Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
City Mouse reunites us with Owen Watson and Malcolm Kavanagh whom we met in Lane and Voinov’s excellent County Mouse. It picks up almost immediately after Malcolm poured out his heart to Owen in the train station and convinced him to stay in England. Now that the men have decided to turn their fairytale weekend into a serious relationship, they need to figure out how to make it work in the real world.
Things aren’t as easy for the guys as they were at first. Owen needs to find a job and Malcolm has to go back to work. And Malcolm needs to learn how to be in a relationship and how to trust in what they have together. While Owen is happy with a low-paying job doing what he loves, Malcolm panics that Owen will have no financial security when he inevitably decides he doesn’t want to be with Malcolm any more. He pushes Owen and seems to be wanting to shape him into something he is not. And Malcolm’s stressful job is requiring long hours away from home, making it difficult for the men to keep that close connection that bonded them so strongly in such a short time. Owen is willing to be patient with Malcolm and knows every relationship comes with growing pains. But Malcolm also needs to learn to trust in their love if things are going to last between them.
So I absolutely loved the first story and was thrilled to hear that the authors were revisiting these characters. The first book gives us the whirlwind romance and here we get to see how these guys do in a real relationship after the sweeping gesture is over and they are left with the day to day. Owen’s mom tells him that the 6-week mark in a relationship is when things come to the most conflict, and you either move past that or it will end. The story is set up in chapters for each week, giving us a chance to see just how this all plays out, from slowly learning how to live with one another, to sharing more of themselves, to figuring out how to handle the inevitable conflict. I really liked this structure as we can follow along precisely with these guys as they make their way through the stages of their new relationship.
I love Malcolm and Owen with all their opposite natures that somehow just work together. Owen is sweet and open and optimistic, yet he has enough wit and snark to make him fun and realistic. He sees that there is more to Malcolm than his stuffy exterior and carb counting. There is a vulnerability to Malcolm that comes into play in the first book but really shows through here. His bossiness and desperate need to prove his place in the world are masking his self-doubt and insecurity. He works crazy hours and pushes himself to success for fear that deep inside he is nothing. He wants Owen to make more money because he is sure Owen will leave him and he wants Owen to have financial security. He works out like crazy and counts his carbs because he still feels like a fat kid. We really see here how Malcolm’s feelings about himself end up affecting his relationship with Owen, and it is only when he learns to open up about his fears that things begin to smooth out for them. I loved this interplay between them and the way Owen has of gentling Malcolm and really understanding him in a way no one else does. He is a safe haven for Malcolm and Owen’s patience, while put to the test, is what helps keeps things on track. I do think a lot of Malcolm’s issues are left unaddressed until late in the story though and I wish we had a little more insight into him earlier in the book.
As much as this is definitely a romance, this is also a story that really focuses on Malcolm and his personal growth. And I enjoyed seeing him struggle to figure things out and ultimately blossom through his relationship with Owen. But I do wish it wasn’t quite so lopsided. I mean, Owen is practically a saint — always patient, always understanding. He isn’t a pushover, but he is just so good and accepting and calm even amidst frustrating situations. I guess I wished I understood him a bit more in terms of what is shaping him, what is allowing him to have this perspective. We get Malcolm with this big growth curve but I just didn’t feel like I got to understand Owen as much or really see as much character development over the course of the story.
That being said, this was one really enjoyable and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Country Mouse and if you haven’t read the first book I’d suggest picking it up right away. This story really follows beautifully from the first book, looking at the “after” part of the Happily Ever After and seeing how these two people make things work after a whirlwind of a courtship. Malcolm and Owen are so great together. Incredibly (!) hot, but also with a way of just understanding one another and connecting despite their very different personalities. I really enjoyed City Mouse and would definitely recommend it.
P.S. Lovely cover. It so nicely mirrors the cover of the first book, this time showcasing Owen more prominently. Really nicely captures both guys.