Rating: 4.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Lewis Hunter is the creator of Leeches, a vampire show with a cult following. Around the television offices of Reclined Pigeon Productions, he is also famous for his volatile temperature, vulgar speech, and ever-changing personal assistants. The thing is, no one in that last category seems to have any capacity to meet Lewis’ exacting demands. No one until Aaron Page. The hot, young PA is nothing if not sympathetic and sensitive to Lewis’ every need. Even better? Aaron has a passion for the show that almost rivals that of Lewis himself. It’s too bad Lewis has to immediately put the kibosh on any relationship shenanigans the day Aaron gets hired. But as the two work together, Lewis comes to believe having Aaron involved in every aspect of his work life is worth so very much more than a roll in the hay.

Aaron Page is passionate about one thing: Leeches. And he has a prolific AO3 page to prove just how much he loves shipping the show’s two male leads. When he lands a summer gig as PA for none other than show creator, Lewis Hunter, it’s a dream come true. Three years later, Aaron might nominally still be “just” Lewis’ PA , but he’s the one who spends countless late nights and early mornings in the office hammering out script and plot details with Lewis on the show. Similarly, it is Aaron who is able to walk Lewis back from just about any proverbial cliff when the writer’s famously easily ruffled feathers get mussed. It seems like a no-brainer that Aaron should be included on the weekend retreat with a big-time studio exec. That is where Lewis and his producer will attempt to seal a deal to bring Leeches to an American audience. Instead, a night of passion threatens not only to wound Aaron and Lewis’ professional relationship, the insights revealed during that trip are salt in the wound. They may have accidentally fallen in love without realizing it, but will that revelation be enough to salvage their relationship?

Total Creative Control is a contemporary slow-burn from authors Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcom and is the first book in their Creative Types series. It’s set in the world of English TV production and features an incredibly satisfying sunshine/grumpy dynamic with a hint of an age gap. The story is all told in third person, but the chapters alternate between Lewis and Aaron so readers get a lot of internal thoughts from the two MCs. I loved how passionate Aaron is about his fanfic. Aaron’s enthusiasm for building on existing characters really resonated with my own experience with writing fanfic and I think anyone who is a fic writer will love Aaron for his unabashed love and support of such art.

For fans of sunshine/grumpy, I think you’ll really enjoy how that dynamic permeates so much of the Aaron/Lewis interactions. For example, what everyone else classifies as unreasonable demands from Lewis is what Aaron understands as Lewis having exacting standards. When others think Lewis is pitching a fit, Aaron only sees Lewis standing up for what he believes is right. I loved that, because Aaron understands why Lewis behaves the way he does; Aaron knows how to respond to diffuse the situation. In other words, Aaron isn’t just giving Lewis a pass to act badly, but actually responding to Lewis to help get Lewis’ needs met.

The dynamic between our two leads could not have been more satisfying. Lewis immediately declares he does not sleep with his staff, initiating the slow burn from the start since both Lewis and Aaron note (privately to themselves) how attractive they find the other one. It seemed pretty clear to me that Aaron realizes he’s lusting after Lewis early on and tries to convince himself it’s just physical lust—yet he struggles to NOT think about it and finally admits he’d moved off lust long ago. True to form, it takes grumpy Lewis a lot longer to realize and admit that he feels more than attraction to Aaron. I just really enjoyed the wait for Lewis to finally have the epiphany about his feelings towards Aaron. It was hard earned and pretty satisfying to read.

As far as the story organization goes, I thought the pacing was very good. I liked the brief introduction to our MCs when they first met, then zipping ahead three years. Some supporting characters make good points to both Lewis and Aaron that, after three years, Aaron would be a fool to continue working as just a PA. One of the first things I highlighted early in the book was a comment made to Lewis about how Aaron was actually putting in real creative work on the show without any credit. It was incredibly satisfying to see how this idea gets worked into a big emotional scene between Aaron and Lewis. Both characters react to the blunt assessment that Aaron is working uncredited very differently, but in ways that highlight how much Lewis denies/ignores his own feelings and how Aaron isn’t actually clairvoyant when it comes to what Lewis says versus what he means.

Overall, I thought this was a stunning read. I enjoyed Lewis and Aaron immensely. The mutual lusting, the pigheaded refusal to entertain human emotions from Lewis’ side, and the growing unrequited love from Aaron’s side kept the book teeming with romantic tension. The authors’ incorporating Aaron’s fanfic writing and the excellent, multi-layered development of “there’s been a misunderstanding” really made this a page-turner for me. Readers who like the sunshine/grumpy dynamic, slow burns, misunderstandings, disastrous mornings-after, and incredibly satisfying character changes that lead to a fabulous HEA will certainly enjoy this book.

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