Well enough of that, on to the book.
The distant sound of a brief argument down the alley reminded James of the possibility of discovery and he groaned and shuddered, the tremor running the length of his tense, exhausted frame. The low, throaty voice vibrated at the base of his ear lobe, coming in short, electrifying pants that pushed James' excitement even higher.
"That's it, that's it. Tremble for me, baby. I'll give you what you need. I'll take you as rough as you can stand. Fucking shake for me, baby."
A Bit of Rough may have THE single best opening chapter I have read in a very very long time. It's tight, it's hot and it throws us right into the emotional heart of our main character. Up and coming architect James Justin is trying to get over a really shitty day by knocking back a few beers in a dive bar on the wrong side of town. He happens to lock eyes with a rugged blue-eyed man across the room and before you know it, one thing leads to another and they are out in the alley behind the bar against a brick wall, having the most amazing, mind blowing sex. James doesn't even know the other guy's name at this point, referring to him in his mind only as Cowboy.
A knee was forced between his legs and Cowboy's weight settled heavily against his aching groin. James looked up into a pair of hungry eyes that glittered in the dim light. Waves of lust rolled off of his captor, washing over him like pounding surf, dragging him along with the dangerous undertow, and making it hard for him to breathe. A noticeable shudder ran down his spine.
"No, you wouldn't be on this side of town, in this bar, if gentle was what you were looking for. Maybe you want it a little rougher."
Cowboy seems to know exactly what James wants even if James isn't able to admit it to himself. And boy does he give it to him (heh). And boy, does the author give it to us. In every luscious sweat-drenched, body-pounding detail. Really, this one goes on my list as a definite contender for BFF (*Best First Fuck as defined by moi in the recent awards show chez lisabea.)
After this heated encounter, James is not altogether sure if he ought to see this man again, but he can't quite help himself. He makes the phone call and pretty soon he and Bram (that's his name btw, NOT Cowboy) are headlong into a torrid and fast-moving courtship. Bram owns a construction firm and gets out there on the job from time to time. I dunno about you, but to me, construction worker is shorthand for ultra-manly-man. Which can come off as just a little stereotypical, but I do like how Bram is openly gay and proud in a profession that would seem to be a tad hostile.
Both in and out of the bedroom, Bram is a very take-charge kind of guy, and James seems content to be swept off his feet (sometimes quite literally). The sex between these two is smoking hot and takes up a lot of screen time. While there are other elements to the story, most notably some run-ins with a menacing neighbor in James' apartment building and James' insecurity about his public identity as a gay man, the focus really is on the relationship between Bram and James.
And this is actually one of the things that detracted from my appreciation of the book. I had a hard time believing the breakneck speed at which these two guys go from anonymous bar alley quickie (well, ok it wasn't all THAT quick but you know what I mean) to lovers forever, mated, in luuuurve. By the end of the first date, Bram is already making noises like James is THE ONE for him. For his part, James tends to be indecisive and needy and this made me doubt the authenticity of his sudden feelings for Bram. While the sexxoring between these two guys is hotHOT, I didn't feel like I got to know them as individuals or as a couple outside the bedroom.
I think that the plot suffered from too tight a focus on the action between our two leads where it could have benefited from more character development. That said, Baumbach writes in a very smooth prose, and I thought that the dialogue flowed easily. I think that romance readers who like a strong alpha hero who rescues the hero(ine) and saves the day would enjoy this book. Oh, and that first chapter...seriously worth the price of admission all by itself.