High Test, by Elizabeth Noble
Series: Dreamspun Desires, Book 47
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: December 1, 2017
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
The coffee is rich. Hayden isn’t. But Neal doesn’t need to know that—yet.
Hayden Owens is just your typical graduate student working his way through school as a barista for the Owens Coffee Company—no relation. But he keeps the “no relation” part to himself when he meets dashing architect, Neal Kirchner, a successful older man from an old-money family. Hayden doesn’t exactly lie, but he figures it can’t hurt for Neal to believe he’s a rich kid. After all, Hayden doesn’t want Neal thinking he’s a gold digger.
The closer they become, the harder it gets for Hayden to come clean. Something always seems to get in the way. When a company bankruptcy and a jilted, vindictive woman threaten to expose his charade, Hayden thinks it’s all gone down the drain. Luckily Neal is ready with some innocent trickery of his own.
Overall this was a fun, engaging book that read like a Cinderella story. College boy meets older, hunky man; misunderstandings ensue and it ends happily. The book had good writing and I really like how the age difference was handled. That became less of a big deal because the misunderstanding about Hayden being rich was the main focus for the story. I really love the whole misunderstandings/mistaken identity trope (especially when the MC is too awkward to clear anything up) and this book did a good job of presenting a low angst mistaken identity story.
I enjoyed most of the romance but there wasn’t much character development for Neal. We get to know Hayden and his interests and who he is, but Neal is just this fancy rich guy who is also really nice. The problem is that we’re supposed to believe that Hayden likes Neal for something other than his money. There was some character development, but not enough for me. Also I’m really torn on how I feel about Neal being Indian, because it was just kind of thrown in. I’m always excited for books with interesting and well written POCs but this felt more like a throwaway line than actual character development, if that makes any sense. It’s not that big of a deal but I’m hesitant to tag this as having a POC when it was just a few lines.
Steffe and Rick, Hayden’s friends, were pretty much throwaway characters for me. They were in the book a lot, but it was just to move the plot forward. Rick just happened to be into clothes designing so that poor college student Hayden could dress fancy to impress his rich date. Then Steffe was a random female character that just gossips with Hayden so he can express what he’s feeling about Neal, but she’s just a 2D character otherwise.
Where this book really lost me is at the end. The resolution of the misunderstanding was just ok. It was low angst like the rest of the story, but there was a third person who tried to reveal the truth and it just became too convoluted to believe that Neal already knew the secret. Neal should have said something earlier instead of waiting, because if he cared about Hayden why would he let him stress out about it? [highlight for spoiler.] That wasn’t really believable to me.
Another part of the ending that ruined the book for me was the overly happy ending. The relationship just accelerated so fast that it seemed forced, predictable, and unrealistic. A lot of books tend to have sudden happy endings with big relationship steps just kind of thrown in there. To me that’s kind of a lame way to end a book, but I know a lot of people like that. Personally I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for how a relationship starts, but I really get let down when there’s a formulaic ending.
Mystery, action, chills and thrills spiced with romance and desire. Elizabeth Noble started telling stories before she actually knew how to write, and her family was very happy when she learned to put words on a page. Those words turned into books and fanfiction that turned into a genuine love of M/M romance fiction. Being able to share her works with Dreamspinner is really a dream come true. She has a real love for a good mystery complete with murder and twisty plots as well as all things sci-fi, futuristic, and supernatural and a bit of an unnatural interest in a super-volcano in Wyoming.
Elizabeth received several amateur writing awards. Since being published several of her novels have received Honorable Mentions in the Rainbow Awards. Jewel Cave was a runner up in the Gay Mystery/Thriller category in the 2015 Rainbow Awards. Ringed Love was a winner in the Gay Fantasy Romance category of the 2016 Rainbow Awards.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.