Like Coffee and Doughnuts by Elle Parker

 Like Coffee and Doughnuts by Elle Parker


Dino Martini might accept his friend Seth as a lover–if they can stay alive. 

Dino Martini is an old-school P.I. in a modern age. Sure, he may do most of his work on a computer, but he carries a gun, drives a convertible, and lives on the beach. Best friend and mechanic Seth Donnelly will back him in a fight, and there’s not a lot more Dino could ask from life. 

Until his world is turned upside down. 

A dangerous case and a new apartment are just the start. His friendship with Seth has turned into a romance, only Dino has never had a boyfriend before. Can he handle this sudden twist? Just as he begins to believe it’s possible, he loses Seth in more ways than one…




I was so impressed with this story that I can only hope the author will turn this into a series. If she doesn’t though, I’m still going to buy her next book as soon as it is released. This is exactly the kind of story that I’d been lamenting rarely existed within the m/m romance genre. Here you have friends to lovers theme complete with a well crafted, well executed mystery without any dramatic heroics, stupidity, and leaps of knowledge or rampant sex. Instead Parker has delivered a well written story with some great characters and a good private investigator storyline which is not over done or ridiculous while having a very classic feel. For those readers of the genre who want a fabulously solid story with little to no angst, focusing on the mystery while giving a satisfying romance you will want to read this book. Preferably with coffee and doughnuts nearby as well.

The story reads very much like great PI series such as the (early) Spenser series by Robert Parker and has a classic feel to Dino Martini. He’s forty-one and makes his living as a private investigator. His apartment and office building has been demolished to make way for condos so he finds himself living in a “garden” apartment surrounded by a group of older women, each with their own personality, character and charm. At the same time, he’s dealing with a new twist where his best friend Seth has suddenly become a potential lover and while Dino has been attracted to men in the past, he’s never acted on it. Dino is a great leading man with his descriptions of various women as “classy broads” and “great looking dames” yet doesn’t take that too far as to be distracting or annoying. It simply sets the feel for Dino as a loyal, intelligent, hard working and serious man with old-fashioned charm. He doesn’t sleep around and takes his relationships seriously, which causes him slight pause when considering having sex with his best friend.

Seth is simply fabulous as a mechanic with slick charm and indiscriminate taste in lovers. He may sleep around with whatever and whoever wanders past him, but he has a core of strength, loyalty and intelligence. He’s not afraid to flirt, drink, and fight but he’s also not a weak character by any means. His long time support and friendship with Dino is a solid foundation for their relationship, giving a very natural feel to their coming together. Even once he and Dino start having sex, Seth’s irrepressible personality is shown in his flirting and charm. Seth is the type of magnetic personality that draws the eye and has such a jest for life that they become more attractive than perhaps they would be otherwise. I liked that the author didn’t have to give Seth model-like looks but instead relied on the force of his personality to draw in readers.

One of the best aspects of this book was the normality to the story. Dino is often described doing more mundane aspects of his job such as paperwork, insurance claims, car repossessions, cheating spouses and other less glamorous jobs to give an authentic and real feel to his job. The reader is able to see that Dino will never be rich being a PI but he has an insatiable curiosity and love for the rush of figuring out a mystery, even if it leads him into trouble. But at the same time, he is intelligent as well as street smart and has no problems recognizing when something is over his head and walking away rather than getting killed—for the most part anyway. Similarly, Seth is depicted often going to work at his job in a garage, working on cars even if he’s been out partying the night before and hung over. This attention to detail in showing both men with real jobs and responsibilities, no matter what their nightly activities led to, was refreshing and added to the overall enjoyment of the book.

Along those lines, the reader is able to get a feel for how Seth and Dino will date and be in a relationship. The typical day-to-day details that are almost universally ignored in romance books instead are given weight and room within the pages to show these two having dinner, talking on the phone, sometimes seeing each other, and sometimes being too busy. Even in the sex scenes between the two men that are enough but never overwhelming and don’t show men getting off three or four times in one night. These two men have sex a variety of ways but each is satisfying and enough for them. Each of these instances of their normal everyday life develops a real relationship that exists within a world readers can relate to and honestly believe in how these two will be together. Just as you can see how these two normal men would also get involved in things over their heads once in a while, exactly like the mystery presented in this story.

The mystery element of the story was incredibly well crafted and presented. It slowly unfolds over the course of the story with subtle actions that feel natural along the course of everyday activities. The actions Dino and Seth take to solve the mystery they slowly become involved in are reasonable as well, relying on no sudden insight, no leaps of knowledge, no obvious clues overlooked, and no ridiculous moments. Instead the work depicted is methodical, intelligent, clever, and involves classic investigating work with a phone book and computer. Yet none of this is in anyway boring as the characters involved and deft writing keep the pace even and flowing, never getting too wild with the action or too mundane with the everyday details. The final resolution felt authentic even as the capacity for future problems existed clearly. Just as the resolution to Dino and Seth’s relationship felt very much like a beginning with considerably more to tell.

Even though there is almost no angst involved, the set up for these characters, their jobs, and lives have created the perfect vehicle for a series of books. The wonderful cast of secondary characters in the older women of Dino’s new apartment building was a great addition, just as Dino and Seth’s relationship could have more to say— without any angst between them. For those readers who enjoy a vivid city setting, the author depicts southern Florida in all its glory and sometimes not so much. The glitz of South Beach translates incredibly well to the page, as does the traffic congestion of Miami and the southern Florida atmosphere. The well written story with no obvious errors moves at a good pace, never boring, never over the top action but enjoyable and interesting throughout. I was worried the additional action at the end would bring it over the top but it surprisingly worked very well in the story and if there are flaws, I enjoyed the story too much to notice any. I obviously recommend this book and sincerely hope the author thinks about a series.

Get it HERE


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3 thoughts on “Like Coffee and Doughnuts by Elle Parker

  1. Hi, Kassa! OMG, this sounds like exactly what I like — regular guys who really seem like guys, a believable evolution from friends to lovers, and concrete details about the two jobs! Plus the author sometimes comments at my blog, so I’d been meaning to read something by her. I think I’ll buy this right now. Great review, Kassa! Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

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