Country Mouse & City Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Why I read it: I received a review copy from the publisher so I’d understand the second book (which I got via NetGalley).
What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Owen may be a bit of a country mouse, but he’s loving his vacation in London. After a long day playing tourist, he’s on the hunt for some cheap beer and a good burger. Instead he finds a man hunting him, an arrogant prick with only one thing on the brain: the kind of meat that doesn’t come on a bun.Eighty-hour weeks at a trading desk don’t leave Malcolm Kavanagh much time for meaningful relationships. Besides, in his world, everything’s a competition-even sex. When his newest one-night-sub fails to show, Malcolm sets his sights on the pretty young Yank on the bar stool beside him.Owen’s all for an adventure with a native, but he’s not the pushover Malcolm thinks he is, and Malcolm’s not as shallow as he tries to be. They both soon learn that nothing’s too intimate to share with a stranger, and the strangest things happen when two people share the most important pieces of their hearts.


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.

 

I think, in such a short story, it’s difficult to convey that they are good together – it’s still very much a possibility for me.  I expect that will change by the end of City Mouse. 🙂
The sex scenes were hot and somewhat unexpected (again because Malcolm isn’t who I thought he was).   I liked the ending but I did think Owen’s friend Jenny had a reason to be pissed off.
The story had a stronger finish than beginning and I’m looking forward to where the next book takes me.
Grade: B-
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Why I read it: I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  A magical weekend, a breathless declaration, a happy ever after . . . Right?

Wrong.

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.

 
What worked for me (and what didn’t): As much as I liked Owen and Malcolm in Country Mouse, I felt like City Mouse was a bit of a missed opportunity.  This story takes place over the first 6 weeks or so of their relationship, after the fateful weekend in which they met. There is anticipation from the start, that at about the 6 week mark of any relationship, “Relationship Armageddon” would occur.  There seemed to be a fated acceptance on Owen’s part that this was a necessary and inevitable event.  The earlier parts of the story were fun and sexy (especially the museum visit in Cambridge) but I didn’t see all that much relationship development.  The authors did such a good job of identifying the problems in the relationship – Malcolm’s insecurity and his workaholic nature, his classist nature and his love of money (more on this later), that I noticed that by the end of the book the problems hadn’t really been solved.  Sure, Malcolm resolves to do better but I didn’t see any evidence of what that would look like and whether Malcolm could actually do it.  I didn’t see them having enough of a meaningful conversation about their issues to believe they could solve future problems effectively.  I’m not even sure that Owen understood exactly what was going on with Malcolm – I felt I did because I’d spent time in his head, but he didn’t speak to Owen about it – at least not terribly explicitly.

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.

Grade: C-

BUY IT
AMAZON          RIPTIDE PUBLISHING          KOBO 
 

3 comments on “Country Mouse & City Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

  1. AJH

    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.

  2. Kaetrin

    @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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