Genre: Contemporary gay lit, M/M romance
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…
Since 9/11, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has wrestled with impossible feelings for his best friend and partner at Ladder 181, Dante Anastagio. Unfortunately, Dante is strictly a ladies’ man, and the FDNY isn’t exactly gay-friendly. For ten years, Griff has hidden his heart in a half-life of public heroics and private anguish.
Griff’s caution and Dante’s cockiness make them an unbeatable team. To protect his buddy, there’s nothing Griff wouldn’t do… until a nearly bankrupt Dante proposes the worst possible solution: HotHead.com, a gay porn website where uniformed hunks get down and dirty. And Dante wants them to appear there—together. Griff may have to guard his heart and live out his darkest fantasies on camera. Can he rescue the man he loves without wrecking their careers, their families, or their friendship?
Hot Head operates on a multi-level story arc: partly a homage to the courage and sacrifice of first responders on 9-11, partly an action-adventure tale focusing on the terrible risks and bravery of men who choose to run into the bowels of hell to save lives, but mostly it’s a buddy story of friendship and love and loyalty.
And it is most definitely a romance, beginning with unrequited love on the part of Griff Muir for his best friend Dante Anastagio. Griif’s effectively been raised by the Anastagio family. He and Dante are inseparable, sharing danger, sharing women, and even sharing secrets. But there’s one secret Griff cannot and will not share: his feelings for Dante that exceed the boundaries of even deep-seated friendship.
When Dante finds himself in over his head keeping up an old house that’s taking a huge bite out of his resources, he puts his lusty nature to good use by joining up with HotHeat.com—a gay porn website. He scores big with the viewers but to earn serious cash he needs to up the ante and provide cutting edge content. For that he solicits Griff to join him—it’s the kind of offer Griff cannot refuse.
When practice and performance raise mixed messages, it’s not just careers and the respect of their fellow firemen on the line. When it gets down and dirty, it’s Griff’s heart that takes the heavy hit.
Damon Suede gives us much to like with Hot Head. Griff is, far and away, the more likeable character (for this reader), but even Dante’s cocky attitude rarely grates for long. This is a mature author, in command of the subject matter, the details well-researched and bringing a measure of authenticity you don’t normally find with a M/M (or any other type) romance.
I especially enjoyed the authentic dialog—it rang true on just about every measure: urban, middle and working class, male Brooklynese. It had that rhythm and cadence that appealed to the inner ear and made each of the characters unique.
With heart stopping action, heart-stopping scenes of affection and a sigh worthy denouement, Hot Head delivers, in spades.
It’s a delight to find such a well-crafted story, a page-turner written with care and attention to detail, well-edited and worthy of a permanent spot on the shelf.
Five stars for an excellent read.