found Owen and Malcolm both such interesting characters. As the younger man a bit out of his element in a foreign country, at first Owen seems like he will be a meek pushover. Especially when he encounters the more forceful Malcolm. But I love that Owen is strong, independent, knows what he wants, and won’t take any crap. He has that spark that just drew me in as a reader and which leads Malcolm to see him more as just another in a string of hookups. He doesn’t go through quite the emotional journey that Malcolm does, but I did feel we get to know him well in such a short time.
While I loved Owen the most, I found Malcolm the more fascinating character. Here is a man whose job and personality have intertwined to create someone with a rigid need for control and expectations of his own perfectionism. These things affect nearly everything he does, from his long hours, to the macho face he puts on in front of his co-workers, to the fact that he always tops because that is what people expect of him (despite enjoying being a bottom as well). Over the course of the book, we see him evolve into someone who stops to think about what he actually wants in a given situation and to act on his feelings and emotions rather than his own rules.
I wish the book had given us a bit of a more finished ending. Even though the story takes place over a short period, their relationship development never felt rushed to me until the last few pages. We get a nice HFN with hopes of an HEA, but I for one would love to see more from these two and see how things shake out over a longer period together.
But even with things a bit unresolved, I just loved Country Mouse. I loved the brisk pace, the clever banter between the men, the steamy encounters, and Malcolm’s character development. This one is definitely a winner.
Cover Review: I really like this cover, mostly because these guys feel just like Owen and Malcolm, right down to the clothes, features, and expressions. I love that we even see Malcolm’s glasses. Great job!
And for more about Country Mouse, including Amy’s interview with Malcolm and Owen, Aleks sharing more background on Malcolm, and a chance to win a Country Mouse swag pack, check out the Country Mouse Blog Tour post from earlier this week.