Malcolm Elliott has a job he loves and a great group of friends, but his life is starting to unravel. When his mother has financial issues, Malcolm takes on way more than he can handle, causing his own bank account to become almost wiped out. He won’t talk to his friends or his mother about the situation and Malcolm is also struggling with letting the most important people in life know that he identifies as gray ace.
Stuart Morgan loves being a chef. After growing up Mormon and surviving an unhappy marriage, Stuart left Utah for NYC. Stuart also has a secret that he keeps hidden in his drawer. He has tried to share it, but other men have not been interested in sharing his kink.
When the two men cross paths for a work event, Malcolm starts to feel things for Stuart he hasn’t felt before. But Malcolm doesn’t know how to handle what he is feeling and thinks that the tattooed, motorcycle riding Stuart will never understand him. The more time Malcolm spends with Stuart, the more he wants to explore his sexuality, and Stuart is patient and gentle with him. But Stuart still hasn’t shared his secret and the men will have to trust each other to build a future.
Straight Up is book four in The Speakeasy series and also ties back to the Tidal series. While Malcolm and Stuart’s relationship is new to this book, the series relies heavily on the friendships of this group of men and it would be enhanced to be familiar with the connections. There is also a special moment for Carter and Riley, the characters that started this series, and it’s great to see all of the MCs continually throughout the books.
We meet Malcolm as the book opens and he’s struggling with his mother being out of work and taking on a lot of her bills. The thing is that he has no idea how to have a conversation with his mother about how much financial trouble he has put himself in helping her and Malcolm exists on crackers some days despite having a full-time job. One issue for me is that Malcolm added his mother to his health insurance policy and, in my experience, this would not have been possible. Malcolm is also trying to figure out his sexuality and trying to navigate his identity of gray ace/demisexual.
Stuart left his Mormon family in Utah and started over. He is fine with hookups and hasn’t met anyone that he wants to spend more time with until Malcolm. The men form a friendship and a bond and Stuart tries to understand what Malcolm needs. I liked both of these characters and their individual struggles, and then the struggles they had in trying to form a relationship. Malcolm is exploring aspects of his sexuality and the intimate scenes between the men are erotic and based on the men trusting each other.
There is a lot going on overall in the book. There is Malcolm and the financial issues, and exploring his sexual identity, and his other family members are present as well. Stuart’s life wasn’t explored as much. We learn about his past in Utah, but his kink is mentioned early on and then it isn’t further explored until much later in the book. The other MCs from the series are also present, and this may be the last book of the series and there are continuing storylines for each couple added in as well. It was a lot for this one book to take on.
As a whole, I enjoy this series, the group of friends, and the vibe of the speakeasy, and it’s a good series to follow the storyline as it has grown.