Monday, April 7, 2008

MLM - A Bit of Rough

Before I start, let me just say that I decided to read A Bit of Rough earlier this weekend without being conscious of the fact that author Laura Baumbach would be guesting at lisabea's blog today for MLM. (Go read all about it!) So the fact that I'm reviewing one of her books is a happy coincidence. Or at least I hope it will be. Actually, it just makes me freaking nervous because I don't want to write a poor review and be ridiculed by all my friends and closest internet buddies. Oh the pressure!!!

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.

Grade: B-

31 comments:

Katie(babs) said...

WOW what a hot book! You find the best m/m reads. Great review :)

lisabea said...

Tremble for me, BABY!

I'm trembling. I still haven't packed. I don't want to try on my shorts.Sob.


Nicely done, pahtnah.And CJ will love the excerpts.

sula said...

kb, I don't find them by myself. I wait for lisabea to find them and then I take her recommendation and go forth. heh.

lb, tremble for me baby!!! ;) I'm so jealous of you and your vacation plans. *pout*

kim said...

Great review! I love, love, love the excerpts you chose. They hooked me and now I must have this book! Great excerpts really do make a difference in a review.
So thanks!

lisabea said...

Kim, remember, kittens are at RISK.


hehehheehhe

kim said...

LB- LOL! No worries...I kick kitties for fun and giggles.*snort*

Kim-seriously wants that gum

sula said...

so um, do the kittens only suffer if the action is um, solo? Cuz I gotta be honest...some of the material in this book was so inspiring that I paid a surprise visit to DBF. *ahem*

I don't want to be responsible for the kittens!!!!

*hides*

Josh Lanyon said...

I'm a huge fan of Laura's work -- or (to be honest) I'd never have signed on to do a joint project. She's always got this certain sexy vibe in her work blended with this great emotional warmth. It's really appealing. And it works for both male and female readers in a way that very little m/m fiction does.

Hey, and I enjoyed this review, Sula. Very nice job!

sula said...

Hey, and I enjoyed this review, Sula. Very nice job!

woohoo! I wuz nervous. Just ask lisabea. lol.

Can't wait to read the collaborative efforts between you two. lb and I will have to throw a giganto release party. mmmmm....Mexican Heat. Perhaps we will have margaritas? IDK, but whatever it is, good times will be had by all.

Josh Lanyon said...

Can't wait to read the collaborative efforts between you two. lb and I will have to throw a giganto release party. mmmmm....Mexican Heat. Perhaps we will have margaritas? IDK, but whatever it is, good times will be had by all.

Oh yeah, baby. Margaritas, chips and salsa, and lots of people sitting around...READING. My kind of party. *g*

Sarai said...

Okay I admit my first m/m was just this last weekend with Josh's Fatal Shadows but I think I could get into it...

lisabea said...

Oh and wasn't he just the bestest ever?

Josh Lanyon said...

Okay I admit my first m/m was just this last weekend with Josh's Fatal Shadows but I think I could get into it...

That is so interesting. I'd love to hear the thoughts of a first time M/M reader. I'm not even sure what questions to ask, but it would be fascinating to get the take of someone completely unfamiliar with the genre.

Rosario said...

I think that romance readers who like a strong alpha hero who rescues the hero(ine) and saves the day would enjoy this book.

I've read this one and another one of Baumbach's and this is very true. Both had one of the heroes be a huge manly man (well, in one of the books I guess I should say "huge alienly alien", but you know what I mean), while the other one was small and delicate and completely overcome. Kind of an old-fashioned hero/heroine dynamic going on, which was the reason that I didn't *love* the books. I read m/m to get away from outdated gender roles, LOL!

lisabea said...

I find that I enjoy a more alpha/beta match up as well. I'm thinking off the top of my head Nate/Aiden or those delicioulsy snackish Jet Mykles Heaven Sent books (crunchmunchcrunch) or Adrien/Jake. The Alpha/Omega (with the noteable exception of Jake/Remy in With Caution) isn't usually my bag. Hey. We need a Nate/Jake Alpha/Alpha.

What would be GREAT is to have an m/m couple Nate/Nate...mmmm....Nate.....

sula said...

josh, we will definitely have a party. Sitting around reading indeed. lol. Maybe it's been mentioned elsewhere, but if so I missed it...will Mexican Heat be available in print format as well as online?

sarai, I want to hear your reactions too. Will you be blogging about it? Let us know. :)

rosario, I'm glad that you agree that it's a fair statement. I think that there are plenty of readers who will dig that dynamic. It's not particularly my fav, but I can appreciate it.

lb, i see you are off in dreamland again with nate. lol. Maybe you need to be the one to write that story. nate/jake....mmmm.

Sarai said...

