Sunday, March 31, 2019

REVIEW: Coffee Boy (e-novella) by Austin Chant

Coffee Boy is m/m contemporary romance. It's published by NineStar Press.


Kieran heads to his new internship at Heidi Norton's campaign office feeling nervous but hopeful. He's been told it's a trans-friendly workplace, and Marcus, the person who arranged his internship, is also a former professor of his, so he figures he'd have the benefit of knowing at least one person there. Unfortunately, he's almost immediately misgendered by one of his new coworkers, who seems confused and uncomfortable when he corrects her. Then he discovers that Marcus isn't there yet and he's going to have to deal with Seth, who immediately strikes him as stiff and intimidating. And also disconcertingly hot.

As Kieran gets used to his new internship, he learns that Seth isn't quite as intimidating as he first appeared, in part because Seth clearly has a major secret crush on Marcus, who is, unfortunately for Seth, both heterosexual and very happily married. To make matters worse, Kieran finds himself developing an awkward crush of his own on Seth.

Chant's Peter Darling was decent but not quite my cup of tea. I was looking forward to Coffee Boy, which I'd heard was a sweet contemporary romance. For the most part, I enjoyed it more than Peter Darling, although I flinched when I started it and realized it was written in present tense, with some verb tense choices in the first couple paragraphs that had me wondering if I was going to spend the whole story encountering odd inconsistencies. Thankfully, the writing smoothed out after that first jarring bit, and I eventually adjusted to Chant's verb tense choice and could even sort of see why he chose it, even though I wasn't a fan of it.

The first half of this story, in particular, made for difficult reading. Lots of instances of Kieran dealing with misgendering, as people saw his long hair and heard his "mean cheerleader" voice and assumed he was a woman. Marcus patted himself on the back for being a good trans ally by hiring Kieran, not seeing that there were additional issues that needed to be addressed. Seth was better, but his habit of snapping at anyone who misgendered Kieran made things worse in some ways, as people began treating Kieran like some kind of workplace ghost or bent over backwards in order to avoid using any pronouns at all when referring to him.

I liked seeing Kieran and Seth gradually relax and get to know each other. Seth was adorable, and I kept having a mental image of Kieran as a puppy nipping at Seth to try and get him to unbend and play around a little. As much as I loved the part when they were finally honest about how they felt about each other, I wish there'd been an epilogue showing them a few months later, after they'd been a couple for a while.

There was a ten-year age difference between them that had a noticeable effect on their lifestyles - Kieran was more comfortable going out to bars, drinking, and dancing than Seth, while Seth was much more financially stable and had a better handle on his life, at least in terms of his career (as far as his romantic life went, he used to be married - he and his wife divorced a while back, although not because he was bisexual). When Kieran and Seth finally admitted to each themselves and to each other how they felt, the age difference was brought up a little, as was the difference in their workplace status (Seth wasn't Kieran's direct supervisor, but he was still in a more powerful and influential position). Both of those things bothered Seth a bit more than they did Kieran, and both were brushed off fairly quickly.

I'm not sure I'd call this a fluffy romance considering how exhausting some of the stuff in the first half was, but it still had some nice sweet moments. I look forward to seeing Chant's future works.

I'll wrap this up with a comment about Coffee Boy's publisher, NineStar Press. This was my first exposure to them and their website has some features that mean I'll be reading more of their publications: they have "category" tags for gender (nonbinary, trans, cisgender), orientation (aromantic, asexual, bisexual, demisexual, gay, lesbian, pansexual), pairing (FF, MM, MMM, MMF, menage), and sex content (N/A, non-explicit, explicit). I particularly appreciated the orientation and sex content tags, as well as the "type" tags (romance, erotica, literary). I've now read one other work besides Coffee Boy published by NineStar Press and consider their tagging to be accurate.

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