Author: Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Lyrical Shine – Kensington Books
Portland, Oregon, is one of the hottest cities in America. Just ask all the hard-working men sweating it up behind the counters of the restaurants, boutiques, and cafés all over town …
Newly clean and sober, Todd’s taken a shine to his job at Portland’s most talked about bakery. It’s not just the delicious desserts they sell, but the tasty treats who keep walking through the door. That certainly includes Kendall Rose, a wedding planner with eyes the color of brown sugar and skin to match. Todd doesn’t try to hide his attraction to Kendall’s elegant confidence and unique style, even as he worries about exposing the secrets of his past.
For Kendall, the attention is just part of the anything-goes Portland he’s grown to love. But he’s still looking for that special someone who will embrace all of him—including his gender fluidity. So he takes a chance and asks Todd to be his partner in a dance class leading to a fundraiser. When the music starts and he takes Todd in his arms, Kendall is shocked at how good it feels. Turns out taking the lead for once isn’t a mistake. In fact, it might be time to take the next step and follow his heart …
I really enjoyed this story, and not just because I’m a sucker for sweet men in an underdog role. In this story, as in the last one I read, Knit Tight, the author explores nontraditional pairings, and this time we have both a gender-fluid man and one who is on a journey to recovery, now two years clean and sober.
Kendall Rose is a smart, sharp businessman who embraces his individuality by sometimes dressing the way many may describe as flamboyant. Often the butt of jokes or snickers, and sometimes sought out by brides just so they can say they worked with the outlandishly successful gay wedding planner, he despairs of ever meeting anyone who is willing to embrace all of him—both his masculine and his feminine sides—without trying to box him into a predetermined definition of what he should be.
Todd is an assistant at the bakery owned by Vic Degrassi (Baked Fresh). He enjoys his work and would love to learn more about becoming a baker, but his bad life choices and his feelings of inadequacy persist, and he finds it hard to take a risk. He’d be devastated if Vic fired him for screwing something up, so he doesn’t want to even try.
One thing he happens to do well, though, is dance. So when Kendall is looking for someone to take swing dance lessons with him, and he happens to see Todd dancing one night when he’s out with his friends, he manages to convince Todd to volunteer to take the lessons with him. He didn’t have to twist Todd’s arm too much since among the things Todd enjoyed as a child were the ballroom dance lessons his parents insisted he take. And it isn’t until the lessons start that Todd recalls just how much he loved dancing and how easy he finds it to let go and let Kendall lead.
Throughout the story, we are offered glimpses of their pasts and insight into their hopes for the future. Each man thinks that he may possibly have found The One, but of course, real life interferes, and their hopes are dashed. At least temporarily. Let’s face it, this is the Portland Heat series, and our guys are going to get their HEA for sure or the author’s name isn’t Annabeth Albert. It’s how it comes about and the enjoyment of both the magic of their dancing and the chemistry between the men that makes this story special. I totally fell in love with them and rooted for them to get to their happily ever after.
I also really enjoy a story in which the characters come alive and grab me from the beginning and won’t let go until it’s over. This is one of those stories, and I highly recommend it to lovers of MM romance.