total creative control audio coverStory Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars

Narrator: Simon Goldhill
Length: 9 hours, 36 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links:  Amazon | iBooks

Aaron Page took a temp job working as the personal assistant to the creator of his favorite show, Leeches. He was meant to start a career in teaching at the end of the summer, but now, three years later, Aaron is still working for Lewis Hunter. Lewis may be grumpy and often difficult as a boss, but Aaron understands Lewis in a way few others do. Plus, Aaron loves Leeches, so much so that he secretly is a prolific fan fiction writer about the show. While Aaron is officially Lewis’ PA, he gets to help with scripts and brainstorm ideas, and Aaron and Lewis often work long hours together. The work is great and Aaron loves being a part of the Leeches world. The only downside is his hidden and unreciprocated attraction to his boss.

Lewis’ number one priority is Leeches and he dedicates all he has to the show. He doesn’t have time for or interest in relationships; he satisfies himself with hookups and short-term fun. Lewis didn’t have it easy growing up and he has made himself a huge success with a hit show. He doesn’t have patience for most people, but he enjoys working with Aaron, who just gets him in a way almost no one else does. Lewis can admit to finding Aaron attractive, but he has no intention of letting anything happen between them.

With Leeches on the verge of an American remake, one that will bring much money and prominence for the show, Lewis is dragged to a weekend retreat with the producers of the American version. Lewis hates Charlie Alexander, who is spearheading the remake efforts, but he knows he has to play nice to keep the deal flowing smoothly. When the weekend goes even worse than planned, having Aaron along is the only thing that helps Lewis make it through. The men have a chance to spend some personal time together and get to know each other better, and it eventually leads to them acting on their mutual attraction. But Lewis knows he is not relationship material and, as much as he is drawn to Aaron, he knows nothing more can come of it than just sex. However, with both men having feelings for one another, keeping things strictly professional is not going to be easy for either of them.

Total Creative Control is the first book in the Creative Types series by Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm. This is an entertaining boss/employee story with a grumpy/sunshine pairing. The authors do a nice job really establishing the attraction between the men that simmers at a nice slow burn for a lot of the book. Lewis is clear when he hires Aaron that he doesn’t get involved with employees, not to mention that Lewis doesn’t consider himself relationship material. Lewis clearly relates to Aaron in a way he does with few other people, but he doesn’t recognize it at first as more than just a good coworker connection. At the same time, Aaron understands Lewis and sees beyond his grumpy first layer to really accept and appreciate who he is. So the men have a nice sense of chemistry and connection that makes their mutual attraction (and later mutual longing) shine through nicely.

The story also really brings a sense of two men passionate about their work and about their show. Part of what connects Lewis and Aaron is the fact that Leeches is so important to both of them. For Lewis, it is his creation, his baby, and he wants it to be the best it can be. Allowing an American remake, particularly with the awful Charlie Alexander at the helm, isn’t easy for him. But he is fully dedicated to the show in every way. For Aaron, not only does he love the actual show and the characters, but he also writes extensive fan fiction set in that world. Aaron sees the characters as almost real and is a big part of the online community surrounding it. It leads to some conflict, as Lewis hates the idea of fan fiction and Aaron has to keep secret the fact that he writes it. But it really highlights just how passionate both men are about the show. I liked how the fan fiction storyline ultimately plays out, and I appreciated how it ties in with ultimately resolving the relationship conflict between the men. But I did find it sometimes a little heavy handed, with what started to feel a bit like lectures at times on the virtues of fan fiction. Not that I disagree at all that fan fiction is great and worthwhile and the folks who write it are authors just like someone who publishes other types of work. But there are so many points in the story where the characters (usually Aaron) are explaining why fan fiction is good and legitimate and, after a while, it became a lot for me. Honestly, romance readers in general are likely more supportive than most with regard to fan faction, given how many authors and readers are also part of fan fic communities. So it seemed like a strange audience of readers on which to focus so much attention on explaining the legitimacy of fan fiction.

I really enjoyed Aaron and think his character came through clearly. I felt like I had a good sense of who he is and how he has let his heart overrule his head for a while. We get some nice growth from him in coming to a point where he can separate his feelings for Lewis from his own goals and future plans. I think my main issue with this story, however, is the fact that I never really warmed to Lewis or felt like what we are told about him really meshed with what we see of him on page. Aaron says over and over throughout the book how Lewis is magnetic and larger than life. He feels drawn into his orbit and wants to be around him, not just because of the romantic/physical attraction, but because Lewis is such a dynamic person that people feel compelled to be around him.

Lewis had this effect on people. He drew them in, magnetised them. Enthralled them, he thought. Beguiled them. And then dropped them like a stone when something—someone—new caught his eye.

We are told Lewis’ allure affects everyone else too. Here is Mason, Lewis’ ex, who shares the same sentiment and is devastated at their breakup:

“It’s just…” Mason sighed again. “He’s so much. And when he’s gone, well, he leaves quite a gap.”

