silky smooth coverRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel

 

After some horrible bullying in college led to him dropping out of school, Nicolas Cannon has retreated to his routines. He eats the same lunch at the same time at the same place every day. He keeps mostly to himself and spends quiet days alone working on his art. But one day, things are shaken up as Nicolas sees a parrot outside the Bold Brew coffee shop where he is having lunch. He can’t imagine the bird doesn’t belong to someone, so he takes it home with him to try to find the owner. Nicolas is surprised by how much he enjoys the company of the bird, who speaks various affirmations among his assortment of words and phrases. Somehow, just hearing that he is important and he matters goes a long way to helping Nicolas feel better about himself.

Despite finding himself surprisingly happy with his temporary pet, Nicolas knows the parrot must belong to someone. He is both happy and disappointed when his flyer in the coffee shop turns up the owner, a gorgeous man named Alex Durant. Despite the fact that Nicolas interacts with so few people, something about Alex appeals to him and he finds himself enjoying the bit of company as he returns the bird, whose name he learns is Calamity (Cal). Alex is 15 years older than Nicolas, as well as a successful restaurant group owner, so Nicolas isn’t so sure what the man sees in him. But as the two spend time together, they find themselves really connecting and Nicolas can’t help but be drawn to Alex’s sweet and supportive presence.

Nicolas has secrets, however, both from Alex and his family. He still hasn’t told his mother that he dropped out of college due to the bullying. Nor does he dare tell her why he was the subject of ridicule. Nicolas’ taste for silky things and his love of lingerie got him bullied and mocked at school. He is fearful of sharing his interest with Alex, even as the two men grow closer. But Alex surprises Nicholas with his enthusiasm for the lingerie. And with Alex’s support, it might just be enough to give Nicolas the courage to finally be honest with his family about his past, as well as about the man who is slowly winning his heart.

Silky Smooth is part of the Bold Brew collection, a shared, multi-author universe that centers around the coffee house. I haven’t read any of the other books and had no problem starting here. While we meet some characters who I assume have (or will get) their own stories, this one stands alone just fine.

I really liked the way the story opens with Nicolas meeting Cal, the parrot. It is a bit wacky, but also super sweet as we see Nicolas bond with the bird. Cal’s affirmations give Nicolas a feeling of support and confidence that he is missing. It’s a great meet cute that sets up Nicolas connecting with Alex. As it turns out, the bird is Alex’s emotional support animal and there is a cute playfulness that Calamity adds to the dynamic between the men, as well as offering the means to get the pair together.

This story nicely explores Nicolas’ emotions in the aftermath of a bullying incident that happened after some fellow students found his collection of silky undergarments. We learn the details over the course of the story, and it left Nicolas so traumatized from the experience that the only thing he could think of doing was dropping out. He has retreated into himself, leaning on his routines and his one remaining friend. So I liked seeing how first his connection with Cal, and then his developing relationship with Alex, really helps Nicolas get out of his shell. And the fact that Alex not only accepts Nicolas’ lingerie kink, but is also super into it, just gives Nicolas that boost of confidence to feel good about himself and take some more chances, like opening up to his parents about school. I do wish we had a little more insight into how all this affects Nicolas from his POV, rather than just observing. I wanted to better understand what he was like before all of this happened at school and how meeting Cal gave him that jump start. But I do think Arthur gives a rewarding set up here for Nicolas’ journey.

From a relationship end, while I liked Alex and appreciated how he supports Nicolas, I did find myself struggling with the chemistry between them. For some reason, I got a very paternalistic vibe between them. It wasn’t the age difference, as even though they are 15 years apart, I have read plenty of books where that type of gap worked just fine. It was something about the way the men interact. Alex has a tendency to sort of “therapy speak” at Nicolas and talk to him like the wise older relative. Alex also comes across as much older than he is, and is referred to as being so old that I was surprised to find he is only 35. Which again, yes, it is a 15 year age gap, but a 35-year-old is not an old man. So something about the dynamic just made it hard for me to feel the heat between them, although the support and comfort side came through well.

I think the story also suffers from the single POV. I would have loved to have a better sense of what Alex sees in Nicolas and what draws them together. I really missed that, and I think that probably also affected my feelings about their romantic/sexual connection in this case. We also learn that Alex has some of his own past trauma with regards to his ex-husband, but we never learn what it is. Nicolas decides he doesn’t need to know details, which is well and good for the character. But as a reader, I wanted to know what happened, and it was frustrating that it is alluded to, but we never learn what it was. So I feel like getting Alex’s POV and learning more about him would have helped a lot here.

I think there are some really nice elements in this story that are explored, particularly the support and confidence Nicolas gains first from his connection with Cal, and then later the relationship he builds with Alex. I wished for more insight into both Nicolas and his personal journey, as well as about Alex and his past, and his current feelings. I think that would have helped make this story richer and given me more of a connection with the characters and their relationship. But this is a nice contemporary that deals with some personal dark spots, as well as showing the characters coming out happy on the other side. You may want to check this one out, particularly if you are enjoying the Bold Brew universe.

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