For months, coffee cart owner Robby has been crushing on one of his customers. David comes in every day just before noon and orders his coffee. The guys talk, and sometimes David even seems a bit interested, but most of the time he is shy and reserved and Robby can’t really get a read on whether he is even gay, let alone attracted to Robby.
When Robby sees David at Portland Pride, he works up the nerve to take things further and make his interest clear. The men begin casually dating and slowly getting to know one another. Things move pretty slowly between the men, but even as he wants more, Robby can tell from David’s past that he needs to take his time. However, the more time they spend together, the more Robby wants to be a real boyfriend to David, and the harder it is to take the little pieces of himself that David is able to give. Now Robby must decide if he can be brave enough to speak up and make clear what he wants and needs, even if it means risking the relationship he has with David for a chance at a better future.
Served Hot is a sweet story about two guys who are trying to make a new relationship work amidst a lot of baggage from the past. Both of the guys are really likable. David is kind of endearingly formal and a bit old fashioned, the accounting geek in him coming out often. He is so good and sweet and as he struggles to move forward from his past, we can’t help but feel for him. Robby is our POV character and he is fun and entertaining. Through Robby’s eyes we can see David’s kindness and how good and special he makes Robby feel. I think that helps as a reader when David seems like he is not moving forward, as we also know just how sweet and caring he is and how much that means to Robby. As frustrated as Robby can get with David’s pace for the relationship, we can also see how good things are between them and how kind and solid David is.
The main conflict in the story is David’s past. He lost his long-time lover tragically and hasn’t really fully moved past his grief. At the same time, many things were not good about that relationship, and he has to deal with not just the memories, but also coming to accept how problematic things were between them. As much as he cares for Robby and wants to move forward, David really needs to take things in baby steps — both the sex and the developing relationship.
All this makes perfect sense, and Albert really helps us see the issues David struggles with, but it does make for a somewhat slow story. There is a good portion of the book where not much happens between the guys but casual dates for months at a time. Much of that time is off page, so we aren’t sitting through it all, but still the pace of the book and the feel of the story matches the pace of how things are moving between them, and as I said, that’s pretty slow. Once things get physical and move toward more serious between them, the story picks up a bit, especially when Robby gets up the nerve to really talk to David toward the very end. But the slow pace was probably the hardest issue for me here.
I also felt there was potential for more to be explored, especially with regard to Robby’s own past. We learn he has an “evil ex” who also wasn’t out and he still has some emotional scars from that relationship, but we never really go past that. There was potential here, and the ex is mentioned often, especially things like how he always wanted to be in charge, but we learn almost no detail about Robby’s past or how it has affected him. We learn about David’s history in more depth, and again that is the primary conflict here, but for some reason it lacked a little intensity given the situation. We can see that David needs time to work things through, but perhaps because we are not in his head, it is hard to feel it as strongly as I think we should.
Overall I found this a sweet story. I know I keep using that word, and this is not a G-rated book or anything, but sweet is the best way I can describe it. The relationship builds slowly, the sex comes slowly, and mostly we are dealing with two really nice guys who are good to one another and really care for each other. Albert gives us a nice sense of the Portland setting and it is well incorporated into the story. This is the first book in a series of three set in Portland, and am I looking forward to seeing where the rest of the series goes. So I found this one enjoyable, and if you are looking for a light, fairly quick read with some likable guys, you may want to give this one a try.