After breaking up with his boyfriend of five years, Ren is over relationships. He always seems to find the wrong guy and he’d rather just avoid anything serious from now on. When he meets a gorgeous guy in a bar, Ren ends up with a smoking hot night of sex. He and Cole seem to be on the same page that this is a one time only thing, as Cole has never been a relationship kind of guy. Both men are pretty shocked when Cole ends up being the contractor Ren has hired to redo his bathroom, but it puts the guys back in each other’s orbit and their interest in one another is still strong.
Ren also ends up joining a chat/hookup app and meeting “CaulkyAF.” The two hit it off and begin chatting regularly. Neither man seems interested in turning it into more, but their friendship grows, and there is a real connection between them that neither has felt with too many others.
As the weeks pass, Cole and Ren find themselves drawn together again and again. Despite themselves, they can’t stay away from each other and the sex just keeps getting better and better. At the same time, unbeknownst to either of them, Ren as “Rebound” and Cole as “Caulky” are building a friendship with one another online, one that is growing increasingly intense. They are thinking about meeting and seeing if there is more between them, but Ren/Rebound is still wary about getting into another relationship and getting his heart broken, and Cole/Caulky isn’t sure he is a relationship guy at all. Not to mention that neither realizes that the guy he is hooking up with is also the guy he is growing increasingly close to online. Now Ren and Cole have to sort out their tangled relationship and figure out if they are willing to take a leap and trust one another with their hearts.
Caulky is the first book in K.M. Neuhold’s new Four Bears Construction series and it is off to a great start. It takes a lot of talent to take two common tropes and create a story that is unique and engaging, and Neuhold really succeeds at that here. This book brings freshness into both the “don’t do relationships” theme, as well as the two guys chatting online that don’t realize they know one another trope. Frequently when you get the anonymous chat storyline, one of the characters figures it out before the other and the secret ends up being the big story conflict. But in this case, the guys realize at the same time, and we as readers know basically from the start. What we get instead of the big secret is two parallel relationships developing at the same time, which creates such an interesting dynamic. On one hand, Cole and Ren are in this hot and heavy sexual relationship. Neither one thinks they want anything serious, and so they are trying to keep it just sex. At the same time, they have a non-sexual, emotional relationship going on as Caulky and Rebound, where they are learning all about one another and building something real between them. What is fun is that over time, the sexual relationship gains more seriousness, and the friendship grows more romantic. And then, of course, the guys realize what is going on and they have to figure out how to reconcile these two relationships together they didn’t realize were with the same person. It is just so clever and creates such an interesting dynamic.
I really enjoyed these guys together so much. There is a lightness to their relationship, with some fun banter and playfulness that I loved. While Ren is mostly avoiding a relationship out of fear, in Cole’s case, he has never once wanted anything serious, and his feelings for Ren really take him by surprise. I appreciated that Cole doesn’t play games or run from his feelings, however. Once he recognizes that this thing with Ren is more than he expected, he jumps all in, never afraid to share how he feels or take a chance. I loved how supportive Cole is of Ren’s interest in turning his bee keeping hobby into a career, and how both men put in the effort to really make things work between them. This book is quite sex heavy and the guys are steamy together, but I never doubted that the connection between them was more than just physical.
Along the way, we also meet the other three bears in the construction company — Cole’s brother and two best friends. They are obviously the fodder for the remainder of the series, but I was impressed with how well Neuhold integrates them and their backstories in this book without ever making it feel like sequel bait. So often when future main characters are introduced, their stories can feel clunky as we get the set up for their books. But here, Neuhold really worked them in seamlessly and left me quite anxious for their stories, as they all seem like such interesting guys.
So this one was a big hit for me and I just loved the story. I think Neuhold has put a great spin on some common tropes and really left me wanting more. I can’t wait for future books in this series!