This book sounded like it would be a fun bit of rom-com. I came into it ready. And the beginning did not disappoint. An average, self-described as pudgy guy falling for the hot tattooed inked baker. What’s not to love. However, after they plan the date nothing really happens. It goes from this bit about how cool doesn’t really exist, and then a lesson on assumptions, and expectations. And then these themes keep coming back along with the too cool or too hot for me stuff that turns into another repeat of no one’s too hot for anyone. After a while, the book just seemed to be a bit preachy like it was going above and beyond to prove a point about how everyone is worth dating and society has preconceived notions for everything. I couldn’t get invested in the characters or the story. It just seemed to drone on.
The most annoying thing was all this hype about the date and it doesn’t happen. Most of the conversation happens on the drive and then again on the walk on the beach and a bit more at the apartment for wine. The romance was mostly discussion about theories and stuff and not much of the getting to know each other better stuff beyond the one bit about talking about their exes. It was all a lot of rehashing of what I stated above. This made it really hard to enjoy the awkwardness of one of the leads and get on board with how lucky he felt to be on a date with the hot tattooed guy because it was wrapped in these odd lesson-learning, or awareness conversations.
My other thing about this is that one of the mains is described as not firm anywhere and eating way too much pastries while stalking his crush. And the crush is defined as tanned, tattooed lean muscle. Yet the person on the cover does not meet either of that criteria. I’m really confused by this. I almost didn’t buy the book based on just that cause my thoughts were if the cover doesn’t fit, will the story fit?
This is a short story, there isn’t much page time to dig into it and get character development going. Also, it is a prequel so, in theory, it should have all the set-up of something laying the groundwork for a series as if that series doesn’t already exist thus explaining a little bit of the cast. To say I was confused during the first bakery scene with all the characters just talking together without any real intro to them is a massive understatement. And it’s odd considering prequels usually go out of their way to set up the world that existed before what readers have come to know from a series they have already read. Under that rule, it ultimately has no choice but to give enough insight into the world so that new readers who will likely read everything in order starting with the prequel aren’t confused. Because if they are like me they will either read them in the order published and skip the prequel altogether or read it first under the impression it’s written like an introduction story to the entire cast.
If it was a prequel to the world of the series then all the characters are important. If it’s just about the romance for the two main characters then this story could’ve used a lot more of digging into just them and reworking the dialogue into stuff that specifically lent itself to their quick almost insta-love. Less is more after all and as it stands the present dialogue doesn’t seem to do that. I think that was another thing with this book that the opening tried to shove the full cast in there to make it prequel worthy but didn’t commit to fully introducing them yet on the other hand, the conversations that should be fun flirty and awkward didn’t deliver on that either.
Lastly, personally, I do not understand these fantasy worlds that exist without women. As a gay man, my closest friends are all females. These books that have nothing but men in them confuse me on so many levels. In this case, I actually tried to visualise some of the bakery workers as women but that failed, miserably. I even said multiple times when the other main character is talking to a coworker please let it be female, and then the dreaded ‘he’ showed up and I sighed. Honestly having been birthed by one and raised by her as well as a single mom and going to schools with many women hell, to this day I have had more espressos made for me by women than men, these all-male universes are extremely foreign to me. It’s almost like they are saying once you embrace who you are that you up and leave everything behind to live in worlds where no one but gay men exist. Honestly, I’d go insane if I woke up and there were literally no females around and on top of that all the men were gay. The world is full of all types of unique and individual people, some of which don’t even identify as heterosexual or homosexual so these odd all-gay male universes are extremely weird to me.
Ultimately the book started to lose me the moment the crush picked up his date and talk about society and expectations and coolness happened because, considering the title, I was here for the date and that never materialised. And with only about 44 pages I was expecting bucket loads of crammed-in romance because the book was so short it didn’t have page time for much else. This, however, doesn’t read so much as a prequel or even a short standalone and gave me ‘I should be part of a much longer story’ feels. It couldn’t hold my attention and felt like it was trying too hard to be more than a story this short could be. It needed a much more zoned-in focus and something that kept with the opening chapter because that entire scene with the crush going out of his way to get fresh pastries and then giving him an extra one was just rom-com gold. Just brilliant fun all around. That was what I came into this for but unfortunately it didn’t carry through and I quit this short not too far off from the end so, technically, when I went back to see how far off I was, I ultimately finished because I wasn’t as far from the end as I thought.