Yeah I will post it this Wednesday gives me time to um stop the blushing... (hey I use to be and still am a prude think of a quiet unasumming librarian and then WHAM I was corrupted!)
Needless to say I will post my thoughts and reactions to the book on Wednesday (YIKES) I am blushing thinking about it is that normal?

lisabea said...

Hm. Blushing over Adrien....well, this is your first m/m? No Suze Brockmann warm up? Yeah. I think it would make my sister turn SCARLET. Her face would match her hair. Which is why I'm getting her the Adrien books for her birthday. I don't think there is a better starting place than with Josh. He's very gentle. And he writes a smart, sexy love scene that is tasteful. And, of course, he could write about paint thinner and it'd be awesome.

sula said...

what lb said. You started with the best!

y'know, you could save that review for Monday and then 1. give yourself time to stop blushing and 2. participate in the awesomeness that IS MLM.

I'm just sayin'....

Katie(babs) said...

Men love is the new trend and you and LB have helped pave the way :)

lisabea said...

Sarai~Sula is right (how unusual)! We'll totally hook you up. Of course I'll be at Universal Studios riding some kind of DEATH TRAP with my child...god....but I'll figure it out. I always do.

Sarai said...

Tell ya what we have a deal that will give me a chance to appear intelligent when I write! So review shall come on Monday

Samantha Kane said...

Okay, that excerpt is smokin'. And, Sula, good review. I hope my little ole blog piece helped you write a righteous review. But, you know, I should have mentioned how a good excerpt is essential to a good review. Dang. Hindsight and all that.

I tend to go more alpha/alpha(sort of beta after they choose top or bottom). :-D But the whole manly man hook up with a beta is very yaoi. It's the seme/uke match up. I've grown, um, more fond of it recently, thanks to some great books.

Sarai ~ I'm looking forward to your review on Monday. There is no end in sight for the locomotive known as Man Love Monday.

lisabea said...

Sam~ I think of Yaoi as Alpha/Omega..hm....

Samantha Kane said...

Ugh. Too much on my plate. I meant alpha/omega. Where are those manwhores?

lisabea said...

Sam~And now I have Monty Python stuck in my head

"A spanking! A spanking!"

ok gotta PACK. G is going to KILL me.

Carolyn Jean said...

Sula,
What a great review! I really enjoyed it, and your excerpts and I may be enjoying this book soon, hopefully, too, because that First Chapter sounds like a real winner! I love that it's an architect and a construction guy.

sula said...

woohoo, sarai is on for next MLM! We can haz higher blog participation. *g*

lb, are you all packed yet?

sam, actually yes your post about reviews really did make me think about the process as I was writing this one. I tried to be as clear as possible, to balance critique with praise and to use high-fallutin language like "prose" and "dialogue". lmao. Whether or not I knew what I was talking about...has yet to be determined.

CJ, I'm so happy that you like the excerpts. I wanted to find some that were representative of how freaking HOT that first chapter was but yet were PG-13 and publishable on my leetle blog. In their future, I think mr. architect should design a project for mr. construction to build. they can make beautiful music together. heh.

Anonymous said...

Sula, thanks for directing me to your blog! It's only after reading your note in Lisabea's comments that I saw the line about you at the bottom of Laura's interview... I guess that should teach me about reading too fast! I think the first excerpt you gave alone convinced me to buy the book (although the rest of the review was very useful, too :-D). Now I just have to decide between print and e-book. Reading on a computer makes me tired and I prefer a real book I can carry around; on the other hand, at this point I have the choice between buying more books OR having place to move in my bedroom. Choices, choices...

Glad you liked the pic! Let's just say I'm an, eeeeer, enthusiastic collector :-DD. Muahahaha!

Mary M.

Samantha Kane said...

Argh, okay I replied and blogger ate it. Sula, I think there's a sequel to A Bit of Rough, called Roughhousing, about the same characters. And I'm glad I could help with your review in even a small way. I put something about being Little Mary Sunshine in the first reply, but blogger ate it, and now I'm pissy, so that won't work.

lb ~ Monty Python has a quote for every occasion. Freakin' brilliant Brits. Have a great vacation. I'm going to imagine you leaning over to the stranger in the seat beside you on the plane and pointing to the cover of TTTS, and asking "Does this look like a giant glowing dildo to you?" as they frantically press the call button for the flight attendant.

sula said...

hey there, mary! Glad you made it over here. And also glad that you reconsidered the book. As for print or e-book, I know that I prefer print. But it can be so expensive. le sigh. Anyways, the words are the same no matter what.

Keep those pics coming! That's the kind of collection that everyone can appreciate. hehe.

sam, I apologize for the blogger eating comments. I HATE it when that happens. hmph. And now I'll never know what splendid and scintillating contributions you had to say. :( Erm, not that the comments you did give were not splendid and...oh hell. *digs hole and jumps in*

How many people want to see a photo of TTTS on an airplane? Kind of like the garden gnome who travels the world.