Friday, February 8, 2013

Screwing the System by Josephine Myles

Why I read it: I received a review copy from the author. (release date is February 12, 2013).

What it's about (from Goodreads)  He’s nobody’s bitch. Until he gets a ride on the bitch seat.

Forced to apply for a job he doesn’t want, Cosmo Rawlins has only one aim in mind: fail the interview and get back to making music. Except his attempt to shock the older, sharp-suited Alasdair Grant doesn’t have the desired effect.

Instead of getting thrown out of the office by flaunting an interest in BDSM, Cosmo finds himself on his knees, apologizing to the sexy, good-looking Top.

Alasdair has more important things on his mind than training a novice sub, especially a rebellious bad boy like Cosmo. But there’s something beneath the younger man’s defiant attitude that’s too intriguing to ignore.

As Alasdair takes Cosmo in hand—and for a wild ride on his Harley—he becomes obsessed with bending the young rocker to his will, both in and out of bed. Until he goes one demand too far, and Cosmo is gone in a cloud of dust. Forcing Alasdair to admit that earning Cosmo’s loyalty—and love—will involve the toughest challenge he’s ever faced.

What worked for me (and what didn't):  24 year old Cosmo is what we in Australia call a "dole bludger".  He receives a job seeking allowance from the government but makes every effort NOT to get a job.  He wants to pursue his music career with his band.  He doesn't have time for a job and can't afford to live on busking alone.  Growing up where I did, dole bludgers were fairly common place and it isn't something I've ever found particularly heroic or sexy or attractive.  Government benefits are there for when you need them but if one is unemployed and in receipt of benefits, one should be actively looking for and willing to work.  There are plenty of people who manage to pursue things such as music and work.  I found myself not terribly in sympathy with Cosmo.  But, even so, I do give credit to the author for writing a very non traditional character.

Alasdair is a self made man.  He started a business cleaning bathrooms and toilets, replacing sanitary bins and, in the more upmarket establishments, replacing soaps and towels etc.  His business has grown and he is now, if not exactly entirely welcome and accepted by the toffs, certainly well on his way.  I found it a little hard to get a mental picture of Alasdair.  He is a big beefy man of 40, he wears business suits to work but underneath he's tattooed (with some extraordinarily good artwork) and with Cosmo, he likes to wear leather.  

When Cosmo attends at Alasdair's business for a job interview, for a job Cosmo doesn't want and intends to blow off in such a way as to try and preserve his benefits, there is an instant attraction between the two.  Alasdair sees a brat in need of some discipline (which is just his thing as it happens) and Cosmo sees a big, together and dominant man who could give him a good time.  For the first time, Cosmo tastes a bit of D/s and he likes it. A  lot.

A lot of the time I struggled to see exactly what Alasdair saw in Cosmo.  Certainly his physical body type is an attractant but how is it attractive that Cosmo is lazy and not willing to work?  Especially to one who works as hard as Alasdair does?  I did start to understand, but late in the book when Alasdair revealed his past to Cosmo (and to the reader).

Alasdair's influence is good for Cosmo because he does get off the dole and he does get more serious about his music and *mild spoiler* he's even prepared to do actual work.

The blurb is a bit misleading because the "Cosmo is gone in a cloud of dust" happens quite early on.  I mistook it and kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and was really worried with less than 10 pages to go, as there just wasn't time for all to be put right by then. 

There is a conflict involving Alasdair's business and Cosmo's Nan (who raised him) but that was dealt with very quickly (and, sadly without any input from Nan).  There was also what I (perhaps in my innocence?) felt was a surprising turn when Alasdair and Cosmo attend a party made up of business associates - it turned out well, but I couldn't help but think that Alasdair's actions were extra provocative and not good business as well as being fairly rude to Roger (his business associate and a better friend than I had realised).  I did appreciate however that Alasdair went to great pains to make sure Cosmo knew he was paramount and Alasdair was not ashamed of their association. This was a big deal to Cosmo in general and Alasdair was always very sensitive to that.  So, my feelings on the party were a little mixed.

I'm not an expert in D/s but it seemed to me that the scenes were accurate (can I even say that? Really, what do I know?) - Alasdair was responsible, they had an agreement, they had safewords, Alasdair respected Cosmo's use of it.  All of those things made the sex scenes hotter too, because there was respect and care taken even in the midst of passion.

I also LOVED that Alasdair can control himself physically - when they're out there are a few times he finds himself aroused by Cosmo but he doesn't get immediately hard like so many romance heroes do.  It is alarming really how many romance heroes walk around in public with a perpetual hard-on.  Alasdair feels and recognises arousal without necessarily having an overy physical display. How refreshing.  More please.  (Alasdair has no trouble getting it up when appropriate of course, be in no doubt of that!)

I liked the working class-ness of Cosmo, his upbringing by his Nan and their genuine affection for one another.  I loved her acceptance of him in all his bratty gay glory.  I liked that Alasdair gave back through the Sunshine Scheme and did have a thought for those put out of work when he took over a contract via outsourcing.  

I did feel that the relationship between Alasdair and Cosmo was uneven.  Cosmo was disorganised, young, often lazy (although this did improve over the course of the book) and Alasdair was older (though 40 is by no means ancient), driven, organised and in charge.  Alasdair thinks of Cosmo as "the lad".  During scenes he calls him "boy" but that didn't bother me - that was clearly a scene thing.  But the thoughts of him outside of play, Alasdair seemed, to me, to think of Cosmo as someone in need of protection and guidance, in need of a mentor and that felt a bit uneven to me.  There was movement, toward the end of the book to some balance, but I don't think it had properly been achieved when the book ended.
This wasn't my favourite book from Ms. Myles.  I think it was mainly because I had trouble connecting with the characters, particularly Cosmo.  By the end of the book, I think Cosmo was getting it together however, and I wouldn't mind seeing what they're like in 5-6 years, because I think things would be a lot more even then, Cosmo having come into his own.

Grade: B-/C+


Chris said...

This is in my ever-exanpding TBR... :)

Kaetrin said...

@Chris - Giant TBR's the blogger's bane? LOL!

Let me know what you think.