Graduating from a top-tier college was supposed to open up doors for Dylan Rhodes. However, after spending the entire summer searching for jobs, he comes up empty handed. With the new school year about to start, Dylan is about to become homeless, too. Going back to his homophobic parents in Ohio is not an option, but for lack of a better plan, Dylan decides to give himself one last night of fun in Los Angeles.
While at a bar, Dylan meets a handsome stranger named Roderick Night. He’s older and incredibly suave and seems to see through all the bullshit to Dylan himself. When Mr. Night invites Dylan back to his place, Dylan readily agrees, thinking it will be the perfect nightcap. However, that handsome stranger turns out to be a very famous Hollywood producer. Instead of one last wild night in the City of Angels, Dylan finds himself being invited to stay. More than that, Mr. Night immediately begins taking Dylan everywhere with him, introducing Dylan to all the right people, and getting him started on the road to fame. Whatever Mr. Night sees in Dylan, however, no one else seems to. Mr. Night’s friends and acquaintances are floored not just at how fast Mr. Night and Dylan are taking their relationship, but by the fact that there is a relationship at all.
One strong skeptic of Mr. Night’s whirlwind feelings is Gary, a renowned modeling agent with all the right connections. He’s been friends with Mr. Night for decades and has been pivotal in helping Mr. Night create his success. None of which makes Dylan feel any better about associating with the loud, obnoxious, and lecherous man. But mere days after Mr. Night introduces Dylan to Gary, Dylan is modeling for a high-end menswear brand alongside seasoned models and a bona fide Hollywood star. Then the offers start coming in like an avalanche and Dylan is willing to stomach one bad apple for the sake of his career and keeping Mr. Night satisfied. But when Dylan gets assaulted, he then struggles to cope with Gary’s new demands. Even more, Dylan feels powerless in his own whirlwind romance with a man who he doesn’t feel like he could say no to, even if he wanted to.
Warm in the Night is a contemporary get-together story by author Owen Osgood. It’s set in Southern California and features a bit of an age gap (and absolutely an experience gap) between Dylan and Mr. Night. Everything is told from Dylan’s perspective, which I think builds tension at several key moments. The very first is Dylan’s predicament with technically being homeless while still staying with Mr. Night for the first two evenings. Mr. Night has explicitly stated Dylan is staying with him, but Dylan (and, honestly, me the reader) can hardly accept or expect a wealthy eccentric movie mogul to simply offer that. Then there’s the situation with Dylan’s sexual assault. Not only is Dylan worried about the perpetrators gossiping about him, he’s worried someone else could have happened to catch an eyeful. One final, constantly building element was the question of why Mr. Night finds Dylan so agreeable. Mr. Night showers Dylan with extraordinarily extravagant gifts and Dylan just cannot understand why. I truly enjoy how Osgood works Dylan’s (lack of) sense of self into so many areas of the book. In the brief chunk of the story that happens outside Mr. Night’s realm of influence of movies, models, and money, Dylan is just a regular old college grad thinking he’ll have to flip burgers forever to pay off an English degree. But starting with Mr. Night, one person after another in La La Land falls over themselves to point out how attractive Dylan is, how good he is at modeling, and how lucky he is to have Mr. Night. All of these little mentions didn’t really register until the scene where Dylan recounts each and every person who’s commented on how perfect he is. It’s a lot. And I loved how it takes Dylan a good long time to even start getting comfortable with this.
The official blurb touches on another theme that is very prevalent in the book: the sexual relationship between Dylan and Mr. Night. For Dylan, he simply assumes he’s a good lay. He enjoys Mr. Night’s more domineering personality in the sack at first. Yes, Dylan is surprised and a bit baffled by how turned on he gets being bossed around, but he also discovers that Mr. Night is a gregarious lover. One character quirk about Mr. Night that I was stunned by was his desire to merely engage in sexual touch. That is, he believes sex can be satisfying even without an orgasm. It was a wonderful departure from the usual build up to release…and it had the added benefit of making Dylan worry he’d done something wrong. Dylan gives this domineering side of Mr. Night’s personality a name: Man-in-Charge. As Dylan and Mr. Night spend more time together and Dylan reaps the benefits of having the best of all Mr. Night’s money and influence, Dylan begins to feel obligated to have sex with Mr. Night. And it’s often with Mr. Night when he’s in Man-in-Charge mode. After a few weeks, Dylan begins to have doubts about this level of control over his sexual activity, but as soon as the act is over, Mr. Night is caring, tender, and warm. If readers are sensitive to this kind of depiction, then be forewarned. Personally, though, I thought it was an interesting delve into a power imbalance that slowly begins to right itself…at least until the big reveal about why Mr. Night holds Dylan in such high regard.
My only real complaint about the story isn’t even a complaint. I merely wish there had been more time with Dylan and Mr. Night after the main conflict between them gets revealed. Without giving too much away, Mr. Night explains his biggest “flaw” and it’s one that has Dylan struggling to justify how or why he could possibly be okay. At heart is a matter of consent (or lack thereof) and how that extrapolates to people you love. The book ends with a happily ever after, but it felt a bit rushed. Or maybe a touch too accepting/forgiving on Dylan’s part is a better way of putting it. For all that Dylan’s lifestyle is now extravagantly rich, he still has a head for big questions like “what is love” and I was a bit surprised how fast he gets over or accepts the personal information that Mr. Night shared with him.
Overall, I thought this was an extremely interesting read. I loved how so many tropes are treated in this story — the college ingenue meeting a rich, older playboy; true love finds a way; and being hopelessly in love. I thought Dylan’s perspective was an excellent choice for the story, especially when he’s on unsteady ground. And Mr. Night is a delightful enigma — wealthy, talented, and mostly a black box until his relationship with Dylan progresses and we learn he’s just got certain needs, sexual and otherwise. And perhaps a big trust issue. If you’re looking for a complex, well-thought out and well-executed story that explores what it would be like to go from rags to riches while still being at the mercy of others in unanticipated ways, then I think you’ll enjoy this book.