However, while Lewis is talked about one way on page, what we actually see of him feels so different. He seems to have few friends and virtually no one seems to particularly like him. No one flocks to him or goes out of their way to be around him aside from Aaron and Mason. He is surly, rude, and often completely lacking in self-awareness of his own bad behavior. He is frequently self-absorbed, turning other people’s difficult situations into why they are problems for him, rather than thinking about them. So this just seemed to contradict what we are told about this amazing magnetism and how larger than life he is and the way he “enthralls” people. And honestly, Lewis’ behavior toward both Aaron and Mason is just awful a lot of time. For example, Mason keeps trying to talk to Lewis about the end of what he viewed as a relationship between them. Lewis’ brother tells Lewis he needs to talk to Mason and clear it up, because Mason is very upset and confused. But here is what happens instead:

Lewis didn’t call Mason that night. He meant to do it, but the thought of the inevitable questions that would follow practically brought him out in hives. Even if he did manage to spit out some kind of acceptable reason, Mason would start trying to analyse what he said, and he’d end up being rude. Instead, he arranged to send an expensive arrangement of flowers with a brief but clear explanation that—considering he was a writer—took him an embarrassingly long time to compose.

“That’s the message?” the woman on the phone said when he gave her the order. She sounded disapproving.

“That’s it,” Lewis confirmed.

She read it back to him. “I enjoyed our time together, but I don’t want to take things any further with you, so we should both move on now. Have a great life. L.” There was an uncomfortable pause, and when the woman spoke again, her voice was distinctly frosty. “Is that correct?”


Or here he is with Aaron, talking about Aaron’s boyfriend, Colin. Lewis wants Aaron to go on the weekend work trip with him and is annoyed that Aaron might have obligations with Colin.

Even as he recognised that his irritation was unreasonable, the words tumbled out of his mouth. “For fuck’s sake, can’t Colin polish his own football boots for once?”

Aaron’s eyes widened, his cheeks pinking. “Actually, Colin—”

“No.” Lewis held up a hand to cut him off as his stomach pinched again in that annoying way. “Don’t. I have zero interest in your tedious boyfriend’s tedious plans. Less than zero. Negative interest.”


“Er…” Aaron rubbed awkwardly at the back of his neck, darting a quick look at Lewis then back at Jason. “Colin and I kind of split up. He moved out a couple of weeks ago.”

“No!” Jason slapped a hand over his mouth in horror.

A jolt of something electric shot through Lewis, shocking him right to his marrow. Pleasure, he realised as his lips curled into an irrepressible smile.

No, triumph.

Which didn’t make a lot of sense until he made the obvious connection that, with Colin out of the way, Aaron would have a lot more time for him. Specifically, more time for him this weekend. At Safehaven.

Thank fuck.

“Things hadn’t been right for a while,” Aaron was telling Jason. “I suppose we just grew apart. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault…”

“Either way,” Lewis said, delving into the lunch bag for his sandwich—it was his favourite: white bread, butter, ham, nothing else—“it’s excellent news.”

He was about to take a bite when he realised that Aaron was staring at him. And not in a good way. “You know,” Aaron said tartly, “most people would say something like, ‘I’m really sorry to hear that. Are you okay?’”

“Would they?” He shrugged. “Well, I’m not sorry to hear it because Colin was a boring prick. And you’re obviously okay.” He waved the sandwich at Aaron, who appeared as perky and wholesome as always. “I mean, look at you.”

Warily, Aaron glanced down at himself, then back at Lewis. “Colin and I were together for almost two years,” he said. “We lived together for one of them. That’s a long time to be with someone.”

“No shit,” Lewis said, with feeling. “I can’t believe it took you so long to dump him. What a waste of two years.”

Again, this is Aaron, probably the person Lewis likes more than anyone other than his brother, yet this is the way he treats him. To some degree, Lewis does get better later on, but it was hard for me to see him as this engaging, magnetic guy or someone who is a worthy partner of sweet Aaron when he comes across as self-absorbed and often cruel. I also had trouble with the fact that Lewis truly does not believe he is capable of a relationship until almost the end of the book, due to some childhood trauma we learn about in the story. He has this epiphany and about face, but I had trouble believing this 180 degree turn around that happens rather quickly. It was hard to accept Lewis as someone who was capable of a relationship at that point without some time and likely some therapy. So, I guess the bottom line is I found Lewis often unlikeable as a character and found the way he was talked about by Aaron and others to be very different than how we actually see him behave.

I listened to this in audio with narrator Simon Goldhill. He is a new-to-me narrator and I enjoyed his performance a lot. Goldhill does a great job capturing Aaron and Lewis as characters and their voices felt like a good fit to their personalities. He also does a great job with Charlie Alexander, getting his smug, douchey demeanor so perfect. Charlie is the story antagonist and he is so obnoxious and self absorbed in a way that is maddening in real life, but the authors make amusing for the readers to laugh at him. So it is a hard tone to capture in narration and Goldhill does it well. My only small notes are that Lewis and his brother sound like they have different accents. I am guessing it was a narrative choice to help differentiate them for the listener, but it seemed a little strange to me when hearing to their conversation that they didn’t sound like they grew up in the same place. Also, the story narrator voice Goldhill uses is different than the voices for Aaron and Lewis, but sometimes after the characters were talking, the narration would slip a bit into their voices. These are super tiny quibbles, however, and overall I found the narration excellent and I wouldn’t hesitate to listen to more of Goldhill’s work or recommend this story in audio format.

Overall, this was an entertaining story. I had some issues with Lewis, but I do think this book is going to appeal to many readers, particularly fans of workplace romances and grumpy/sunshine pairings.