Served Hot by Annabeth Albert
Robby has a pretty big crush on David, the cute business guy who stops by his coffee cart every afternoon. They run into each other at Portland Pride, the only problem is that Robby is terrible at flirting and David is pretty bad at picking up the hints that Robby is trying to drop. Despite the awkwardness, they do share a really intense kiss. When Robby asks David out, he says no.
A few days later, David stops by the coffee cart to explain that he’s still working through the grief of losing someone he was in a relationship with for more than a decade. He likes Robby a lot, but ‘getting back out there’ is hard.
They make a date for brunch and it becomes their regular thing. David is the sweetest, most kind and thoughtful guy Robby has ever dated, and he’s okay with taking things slow – but he’s getting antsy and wouldn’t mind if things got more physical. David doesn’t seem to be in any rush though.
He brings Robby to a soccer game that his company has box seats for. He sems to be testing the waters of being out and in a relationship at work. Later they go back to David’s place to finally indulge in the carnal activities that Robby has been craving. It was definitely worth the wait.
After the amazing night (and terrific morning follow-up), Robby sees a framed photo of the dead boyfriend, prompting a discussion of the topic they’ve long avoided. He was closeted sheriff’s deputy who insisted that his relationship with David be kept a secret. After the traumatic way he died, David wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to sleep with another man, let alone have any kind of serious relationship.
For several months everything is great, but Robby doesn’t always know how to ask for what he wants, which isn’t helped by the fact that David doesn’t know how to offer. It seems their relationship is always one step forward, two steps back. David choses to spend valentine’s weekend with his family instead of with Robby, putting a further strain on things.
When David doesn’t seem able to commit to their future, Robby calls things off, which leaves both of them miserable. After a week, David comes over and opens up about everything that has been holding him back, primarily anger at his ex and how it kept him from embracing what was so special about his relationship with Robby.
A successful visit with David’s family leads to them picking out paint colors for their new place in the Spring. The happiness and security they’ve both craved for so long has finally been found… they’ve found it in each other.
One of the things I feel was so special about Robby and David’s story is that the author navigates their issues without bogging things down with a ton of angst. That certainly doesn’t mean that Annabeth Albert glosses things over… not by a long shot. But there was a sweet simplicity to this story about two nice guys, doing nice things, and falling in love, that I really responded to.
I also liked how David was able, with Robby’s patience and guidance, to work through the issues in his past. There was a lot of toxic baggage that came from his closeted relationship with his ex. It was Robby who really opened David’s eyes to the possibilities of what a genuinely loving and supportive relationship could be.
Isn’t that what romance fiction is all about… the hope and joy of loving someone and being loved in return? I think that’s the real reason Served Hot makes me so dang swoony, it’s a wonderful example of the possibilities of love and romance in fiction.
This novella serves as an irresistible introduction to the author’s Portland Heat series.