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?
I don't remember where I read the excerpt for this book. All I remember was the lushness of it, the way it put me in this firefighter's sooty skin, smoke-blind eyes and blackened lungs at the foot of the twin towers as he watched it collapse on his friends and co-workers. It dragged me through the triage tents and screaming sirens and hospital corridors until it stopped with him beside the bed of the man who carried his heart without the faintest clue as to how much he was loved. Then the excerpt ended and I was left scrambling the internet to find the damn book, because it's been a very long time since an excerpt pulled me in and shook me up that hard. I had high hopes going into this read that it would string me along the whole way, the same as the excerpt did, and I was not disappointed.
I will point out this book is chuck full of tropes: Brooklyn-Italian firefighters, friends-to-lovers, gay-for-cash porn (I think there's actually a term for that, but I can't remember what it is) and those are just the big ones. But it doesn't matter, because the one thing this book has that no other does is Mr. Damon Suede and his unique and authentic voice. He brings such down to earth raunchiness to his main character that I couldn't possibly have doubted for a minute the real truth behind Griff's feelings and actions.
At the beginning of this book, Griff resides inside a closet made of one-way mirrored glass. He can see out enough to know he's in there, but no one sees in. No one has a clue he's hiding the strong feelings for his best friend Dante that he is, including Dante. As I read and watched the two manoeuvre around one another and the dangerous, smouldering feelings neither of them could admit to, it was so clear to me how they both felt. Griff was easy, because he knew, and if he couldn't admit it to anyone else, he sure wasn't fooling himself. He knew he was in love with Dante and had been for a very long time, and everything he does, as unbelievably painful as it is to watch, he does because of this love and his determination not to ruin his friendship or Dante's life by admitting to it.
With Dante, the only way to see him is through Griff's eyes, and the trick Mr. Suede manages so neatly is to reveal how Dante really feels without letting Griff see it for what it is. It's magical and beautiful even when it gets down and dirty and completely gutter-talk raunchy. Or maybe especially then, because that's who these guys are. You can't help but admire and root for that kind of honesty.
As for the sex scenes. Well. Good thing this story is about firefighters, because the author set the pages on fire when his boys got to the good stuff. Not only is there hot sex, but it is hot, emotional sex, just what we female readers love, and I'd dare say one or two guys reading this story will put it on their one-hand-read shelf. I mean, I can't say for sure, but I think it would be a safe gamble. I rate the first kiss in this book as the hottest, sweetest, best first kisses I've ever had the pleasure to read. And the couch scene… All I can say is have your own fire hose handy. You'll need it. (And you can take that in whichever way you choose, because either way, it applies!)
"but the Bone was a great little dive—old-school Brooklyn in a neighborhood that was getting Starbucked to hell."
"Some monster had punched a hole in New York, and hope was draining out of it into the river."
"The world was this barren, radioactive junkyard he had to survive between Dante taking off and Dante coming back again. Even though they were two guys, the thought of losing him felt like amputation using a fork with no anesthesia."
"Fuck his death wish. I’m gonna kill him…Jesus, he looks like hell in a bucket."
"A car passed outside; its headlights swept over the ceiling for a second like someone was xeroxing the entire block."
"Tommy sat on the stoop folded up on himself like an abandoned teddy bear with a sewn-together face and angry-button eyes."
And the very best bit that sums these two up perfectly: "Griff stood, turning his back to him, determined not to apologize for giving a shit. 'Your life needs an airbag. I swear, Anastagio, you should have come equipped when you were born`.
Just then Dante leaned against him, brow between his shoulder blades for a moment, so tentatively Griff held his breath. His voice was almost sheepish. 'Nah. Everyone knows I was born defective. They didn‘t install you until later.'"
I will definitely recommend this read as a raw, emotional, very hot, worth-every-penny read. I've re-read it three times now, and reading it over so close together, it should get old, but it hasn't. That's Golden Nib worthy in my opinion.