Series: The Speakeasy book 4
Authors: K. Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Length: 261 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
Love, served straight up.
Malcolm Elliott has been keeping secrets. Helping his mom through a financial crisis has nearly emptied both his bank account and his kitchen cupboards, despite his thriving career with Corporate Equality Campaign. Malcolm is also bothered by his inability to tell the most important people in his life that he identifies as gray ace.
Stuart Morgan has a secret of his own. Though years have passed since the tattooed chef fled the Mormon Church in Utah for New York, he’s never truly come to terms with the kink that ruined that rigid but outwardly perfect life. Experience has also taught Stuart that keeping his love of lacy things under wraps is safer than telling the truth.
After Malcom’s boss, Carter, hires Stuart’s restaurant to cater a gala fundraising event, the strait-laced Malcolm is thrown together with badass biker Stuart. Despite their differences and a couple of false starts, the men discover they work well together and a friendship quickly forms.
As Malcolm’s feelings for Stuart deepen, his sexuality awakens, but he remains tight-lipped about his problems. And though Stuart grows more and more attached to Malcolm, he remains fearful of confessing his kink.
When both of their secrets are finally exposed, they find themselves at a crossroads in which they must choose between playing it safe or finally coming clean to the person they love.
Reader advisory: This book contains references to homophobia and polyamory.
Malcolm has always felt slightly out of step in the dating world. His final analysis that he is definitely asexual means that he must feel a deep attraction to a person in order to have any interest in physical intimacy of any kind with them. Not only that but even then sex just isn’t really something he needs or even feels comfortable with—it’s not that he dislikes it, rather it just doesn’t even ping his radar, such as it is. But no one, not even his close friends at the speakeasy, know that about Mal.
When he meets the chef who will cater a major fundraising event he is responsible for, the man sparks some sort of reaction in Mal. Confused and afraid to even attempt to get to know the man, Mal finds himself slowly becoming friends with Chef Stuart Morgan. If Mal is going to try to explore the funny feeling being close to Stuart produces deep inside Mal then he’s going to have to come clean and hope Stuart understands. Little does he know Stuart has a secret of his own that helped cost him his marriage but every attempt to establish another relationship after that.
Straight Up by K. Evan Coles and Brigham Vaughn is the final novel in their Speakeasy series. While some may say it’s not critical to have read the others in this series prior to picking up this novel, I would caution against that thinking. There are multiple characters whose interwoven relationships are central to this story and have been established in the other books and keeping them straight will be a monumental task if you’re not familiar with their pasts. It’s funny that the authors chose to make that a bit of a problem for Stuart—as if acknowledging that you should read the others in this series before attempting this one. Plus the series is really great so I recommend reading these in order.
I really loved this novel. The way in which the authors delicately and lovingly handled both Malcolm’s place on the spectrum and Stuart’s kink is just really praise worthy. I love how they use Mal’s attempt to help Stuart understand how Mal views sex and not just the act but physical intimacy itself to educate the reader. It is done in as thorough and respectful way as possible and I felt it really paid attention to the fact that this is a difficult area for most to understand. I also love how they allow Stuart and Mal’s relationship to develop slowly—particularly in the bedroom. I feel this is true to the character Mal has been established as in prior novels and really helps the reader understand all the inner thoughts of someone who is asexual. It’s also so refreshing to read about two men who communicate rather than just run when confronted with difficulties in their relationship.
There is very little I would change about this book. Seeing all the other characters from previous novels was delightful, and experiencing the magical moment between Riley and Carter, who began this series, is just so special and felt like it made the books come full circle. I felt such compassion for poor Stuart—not only because he was thrown into this group and had to deal with how close they all were but also because his worry about exposing his own personal kink kept him in fear and some embarrassment until he is able to come clean with Mal.
I am sad to see this series end but couldn’t really have asked for a better novel than Straight Up to tie them all together. I am so glad Mal found his one true love and that the boys are all content and happy. It has been a lovely ride with this gang and I will miss them.
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