I like Josephine Myles’ work quite a bit and Screwing the System is easily one of my favorites from her. The writing is clean, crisp, and evocative and the characters are engaging from the start. The sex is incredibly hot and the relationship is pretty low key. I found a few easy coincidences that I could have done without but beyond these there are very few, if any, missteps. Instead it’s a fun and interesting story to read without a lot of drama or problems. There’s no big drama and end scene, which is actually nice, and maturity wins the day.
The story is very internally driven. The main focus is on the relationship and working towards a happy ever after declaration. Alasdair is a self made man. He’s worked his way up on his own and now owns a sanitary business. Cosmo is an aspiring musician and hopes to live on unemployment benefits a little while longer. He’s trying to get his band off the ground and doesn’t want to be bothered with working a boring day job. Cosmo’s grand plan is to fail his interview with Alasdair and go back to his music. But the sparks fly immediately as they meet and Cosmo and Alasdair end up with a very different proposition in mind.
The D/s element is pretty mild but present. There’s very little BDSM, some spanking and such but nothing very rough or extreme. The D/s element suits the main characters’ personalities very well. It allows Alasdair to create some structure and control in Cosmo’s life while Cosmo retains his individuality and creativity, and yes even his bratty attitude. Both men are well drawn with a lot of layers and nuance. They feel genuine and realistic with their own problems and needs but nothing too easy or too conflicting. The age difference isn’t given much attention and seems irrelevant from the narrative’s perspective but I do think Cosmo’s immaturity will cause problems. He grows up a bit over the few weeks but nothing substantial. By the end Alasdair is still mostly paying for Cosmo to live with him and happy to do so.
On the other side Alasdair shows a level of common sense and maturity that’s clearly needed to make the relationship work. He offers patience and understanding to Cosmo’s knee jerk reactions. Alasdair feels a little too perfect as he never really makes any big mistakes. That’s not bad but he always seems to say and do the perfect thing. Even when he takes a chance, it all ends up ok. I thought the final scene with his rich friend was a bit over the top. The kind of total life change Alasdair thinks he needs seems too extreme and not fitting his personality.
Though that scene is one of the few things I had a problem with in the novel. The rich friend’s response I thought was just too easy. Likewise the other coincidences – Cosmo’s nan, the band members – I could do without. I would have preferred another way of weaving in the potential drama. Of course nothing really materializes as big issue or any kind of confrontation. Instead the two gradually work towards declaring their love and commitment to each other. It’s not the ending I was expecting but I can appreciate the lack of drama.
Aside from this minor issue, I really quite enjoyed StS. It’s well written with some incredibly smoking hot sex scenes and interesting characters. The writing is clean and engaging. While the story doesn’t take any risks it’s an easy one to recommend for both fans of the authors and those new to her writing. It may not be one I’d read again but I’m very glad I read it and look forward to any stories revisiting these two.