Strawberries for Dessert by Marie Sexton
When Jonathan Kechter agrees to a blind date with Cole Fenton, he expects nothing more than dinner and a one-night stand… but he gets more than he bargained for in Cole. Cole is arrogant, flamboyant, and definitely not Jon’s type. Still, when Cole suggests an arrangement of getting together for casual sex whenever they’re both in town, Jon readily agrees.
Their arrangement may be casual, but Jonathan soon learns that when it comes to Cole Fenton, nothing is easy. Between Cole’s fear of intimacy and his wandering lifestyle, Jonathan wonders if their relationship may be doomed from the start—but the more Cole pushes him away, the more determined Jon is to make it work.
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I do believe Marie Sexton has done it again. The 4th book in the series just hits a smooth pace and never lets go. Although this is technically part of a series, it’s easily read as a stand alone book. The main characters have cameos as ex’s of the other characters so other than knowing the characters weren’t particularly likable previously, you can pick this one up alone with ease. The solid writing and real flair for great contemporary stories shines here with a story about two difficult personalities, prickly with many people, that seem to just fit well together. Add in a few commitment phobias, a workaholic, and a real look at relationships and the story comes together incredibly well. It’s easy and very enjoyable to read.
Told from Jonathan’s first person perspective, the reader follows along as he meets Cole on a blind date. Cole was Jared’s casual lover (Jared from Promises but it doesn’t matter). Jonathan was Zach’s ex (Zach from A to Z, but again it doesn’t matter). Cole and Jonathan have a disastrous first date when Jonathan can’t stop answering his work cell phone, yet Cole is intrigued by the man enough to give him a second chance. What starts as a friends with benefits arrangement soon becomes serious and both men must make changes to make the relationship work.
The writing is once again top notch from Sexton and I’ve yet to read something poor from her. Here the choice to show the story from Jonathan’s perspective I think is not only smart but essential. Jonathan’s a bit of a prick. He’s uptight, rigid, and very into his routine. He works hard, travels a lot, and focuses on the minutia of life. He likes his routine of waking up to jog then eat and working hard to come home to Cole cooking so the repetition of these scenes felt natural and honest within the relationship. Watching Cole and Jonathan gradually become more than occasional bed partners may be a slower pace than instant love stories but is very warm, engaging, and entertaining. I liked watching these two fall in love based on small intimacies, desires, and communication – well and their sex is of course smoking hot so no trouble there.
Their different personalities of course clash and this is one story with built in tension. Due to their initial opposing needs and past experiences, there is a real question if these two can actually work out their issues and be together in a happy ending. Neither are bad men, though they are sometimes incredibly frustrating, but they’re honest, warm, and real. They have issues, fights, arguments, and yearn for more from each other but they’re just not sure how to get there. This authenticity resonates well within the story and has you rooting for two men to be together, despite their quirks and flaws. The fact that they are prickly with flaws creates characters that transcend their stereotype and lets you fall for them, even if they’re frustrating.
Since the story is told from Jonathan’s pov, we can see why he reacts so strongly to things. This is important since otherwise he’d come across as an unredeemable jerk. Instead his past has shaped him just as his inability to really recognize certain things in his life. Once he wakes up, he finally “gets” it and there’s a real sense that he’s changed. Likewise Cole is shown not only through Jonathan’s skewed view but also through his emails to Jared. These emails show Cole’s heart and personality without the biased narrator in Jonathan and help break the cliché and stereotypical armor that Cole uses. Together they have moments of incredibly hot sex and moments of growing intimacy. The story uses these small things, such as a sigh, a look, a birthmark, to highlight how their feelings grow and change over time.
I personally didn’t find the pace slow at all and devoured the story but I can see that some may find the slow bloom of love somewhat languid. Combined with the repetitive details of their day this is the kind of contemporary story that will appeal to romance fans who love watching love grow and build. This isn’t instant love with tons of hot sex, a few fights and a happy ending but a relationship that feels more real and relatable between two men who never though the other was their type but slowly realize no one is more perfect.
Get it here!