Aaron Danvers is in desperate need of some sex and a good spanking, so he is eager for the hook up he arranged through a dating app. He heads to a local bar where he listens to some music while awaiting his date, finding himself totally drawn in by the sexy lead singer. When Aaron learns he is being stood up, he is frustrated and disappointed, heading out to the patio where he sees the band’s singer. Aaron is shocked to find after talking to the man that he is a former student from five years before, RJ Swift. RJ was a 19-year-old senior when he was in Aaron’s English class, and Aaron remembers him mostly as a moody teen. But as he gets a look at RJ now, it is clear the man is all grown up.
RJ had a crush on Mr. Danvers all throughout his senior year, and he can admit it has never really gone away. After high school, RJ left home and has been traveling the world as a back up guitarist for various bands. With his mother remarried and having more kids and a stepson, RJ has decided to come home and spend some time with his new family. When he encounters Aaron, all his fantasies seem about to come true.
Aaron knows a hook up with a student — even a grown up, former student — is a bad idea. His mother (who is also his boss) insists that Aaron stay closeted at work and discourages him from having any kind of relationship for fear of people learning he is gay. The fact that Aaron has already gotten in trouble for a fling with a married teacher means he is on thin ice job-wise. So Aaron knows this is a bad idea, yet he can’t help himself. Aaron and RJ have an amazing night together. Aaron’s submissive side is a perfect match for RJ’s more dominant style and the spanking is everything Aaron wants and more. RJ would like to continue hooking up while he is home for the holidays, but it seems like a really bad idea to Aaron. Yet he can’t deny that everything in him is drawn to RJ.
The more time the men spend together, the more the holiday hookup seems like it could turn into more. But family conflicts on both sides are causing major hurdles for the men. And with RJ scheduled to leave on tour soon, their relationship could be over before it really has a chance to begin.
Oh, I really loved this story so much. For me, it was the perfect blend of super sexy and kinky, combined with really wonderful character development and a lot of warmth. The story is the second in Leta Blake’s Home for the Holidays series, but you can definitely read this as a standalone. I’ll be honest that I didn’t remember much detail from the first book, Mr. Frosty Pants, including RJ’s role. But flipping back through that book, I remembered that RJ makes an appearance as Casey’s friend and Joel’s bandmate. I was kind of delighted to see a line in there where he comments on how he has long had a crush on his sexy former teacher, Mr. Danvers. So the books connect a bit (and Casey and Joel reappear here briefly), but story-wise, this stands alone quite well.
In a lot of ways, Mr. Naughty List reminds me of my favorite Leta Blake book, Training Season. Both stories not only have a lot of kink, but there is a similar intensity to the connection between the main characters and a sense of watching the more submissive partner really find himself through their sexual relationship that I just loved. Aaron craves pain (spankings in particular), as well as other submission, and RJ is able to give him exactly what he needs. These guys are a perfect fit, and their scenes together are super intense, sexy, and a little dirty. But Aaron is also struggling under the controlling thumb of his mother, who has made him feel not only that he has to hide being gay, but to be ashamed. His life is rigid and controlled because he feels like he is not allowed to be any other way. Being with RJ helps Aaron learn to accept himself and his desires, as well as to revel in giving up control and just taking things as they come. For his part, RJ loves to watch Aaron really let go and to take him to that place where he is all sensation and no worry. It is really a beautiful connection between them and it shines through every interaction they have.
There is also a playful dynamic here with the whole former teacher/student relationship. When they first reconnect, RJ thinks of Aaron as “Mr. Danvers” and during their first hookup he refers to him that way, both aloud and in his head. Even once they begin to grow close, the guys play a bit with that teacher/student element to add some spice to things. However, I liked that this isn’t really the focal point of the story, either in terms of the conflict or their relationship. Yes, it is an issue they need to work through, but this book at its core isn’t really about this taboo dynamic. While RJ most definitely has a hot for teacher thing going on, Aaron barely remembers him and it is clear that there were no reciprocated feelings at that time. Not that I am against a little taboo in my reading, but I think it was nice here that the story went beyond that to really explore Aaron finding himself and moving past his shame and his inner conflict about being out and gay.
This is a holiday story and, along with all the sexy goodness, the book also explores family and connection. RJ is coming home for the first time in years and spending time with his new family. He grew up with an absentee father and his mother worked all the time, leaving him to pretty much raise himself. He loves his mom, and she clearly loves him, but RJ can’t help a bit of resentment that his siblings are now having the childhood he always wanted as his mom is remarried and settled. I appreciated that we got to see RJ’s feelings on this, as it seems totally normal to have a little jealousy here. But we also see the strength of RJ’s bond with his family and how much they want him to be a part of their lives. For his part, Aaron has a wonderful father and a horrific mother. His mom is the clear villain of the story and awful in pretty much every way. We see the juxtaposition of his two parents quite clearly, and Aaron is aware of how she controls him, but it takes him time to really accept that he deserves better and to reach for it. We get to see some nice family moments, some warm holiday celebrations, and a sense of the importance of the season to the men.
I really loved that while these guys start off wanting only a hook up, and both are scared of trying for more, they also both embrace the feelings that come. Aaron and RJ are scared it won’t work out, and worry what will happen if/when things inevitably fall apart, but at the same time, they don’t let that get in their way. I appreciated that the story moves things forward nicely, without the guys getting stuck in a “we are just casual” rut that can be common in romance novels. We can see that they are scared, but they are also willing to take that leap because of the intense feelings they have for one another. It makes the story so rewarding when they finally figure it all out. So as I said, I just loved this one. It left me with warm fuzzies, and an awesome book hangover. If you are looking for super sexy, lots of kink, and also lots of warmth and caring, this is a great story.