My recollection of Jules Jones’ work is sweet romances with a distinctly British flair. In that respect, I suppose Nice Tie delivers but I really struggled with it. I find the concept could have been good but it feels so mechanical and without passion. The two men act considerably older than their age and there isn’t really a relationship to speak of. I found the story kind of silly, not in a humorous way, and the end resolution cringe inducing. The writing is perfunctory but I never connected with the story and by the end I was sorry I’d picked it up. I’ve liked previous books of this author but I think I’m going to stay away in the future.
The premise is that the third person narrator, Alex, notices a good-looking man, Robin, on the commuter bus every day. Robin has a habit of tying his tie on the bus and it’s a kink of Alex’s. When Robin and Alex meet soon after as business associates, they quickly figure out that Alex has been staring at Robin on the bus. The two men decide to talk about the awkwardness over dinner, which leads to a one-night stand. They then agree to just be friends, which is complicated when Robin’s ex-boyfriend comes back on the scene.
The idea is decent; two commuters noticing each other on the bus due to a particular harmless kink but must navigate a sticky situation when they realize they’re going to do business together. Unfortunately it just didn’t work for me from the very beginning. It made no sense that Robin would blurt out “You’re the guy on the bus who gets a hard-on watching me do my tie up!” The two men had just met in a work situation and even if he remember Alex as that, it’s completely inappropriate. Now usually I wouldn’t harp on whether characters in fictional romances act appropriately but these characters are constantly attempting to be appropriate and age-aware, so the lack of tact is especially notable. Furthermore I didn’t understand why they would have dinner then sex to ease the awkwardness of the situation. Perhaps simply don’t acknowledge it and Alex can stop staring at the man’s tie? Except of course there wouldn’t be a story so some suspension of disbelief is required.
I could get beyond that except the two men have zero chemistry. Their first sex scene is so clinical and route that I had to remind myself these two men were having sex, supposedly passionate sex. They freshen up, take off their clothes, fold them, and get each other ready with the condoms and lube before they even ever kiss. Then they clean up and lie in bed together watching TV because they’re “middle-aged.” Which I guess means they’re an inch from being old and creaky. Yet these are two late 30-somethings that are allegedly attracted to each other, so much so they go against their innate propriety and work ethics to have a one night stand. I was left thinking they’d be better off just masterbating and not complicating their work situation.
Unfortunately things just didn’t get better. The two men have very little depth and read pretty boring. There’s no drama or tension since the two agree to be just friends for the sake of their business together and are casual friends/acquantainces at best. Then Robin’s ex-boyfriend reappears and Alex is magically worried that the boyfriend is abusive. I never bought into this storyline and it’s just as weak and one-dimensional as the characters themselves. There is very little to support this claim and the story kept throwing in such odd tidbits that made no sense to me. Like how Robin insists on the ex-boyfriend eating breakfast before he’s tossed out of the apartment because driving on an empty stomach when you’re upset is reckless driving. Or how Robin and Alex constantly referred to their lack of sex drive or desire to sit in bed and watch TV because they were middle-aged, often frequently during the sex scenes. I kept picturing two senior citizens carefully touching each other before being thankful they could watch Jeopardy once it was quickly done. Which made no sense since they only in their 30s and had just barely started a relationship when the passion and sex drive should be the strongest.
The writing is mostly inoffensive but I never found it absorbing or interesting. I struggled with my attention often wandering as I felt the story manipulated the men and plot in out-of-characters ways to accomplish something. For example the story needed to get the ex-boyfriend out of the way, although he wasn’t ever needed in the story at all, so the abuse subplot is brought up. Then the cringe inducing office scene between Alex and Robin’s two bosses is simply ridiculous and horrific. I was shocked that two, mostly, proper men would talk about their sex life and sexuality so openly to their bosses as a defense was horrible. Then to drag out Michael, the ex-boyfriend, and his family’s past was really humiliating and unnecessary for all involved. Nothing of that scene spoke to the professionalism that was so important the entire story.
Ultimately I’m left wondering just what this story was trying to be. I appreciate older protagonists from the usual randy 20somethings but that doesn’t mean that 30somethings are a step from needing Viagra and copious amounts of caffeine to get through a little bit of sex. I like the tie kink but it was a non-issue and the corporate angle could have brought tension and drama but it didn’t. Clearly there are execution problems but I almost think this story is exactly the way the author wanted it to be, which leaves me disappointed. In the end I gave it 2 stars because 1 stars are reserved for hated or truly hideous books and this is neither. It’s simply a little silly and unfortunately very boring for me.