A Hard Partnership for ANDRE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary romance from Jayce Ellis. ANDRE is the second book in her High Rise series that feature men of color finding professional success and love. Check out my review of JEREMIAH for another great read, though these books feature separate storylines.

About the book:
After a week filled with nonstop work, André Ellison heads to the club to blow off some steam. One night off is the perfect distraction from the project that’s about to make his career—or tank it completely. A few drinks in and he leaves with a smoking-hot stranger for some scorching, burn-the-sheets-up sex.

Marcus Thompson is going places, so he can’t think of a bigger waste of time than being put on loan to a two-bit firm to prepare some small-time report. The last thing he wants—or needs—is his impeccably dressed, hot-as-hell one-night stand as his boss.

As they work side by side, their attraction grows to a fever pitch, but there will be no kissing, no touching and absolutely no sex until the project is over—if they can wait that long.

My Review:
Andre Ellison is a 34 year-old black man living in D.C. and running his one-man financial analyst company, which caters to small-time investors. He’s got a degree from the Wharton Business school, and had a career working at a big investment company, until his STILL closeted ex-boyfriend (who STILL works for that firm) filmed Andre in a super compromising position and then “anonymously” shared the video with the firm’s partners. Andre could have fought through the situation, but he used it as an opportunity to make a clean break, against the wishes of a partner, and Andre’s mentor, Harold. Andre has a long-term complex about his sexuality, with hypermasculine ideals stemming from the barely disguised contempt of his brother and the pernicious way this had colored his family interactions. Andre is nearly apologetic about his sexuality, and though he desires trying bottoming, that switch in his head is set to “better be the man not the woman” and messes with his mojo.

Though Andre left Harold’s firm four years ago, Harold has recently asked Andre to submit a proposal for a small firm-big firm partnership to manage the wealth of a multi-generational old-money family, the Penningtons. Andre’s firm has make the cut of three–and he’s getting an intern from Harold’s firm to manage the final proposal. Andre is anxious about all of this, because he’s a micromanager and he knows this portfolio would be the make-or-break opportunity that would enable him to hire full-time help. He goes out to a nearby club to blow off some steam on the Friday night before his intern is set to start, and meets a delicious specimen of masculinity, Marc, who tests all of Andre’s boundaries. They hook up, and it’s amazing, but was only destined to be one night.

Marcus Thompson a black 25 year-old Wharton MBA student nearly finished with his summer internship for a big-time wealth management company and he’s sticking to his plan of managing foreign investment portfolios. There’s a level of detachment in that, and he’s big on risk assessment. He’s also grown up in a family where his father pushed hypermasculine ideals–which intensified when Marcus came out at age 11. All the cooking and housework he did while caring for his sick mother was highly frowned upon by his father, though they otherwise accept him. It was his dad’s idea to go into finance, and Marcus has no real passion for it. Yet, he’s pretty sure he’s being pawned off on a small firm project as punishment for his unwillingness to “play nice” and go out drinking with his fellow interns. He’s mad enough to go out clubbing with his long-time friend, and summer housemate, Jake. Marcus thinks he can blow off his frustration so he can blow the mind of his new “boss”. And, Dre makes one hot bed partner for the night. Shit hits the fan, however, when he turns up at Ellison Investments on Monday morning and learns that Andre is the man he’d had on his mind all weekend. He does NOT want to play nice anymore.

This is an engaging twist on the boss-employee love story. First, Andre and Marcus are both very stubborn men who are inadvertently in close quarters after they developed a sexual connection. Second, both men have some internalized self-hatred to exhume to get on track. Third, their professional partnership is destined to last three weeks at most–so they decide to bank their simmering attraction until the project is complete. Fourth, Marcus has no desire to work in Andre’s firm, but he’s drawn to the man–and he’s intensely passionate about caring for Andre, who works crazy hours to manage his client list. Fifth, Andre is not TECHNICALLY employing Marcus, as he’s paid from Harold’s firm. Still a power imbalance remains.

I really liked how the attraction grew over the course of the few weeks of their close acquaintance. Further, each man helps the other to confront and deconstruct the toxic masculinity they’ve absorbed through their male family members. They each meet the other’s family–not always by design–and their fresh perspective makes all the difference in the interpersonal interactions and their own internalized loathing. Those moments were especially rewarding because they were points of great self-reflection and growth for each man.

Naturally, while the romance is developing and the professional side is becoming promising, there will be moments of intense conflict. I think this was handled deftly, because it could have been wrapped up quicker, but in a way that may have been less satisfying. These are both strong, educated, intelligent black men. They need time to work through their feelings, and plot a course to reconciliation. Marcus was the one to walk away, and he’s not sure how to ask forgiveness. Andre has realized that he’s met his forever man, and even if their relationship might be unconventional–even for a gay partnership–he’s willing to be the man Marcus wants to care for. It’s a satisfying read, and definitely reflects cultural touchstones of Afro-American life, both middle class and beyond. I loved Andre’s dear friend and colleague Fiona, who is a proud black Domme with a white boy sub connected to Marcus’ sphere. She rocks it all day, every day.

While part of a “series” the connection points are made within the apartment building in which Andre lives, where Mr. Johnson, the doorman, takes great interest in making sure his “children” (Andre and Fiona) are well-cared-for. I loved that “old heads” nod to the Afro culture; Marcus knew he needed to earn that man’s respect if he was going to be a part of Andre’s life long-term. The family dynamics are clearing up for both Andre and Marcus, thanks to some frank conversation, and their happily ever after is 100% assured by the end of this story. Expect some hot office innuendo, and scorching sexytimes from the outset.

Interested? You can find ANDRE on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Jayce Ellis is an author and an attorney. You can connect with her on twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!