Rhett is hurting for money. Between loans, bills, and books — let alone everything else — college is expensive. One night, Rhett is comforting his roommate over yet another breakup when Emi comes up with a wonderful idea. Rhett should market his gay best friend energy. He will sit with heartbroken women and offer them, for the length of their visit (and the money in their pocket), his undivided attention and the company of a charming, handsome young man. A breakup cafe! At first, Rhett is on the fence, but the more he sits with it, the more he likes the idea. And thus, Boyfriend Cafe is born.
Spencer has recently transferred from community college to the City University of Montridge (CU of M) and is looking for a new life. He got into his dad’s old frat, already has a girlfriend, and enjoys his classes. He’s even keeping his grades up. But when he and his girlfriend wander into the Boyfriend Cafe for some tea, everything changes. Rhett isn’t just some gay guy flirting with his girl … he’s the gay guy that Spencer used to bully in high school.
The tension between the men is so strong that Spencer’s girlfriend picks up on it and wants to know if the two of them have a thing, something Spencer denies. But later that night, dumped, and with a bit of beer in him, Spencer goes marching off to confront Rhett. It’s either the stupidest idea he’s ever had … or the best, as that night ends up with Rhett’s hand down his pants and his tongue in Rhett’s mouth.
It’s not love. It’s just sex. Really, really good sex. Spencer, though, is catching feelings, feelings leading to him questioning more than just his sexuality. For Rhett, it’s a power trip, a strong one, and one he doesn’t want to give up. After all, why should he, when Spencer looks so damn good on his knees?
This first book in the Boyfriend Cafe series has small shades of a bully romance — though by the time the book starts, the bullying is long gone — and involves humiliation kink, praise kink, and a slow beginning exploration of BDSM (with the focus on dominance and submission) between the two main characters.
Spencer is a natural submissive, quick to do as he’s told and taking as much pleasure in being berated and ordered about by Rhett as he does from the praise he receives when he does as he’s told. Rhett is an angry young man, both because Spencer is the one he’s attracted to, and because Spencer, who made his life hell in school, is now the one making him see stars. He lashes out, calling Spencer a slut, deriding the straight boy getting off on sucking cock, ordering Spencer about, and finding that he quite enjoys the power. Even so, Rhett considerate (beyond that first frantic hand job), telling Spencer to let him know when the pain stops being fun, constantly asking if he’s okay, and getting permission before he takes the next step.
Neither Spencer nor Rhett really have much of a character arc in this book, going from mutual memories of the past — Rhett with his anger, Spencer with his guilt — to fucking. A lot of fucking. There’s no redemption arc for all that Spencer is trying to be better; having never seen him be anything other than the considerate, quiet, head ducking, and nervous man he is in this book, there is no opportunity to see him grow, nor do we see any signs of the bully he was.
The two do have a decent chemistry, which is good, because the book is filled with spicy moments, but the story beyond that feels just … there. I do appreciate the supportive frat boys, and how Rhett handles Spencer’s coming out, and the overall the feeling I’m left with with from this book is two young men discovering kink together and having a happy ending. If you’re interested in a college romance with low angst and lots of sex, this book might work for you.