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Men in (and out of) uniforms have long been a staple of
erotic fantasies, but the 9/11 tragedy upped the ante and made firemen … ahem …
hot commodities, especially for calendars—each month a new, cut stud
wearing parts of his turnout gear and wielding a strategically placed axe.
Sure, it’s a cliché, but Damon Suede ups it yet again in his novel, Hot Head.
Griffin Muir is in love with his childhood best friend and
fellow firefighter Dante Anastagio but has had to repress his feelings due to
his failed marriage and their homophobic job. But when Dante runs into
financial difficulties and decides to do porn at the HotHead site for a few
extra dollars, Griff can’t keep from watching his j/o scene over and over. And when
Dante urges Griff to shoot a scene with him for even more money, a decision
must be made. Several, in fact.
The plot is somewhat predictable, but Suede’s writing makes
the going worthwhile. In particular, both Griff and Dante are complex,
interesting people—unsure of their own feelings but definite that they’re not
gay. Or are they? Each wrestles with his emotions in different ways. Dante acts
out and Griff internalizes. Either way, they make each other miserable even
though they can’t stay away. Their job forces them to interact as does Dante’s
family, who look on Griff as an adopted son.
At times, Griff’s misery and frustration gets a bit much,
but just when it starts to wear thin, Suede changes things up by focusing on
one of the two best minor characters in the book. First, there’s Alek, the
Russian émigré who runs HotHead. He’s a pornographer with a conscience and
knows what makes his website run smoothly. However, he treats his models with
an unexpected sense of humanity, becoming more of a surrogate father and
benefactor than an exploitative employer. Secondly, there’s Tommy—another
firefighter and family man who Griff sees participating in a rough alley fuck
outside a gay bar. Griff cannot see Tommy the same way after witnessing that
incident, and the events that force Tommy out of his closet also cause Griff to
begin his journey towards self-acceptance.
It would hardly be a spoiler to say that Suede gives the
reader the HEA ending he builds to, even though it’s carried on a bit too far
in the family dinner episode that closes the book. Part of me was totally
satisfied by the ending but another part wanted a resolution that was less than
perfect because life is pretty messy and things don’t always go as expected.
Either way, the journey is more important than the destination, and Suede has
fashioned a smartly written, deftly plotted romance that will make you smile.
And the sex scenes are definitely hot.
But what else would you expect from firefighters?
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler