Rating: 3 stars
Brendan Walsh’s life has been devoted to pleasing his father, Alexander Walsh, head of Walsh Financial Corporation. Unlike his older brother who defied his father and left to live his life on his own terms, Brendan went to school and got his degrees with one thing in mind, working for his father and taking over the business when Alexander retired. And to achieve those goals, Brendan has also stayed in the closet, well aware of his father’s homophobia. Living the closeted life in exchange for money and success had never been a problem for Brendan until he meets Latte, a barista in the coffee shop in the lobby of their company building. One latte macchiatto later, and an attraction is formed between the two men that will change Brendan’s life forever.
Devori “Latte” Jenkins, artist and part-time barista, is in the groove at Cathy’s Coffee , making his coffee creations and talking to the customers when he sees Brendan Walsh in line waiting to place his order. Devori is gay and the man in line is not only handsome but setting off his gaydar. A quick conversation and Brendan leaves his business card with phone number along with his tip. A phone call, then a date which leads to a weekend. But when Brendan confesses to Devori that he’s hiding the fact that he is gay from his family, Devori must decide if he can accept being the secret boyfriend of a closeted gay man or will Brendan give up family and fortune for love?
Smooth LIke Latte is a short story of 99 pages and a very sweet tale at that.I could easily see Devori and Brandon as boyfriends struggling to find a way to make things work, given diverse background and disapproving families. But a sweet story is sometimes just not enough to make a really good story. To accomplish that, you must have realistic characterizations, dialog consistent with the age of the characters, and a great editor(or one you listen to). While I think the characters of Devori and Brendan are certainly more than superficial creations, their dialog and actions are those of much younger immature man. I can’t think of any one of their apparent age using the terms “wuss” or “mushy” or making a list of goals that any preteen girl would recognize 1.) I want him to be my boyfriend 2) I want us to move in together in 6 no 3 months 3) I want to marry him and have kids etc.
A lack of uniform characterization continues with Alexander Walsh. Obssessed with family name, business and a homophobe, he makes his views on gays clear to Brendan and when Brendan comes out to his father, Alexander rants about his son being a sinner, that he will burn in hell, how could he do this to him, etc. Homophobic and realistic. Yet in the epilogue Alexander is so happy that Brendan is not going to be a competitor in the business world that he reinstates Brendan’s trust fund immediately, and happily turns over a hundred million dollars with no hesitation, totally at odds with the characteristics previously introduced and used as the main reason Brendan has not come out earlier. Considering his previous stance on gays, especially gays in his family, that seems highly unlikely. Then there is the time frame. Devori and Brendan meet, have sex, declare their love, melt down and breakup and finally reconcile – all in one week’s time. Again so very Tiger Beat. Perfect for a young hormonal preteen angst yet not for those older.
The other big issue here is the odd use of some terms or in one case, a word is used in a manner that makes no sense. The sentence is :”The duplicity of submission and domination was exquisite.” I think the author meant combination as duplicity means “deceitfulness: the fact of being deceptive, dishonest, or misleading”. And there are so many more word choices that are just off or plain odd. From a “figurative 2000 weight”, a “daylong swelling”, “to culminate a bittersweet moment”, “duration of the late evening”,right up until he “held onto his back muscles” and a “downtrodden look”, which is even worse in context. And then there is the problem of a degree in publicity which we don’t have here in the US, you can get a degree in Advertising or Marketing but not publicity. The diverse writing styles of the story , which can change by the paragraph, almost seem as if it was written by more than one author, it has a “teen” sound, an odd/misuse of words that sometimes comes with poor translations,florid purple prose,combined with some passages that are very well written with none of the problems I have noted. All very odd indeed. And then to cap it all off, you have the florid terms of bodice rippers such as “lily white thighs”, “chocolate brown pools”, and “swollen vessel” and “pink jewels”. All of which are issues that a great editor and concrit partner could have taken care of and turned this sweet short story into a terrific short story. The elements are there and the author’s bio says it is the author’s first solo work. I wonder what their next story will bring. I am very curious given the rollercoaster that is Smooth Like Latte.
Cover: What a delicious cover. Cover by Shane Willis of RAD ACT Photography, great job.