Title: Total Creative Control
Series: Creative Types: Book One
Authors: Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm
Length: 364 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: Total Creative Control is a sweet and angsty love story full of pining and tension, internal and external conflict, and a big romantic epiphany that leads to a satisfying happily ever after.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Sunshine PA, meet Grumpy Boss…
When fanfic writer Aaron Page landed a temp job with the creator of hit TV show, Leeches, it was only meant to last a week. Three years later, Aaron’s still there…
It could be because he loves the creative challenge. It could be because he’s a huge Leeches fanboy. It’s definitely not because of Lewis Hunter, his extremely demanding, staggeringly rude…and breathtakingly gorgeous boss.
Lewis Hunter grew up the hard way and fought for everything he’s got. His priority is the show, and personal relationships come a distant second. Besides, who needs romance when you have a steady stream of hot men hopping in and out of your bed?
His only meaningful relationship is with Aaron, his chief confidante and indispensable assistant. And no matter how appealing he finds Aaron’s cute boy-next-door charms, Lewis would never risk their professional partnership just to scratch an itch.
But when Lewis finds himself trapped at a hilariously awful corporate retreat, Aaron is his only friend and ally. As the professional lines between them begin to blur, their simmering attraction starts to sizzle
… And they’re both about to get burned.
Review: An office romance is such a great setup for the building of a relationship. The angst is already built into the potential pitfalls that come with the boss dating an employee, and working late into the night together is a prime opportunity to get to know someone well beyond the usual nine-to-five job. Rule #3 on Lewis Hunter’s list of employment conditions is no sex, though, so of course all those overtime hours spent brainstorming and editing with his new PA, Aaron Page, only serve the purpose of ironing out script issues for the popular television show Leeches. Haha no. These two men were destined to fall in love with each other, but Joanna Chambers and Sally Malcolm made sure the going wasn’t easy.
Total Creative Control is filled with some of my favorite romantic tropes—the grumpy one falling for the easy-going, charming one; some close proximity; and hurt/comfort, to name a few—and the authors capitalized on each one in their building of the relationship between Aaron and Lewis. What was supposed to be just a temp position when Aaron was sent to fill a vacancy left in Lewis’s ever-spinning carousel of failed personal assistants, becomes a collaborative partnership three years in the making. Those boundaries Lewis established early on become more like obstacles, though, the more he comes to depend on Aaron for what Lewis insists is their creative symmetry, not to mention Aaron’s encyclopedic knowledge of the show and its characters. It’s so much more than that, obviously, but Lewis doesn’t realize it yet because Lewis doesn’t fall in love. Ever. He doesn’t believe in romance and happily ever after. At all. But Lewis Hunter had best start believing in love stories, because he’s in one.
Aaron, on the other hand, is all about the romance and happy endings. He lives, breathes, and writes it in his Leeches fanfic—something Lewis adamantly despises, by the way, and isn’t aware that Aaron creates in his spare time. But Aaron has shipped two of the show’s characters, Skye and Faolán, for years, and while Lewis hasn’t taken his characters’ relationship on a romantic turn in the show, Aaron has taken them there in his own writing. He, in fact, became instrumental in the direction Lewis has taken Faolán on over the years, and I appreciated the life-imitates-art/art-imitates-life intersection of the show’s characters and Aaron and Lewis’s story. Aaron and Lewis speak the same language when it comes to their love of Leeches, but when opportunity comes knocking and Lewis feels he has no choice but to answer, it brings all sorts of issues with it, not the least of which is Lewis’s dwindling creative control over where Telopix Entertainment would like to take a US version of the show, which, let’s be honest, is utterly cringeworthy, as is the Telopix executive who’s finagling the deal. This becomes a sticking point between Lewis and Aaron, and a question of creative integrity over name recognition and money.
The authors’ writing voices complement each other well and blend seamlessly, and I applaud them for not leaning into the idea that Aaron “fixed” Lewis but rather, Lewis simply needed Aaron in order to see that he could be a little bit broken and vulnerable and still be loveable and loved and, in return, that he was perfectly capable of loving Aaron, who was capably perfect for Lewis. Their story is angsty and sweet, with plenty of tension and attraction between them, and enough internal and external conflict to stand in their way until Lewis’s all-important romantic epiphany. I do wish I’d gotten a bit more backstory on Aaron, as he comes into the story fully formed and practically perfect in every way, but there isn’t much revealed about him beyond who we see on-page. Not every character has to have an interesting past, though, and Lewis’s history is, on its own, plenty touching.
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