“Love. You vicious bitch of a puppet master.”
When it comes to m/m book recommends, Jen and I are kind of the yin to each other’s yang. On numerous occasions, in the run of a week, one of us emails the other with a new, potential m/m romance book to consider adding to our endless TBR shelf. Gasps, yums, visions of dual peens and simultaneous one clicks are potentially exchanged and then we go about our day. Jen knows that I have recently been glomming author Darien Cox and as a result insisted she read Criminal Pleasures to which she eagerly complied. Now, we both have finished his new release, Guys on Top and once again Cox gave us plenty to talk about.
Dear new guy downstairs,
Truly sorry about the noise, we’ll try to keep it down in the future. However, we’d like to ask that in the future, you would be so kind as to come to us directly if you have a problem. You know, like a grownup. and we’d really appreciate it if you would not call the fucking landlord. There’s no need to go all Pussy McTattletale.
The guys on top
Doug Crandall’s life is in reboot mode. After an extremely messy break-up with his former lover, Doug is starting over with a new job, new apartment and a new outlook now that the nightmare of his ex is over. Thankfully Doug has good family support from his brother, Wyatt, and is settling into his new home in Massachusetts despite his noisy neighbors living above him. Wyatt’s attempt at matchmaking Doug with his work colleague, Jairo, fails to arouse an attraction between either one but Doug and Jairo agree to go the friends route and grab a beer together at Bernie’s Pub. At the pub, Jairo eyes and drools over “blonde god” Corey and Doug’s desire lands on gorgeous, blue-eyed Stewart. Introductions and intentions are made between both couples. Jairo leaves with Corey, Stewart leaves with Doug and all end up at the same apartment house. Then the truth comes to light. Corey and Stewart both live in the apartment above Doug and are partners in a open relationship and Doug is “Pussy McTattletale.”
“He’s…Corey’s boyfriend. Man, quite the operation they’ve got going, huh? They’re like…team slut. They’re like cock hustlers.”
Amy: After the book blurb, I assumed this would be a menage story but I should have known to expect the unexpected because Darien Cox is clever… in that respect. In the end I was grateful it was not a menage because given all three of the character’s personalities, the result would have been a seriously dysfunctional threesome. Instead, we witness a dysfunctional love triangle with an engineer, a plumber and a healer. What a combo!
Jen: I think that has to be a joke somewhere. An engineer, a plumber and a healer walk into a bar….. Anyway, I was glad to find it wasn’t a menage. I approach those with great caution and having an already established couple adding a third is a dicey thing, in my opinion. Of course, I am not sure this situation or established couple was solid to begin with.
Amy: Can we both agree that Kelly, Doug’s attempt to move on from Stewart, was just all kinds of ewww?!! I mean, I gagged through that whole uncomfortable scene and kept thinking that Doug needed to get the hell out of that hotel room! Thankfully, Kelly did not reappear again.
Jen: That part was pretty disturbing especially when Doug’s one recollection of the event was that of Kelly’s penis poking in his eye. In one respect I was glad Doug was getting away from Stewart. I don’t think whatever was going on with Stewart/Corey/Doug was a very healthy situation. But maybe he should have taken a little more time and put a little more thought behind his next choice of bed partners?
Amy: Where Criminal Pleasures had a more suspenseful, edgy plot, Guys on Top is more relationship oriented with a good balance of humor from one eccentric “healer” in particular. Corey.
“It’s like a massage, for the most part,” Corey said, moving to sit on the sofa. “I start at your head, then work my way down…” He gave Doug a sour face. “Why do you already look freaked out? I’m not gonna bad-touch you. Very few people carry negative energy in their cock, Doug. And contrary to the opinions of some in this room, I’m not a prostitute. No happy endings, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Jen: Corey was one strange dude. In a sense he was kind of the ‘bad guy’ but I still liked him. At times he was flat out weird but in a likable way. I ping-ponged all over the place with these characters. I was irritated with Doug for his interference, even though Corey and Stewart had an open relationship. I was put off by Corey and his lack of seriousness about anything. I was not cool with Stewart and how he seemed to string Doug along. But I still enjoyed all of the characters. They made me think and feel things. They made me want to rearrange their lives. lol
Amy: The story is told from Doug’s POV and while we learn a great deal about Doug and Corey, I feel like I still did not know that much about Stewart in the end. Stewart was fun, sexy but I kept questioning Doug’s attraction to him other than their physical and sexual chemistry. I wanted more of Stewart’s background, a glimpse into his former relationships (Had he been in any open partner relationships prior to Corey.) and what made him tick. More than anything I wanted to know what made Stewart consider an open relationship for so many years when there were obviously unaddressed problems. Corey gave a small insight into Stewart’s past but I questioned how much of that was true or embellished fabrication on Corey’s part. That was one thing I felt was missing that could have enhanced the overall story.
Jen: Stewart….sigh. Probably my least favorite of the men because of what you just mentioned. I felt disconnected from him. I felt like it was always Doug doing the chasing and Stewart just hung back and let him do all the work. I think I wanted a grand gesture from Stewart that would show me how much he loved and really wanted Doug.
Amy: A pattern I’ve observed with Cox’s writing style is that initial love/hate encounter he sparks between his couples. You feel the heated emotion, clash of personalities and sexual tension the characters experience throughout the dialogue and it ignites a chemistry and passion that builds and hooks the reader to the story and characters. The angst is not overstated but allows enough realism to the plot keeping the reader fully engaged. Pair that with a male author who writes steamy, hot m/m love scenes and well you understand my glom for Darien Cox and his work. Final Grade: B
“Hey, Corey,” Jairo said. “How’s the jackhammer?” Corey laughed, and Rod’s mouth fell open as he looked at Jairo.
“Don’t worry,” Doug said to Rod. “He’s not talking about his cock.”
Jen: I really enjoy Cox’s writing style. It has a flow that is smooth and enjoyable. His characters come across as real and believable and the sex scenes are quite yummy. He has a way of building up to that ultimate moment that makes the reader just as anxious as the characters. This is the second book of his I have read on your recommendation and it definitely won’t be my last. Final Grade: B-
Favorite Quote (cause I like a British accent)
“Am I drunk?” Stewart leaned his shoulder against the bar, thick arms crossed in front of his chest. “Why do you ask?”
“Because you’re sounding a bit…British tonight.”
“I am a bit British. But I’m not drunk. Not yet, anyway.”