Narrator: Charlie David
Length:10 hours, 33 minutes
Griff Muir and Dante Anastagio are best friends and Brooklyn firefighters. The two are as close as brothers and Dante’s family practically raised Griff after his mother died and his father was busy working. But Griff’s feelings for Dante have changed to something more than friendship. He is desperately in love with his best friend, but knows he can never tell him. Dante is a charmer, a flirtatious guy with more women than he can handle. Griff is sure that if he tells Dante how he feels, it will ruin their relationship, and he would rather have Dante in his life as a friend than not at all.
Griff can tell something has been bothering Dante and soon learns that his friend is having money trouble. Dante is the guy who is always having others over for dinner, helping friends out, and taking care of people. But now he is broke and at risk of losing the house he loves and that he has worked hard to refurbish. Griff is willing to do just about anything to help Dante out, but he is shocked at what Dante ultimately asks. Dante wants the two of them to pose for a gay porn site for what he sees is some quick and easy money.
The idea of being with Dante is the stuff of Griff’s wildest fantasies, but he doesn’t know if he can handle being that close to Dante and living out his desires without letting on how he really feels. But Dante really needs Griff and he can’t turn down his best friend. Griff must figure out if he can help the man he loves without losing him in the process.
Ah, Hot Head. This is a book that took m/m romance by storm when it first came out in 2011 and I adored it along with many others. When I got the chance to listen to this on audio, I was thrilled to experience it again and pleased with how well it stands up in audio format.
To me, this is one of the ultimate friends to lovers stories with a strong OFY theme as well. Dante and Griff are like brothers. They love one another, consider each other family. In fact, the Anastagios are like second parents to Griff and the men’s lives and their jobs as firefighters are totally intertwined. We are in Griff’s POV here and can really feel his pain and longing for Dante. Suede makes it so palpable, the intensity of these feelings and how much Griff struggles to keep them hidden from Dante. Griff is sure that if Dante knows the truth it would ruin their friendship, not to mention cause havoc in their jobs. But at the same time, it is killing him being so close to Dante’s casual affection without acting on it. Suede does a nice job of building this tension, of really letting us feel it, and then giving us the glorious reward of seeing these guys finally getting together.
In many ways this story is really a love letter to New York. Dante and Griff are firefighters and their jobs and the city are big parts of who they are. We learn about their experiences in 9/11, how much it affected both men, and how it sent Griff’s life spiraling. It was only Dante’s constant support that helped Griff get himself back together. We never forget, even as we are reading a sexy romance, how much those events still affect the FDNY. The culture of the fire department, the experience of risking ones life to save others, and the city itself are really nicely intertwined with the story and with who these men are at the core.
So it is impossible to talk about this book without mentioning the heat between Dante and Griff. If you hear people talk about “the Couch Scene” (aka “Monday Night Football”) in reference to a romance novel, it is a good bet that this is the book they are talking about. Although it takes a while for these guys to get together, Hot Head is one steamy book, and let me tell you, you have not read heat until you have read the aforementioned scene. There is just such chemistry between these guys and when they finally get together, it is explosive.
I think my only real issue here is I didn’t quite have a handle on what was going on in Dante’s head. Of course, that is part of the story — we know that Griff is hot for Dante but we have no idea how his feelings will be received. But much of the time it seems like Dante is flirting, or making suggestive comments, and I couldn’t tell (even at the end) whether he was intentionally baiting Griff to get his attention, or if he was just oblivious to how he affected his friend. I also noticed that Suede has a tendency to repeat some descriptive phrases a little too much. We hear about Dante’s “medium rare lips” and “scarab eyes” and a few other things frequently enough that is started to draw my attention part way through the book.
Ok, so as I said, I listened to this on audio and was really excited to get to finally hear a book narrated by Charlie David, especially after interviewing him on the blog. I really enjoyed the audio here and found the pacing and David’s narrative voice to be very well suited to the story. In the beginning, I did find Griff and Dante’s voices to be fairly similar, making it hard sometimes to tell who was talking when they were having a conversation. But for the most part, I thought the voices were well done and felt authentic to the characters. I must also mention that David does an incredible job with the sex scenes. Let’s be honest, trying to vocalize all those moans and groans can not be easy, but David does an amazing job with it and I think probably the best I have heard when it comes to the sexy stuff. I’ll also mention he has a lovely singing voice and does a great job early in the book when Dante is singing in the bar.
One thing to note here is that Hot Head uses a lot of internal dialog for Griff that we see in the book through italics. They are thoughts he has that are often interspersed with his spoken dialog. When reading, it is very clear what is internal and what is vocal, but I did have some trouble in the audio without that visual clue to figure out what Griff was actually saying aloud versus what he was thinking. This isn’t the fault of the narrator or author, but it is something I have noticed in some audio books and it is definitely a factor here. I think if I hadn’t been familiar with the book I would have been even more confused about what was going on, so keep that in mind as you listen.
So yes, Hot Head is one of my absolute favorites and I really enjoyed getting to experience it again in audio format. If you are a fan of friends to lovers and enjoy a good OFY/coming out tale, this is a great choice. Not to mention tons of heat, a gorgeous Italian, and a hulking redhead in a kilt (KILT!). Great story, super sexy, lots of fun, and great intensity. Definitely recommended in book or audio format.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.