What worked for me (and what didn’t): I write this having finished Country Mouse and not having started City Mouse. This novella, clocking in at just under 80 pages, tells the story of the initial meeting and first weekend together of Owen and Malcolm. It ends in a hopeful HFN because, as can be expected, they really don’t know each other well enough for a believable HEA. I think in some ways the blurb and the title worked against me. I didn’t see Owen as particularly ‘country’. He was an American new to London but he didn’t react with fear to the big city. It’s not like he’d never seen traffic or high rise buildings. His own self reference as ‘a bit of a country mouse’ didn’t sit right to the way I saw him. And Malcolm isn’t the Dom the blurb led me to expect. Taking out those two items which did throw me off the scent a bit, I did enjoy this story. Once Malcolm and Owen had made it back to Malcolm’s penthouse, the characters started to shine and I began to get a handle on who these men are and why they could be so good together.
When Malcolm Kavanagh took his first step toward emotional maturity by declaring his love to Owen Watson, that was just the first chapter in their story. Anyone who’s ever been in love knows that happy endings take a lot more work than that.
One problem: Malcolm has never been in love. He doesn’t know the rules of a relationship and isn’t confident enough to trust that his is real. He learns the ropes by sharing his life and his flat with Owen, but relationship boot camp proves a challenge. Everything is a struggle, from accepting Owen’s low-status job to putting his boyfriend above his personal trainer.
Luckily, Owen knows a little more about relationships, and labors patiently to survive the first six weeks of their life together. From the art galleries of Cambridge to the tawdry majesty of the Dominion theatre, Owen adapts to England while Malcolm adapts to the whole human race. Maybe, if Owen is patient enough and Malcolm learns to give, the two of them can make it past Relationship Armageddon to a real happy ending.
Back to the relationship problems. While the book is told in alternating POV of each of the main characters (third person), all of the problems are Malcolm’s. Owen is basically perfect and doesn’t need to do anything. Which felt a bit unfair.
The exchange of “I love you” was very fast and the ditching of condoms even faster. As to the first, I’m not sure I believed the narrative backed it up and the second just seemed very unsafe.
The style of this book was very episodic, with each chapter representing a week (or so) in time. I found that just as I was settling in, there would be a jump to the next week, so I had the tantalising anticipation of something meaty about to happen but then the chapter stopped and the narrative moved on.
Part of my frustration was that I was interested in the Owen and Malcolm and the other secondary characters and wanted to know more about them (win) but I felt I only skimmed the surface (not as much win).
I have enjoyed books by these authors in the past and I expect I will do so in the future, but unfortunately, this one didn’t work so well for me.
Omg, something I've actually read! Though I always feel a bit weird talking about m/m fiction because my tastes are pretty specific and also, *stephen fry voice* m'colleagues. BUT, I did really like Country Mouse. I haven't read the follow-up but that's because I kind of … I don't know … I liked the way the first stood on its own, as this fleeting, but meaningful, moment full of potentials. I'm a hopeless romance reader – not really very invested in ever afters 🙂 I do really respect them for trying to write about an on-going relationship, though, as that is WAY more difficult, I think, than just establishing one.I do, agree, however that the country mouse theme / thing seemed a bit irrelevant, since Owen is so very very sorted. But what I really loved was the way the power dynamics of their relationship play out – I know some people are really super invested in roles like Dom and Top and blah and blah but I'm much more personally interested in more fluid definitions, so I like books that play with expectations and deconstruct expected roles.
@AJH Hello and welcome! :)I liked how Malcolm had some toppy qualities and Owen did too and I enjoyed the way that was explored. There wasn't a "set role" for either of them. The second book had a pretty hot scene involving a train and a museum and sex toys and that was all Malcolm letting out his inner Dom. I liked the way the dominance dynamic played out actually – Malcolm was most often the receptive partner in anal sex but he definitely had some dominance kinks as well and the sexual power balance shifted between them with, as you say, fluidity.I think the concept of the second book was good – there was plenty more to be sifted through before there could be a true HEA (IMO) but unfortunately, I was left with some doubt about the HEA, because I wasn't completely confident that any real resolution had been reached.
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