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!

Coming to Terms: JEREMIAH–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new M/M contemporary interracial romance from new-to-me author Jayce Ellis. JEREMIAH is the first book in her High Rise series. This urban romance features a black, mid-30s, closeted paramedic falling hard for a wealthy, queer, white man who’s trying to get his rambling life on track.

About the book:
Jeremiah Stewart’s sexuality is no one’s business. Not that he’s hiding it. When—if—he finds the right one, he’ll absolutely introduce him to Mom. But a late-night brush with a sexy stranger in too much lip gloss has him rethinking nearly everything…

To Collin Galloway, direction is a four-letter word. Sure, he hates his job, he hates living with his parents and he really hates watching everyone move on without him. But he doesn’t know what he wants to do, long-term, and he won’t figure it out by thirsting over Jeremiah, the superhot, superintense paramedic who is suddenly everywhere Collin looks.

When Jeremiah’s faced with losing all he’s worked so hard to build, he reluctantly accepts Collin’s help. They’re both determined to stay professional…which works about as well as either would imagine. But Collin only does closets with clothes, and Jeremiah has to decide if he’s finally found the one worth bringing home to Mom.

My Review:
Jeremiah Stewart is in his mid-30s and an experienced paramedic working in the Washington D.C. area. He’s a black man who became the “man of the house” at the age of 6 when his father disappeared from their lives leaving his mother to raise the four kids, seemingly on her own. He is gay–out only to his best friend–and lives in a high rise condo. One hot June night he’s arriving home and finds a slender whit man with booty shorts, eyeliner, and lip gloss wrangling two drunk friends into the elevator of his building. The guy is cute, and clearly overwhelmed, so Jeremiah valiantly assists. He would like to get to know the cutie some more, but the stranger shuts him down almost immediately. Maybe he’s dating the dude who’s passed out drunk? JEremiah can’t tell, but he also can’t forget the man.

Collin Galloway is 29 and a college grad working as a pool secretary in a law firm, a job arranged by his wealthy father–who is a longtime friend of one of the firm’s partners, Mr. Carter. Collin lives in his old childhood bedroom in his parent’s posh condo, which his father resents. He has strained relations with his parents, who had him late, after they’d already shipped his older sister off to boarding school. Collin was primarily raised by nannies and refused to go to boarding school when his last nanny quit. He feels like an outsider in his family, and has really close ties with a childhood friend, Lizzie, and Ryan–with whom he’d unknowingly shared an ex-boyfriend in college. He often crashes at Lizzie and Ryan’s apartment on the weekends to avoid being around his parents.

Collin is totally drawn to Jeremiah, but he lacks confidence due to what he feels are low circumstances–drifting through a job, sponging off his parents, and not being a full-adult despite his age. Jeremiah looks way too put-together to suffer a flight man like Collin, right?

A 4th of July incident reunites them–with slightly better results than the first meeting. And another run-in at a local cafe gets them to exchange numbers–Lizzie’s gratitude becomes an offer for Collin to re-work Jeremiah’s resume in search of a new job. In this effort, Collin’s nerves and insecurities disappear. The rapport strengthens and provides a nice segue into sexytimes. Both men have family issues, and isolation problems–there are fights and separations that neither has anticipated. They are different on the outside, but they mesh well. When Jeremiah gets some time off, he convinces Collin to play hooky from his new position as Mr. Collin’s temporary secretary. It is ultimate sexy bliss, until one of Jeremiah’s siblings gets clued in on his sexuality–and it ends up with a bail-out and a freak out–not necessarily in that order.

This is a sweet and sexy romance, with two very different men, who find full acceptance with one another. Jeremiah is awed by Collin’s resilience, and Collin is attracted to Jeremiah’s brawn and determination. Being in the closet isn’t easy, and Collin clings to the idea that Jeremiah will introduce him to his mother. The Stewart family needs to have some heart-to-hearts to clear up the mystery of what happened to their father, and how this affected the whole clan. There is a lot of emotion that needs to get sorted out, but the end is happy, with a lot of support throughout the ending. This is the first book in the series, and I would be eager to read on.

Interested? You can find JEREMIAH 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!