*** 2 disappointed stars ***
This was about a 3 star read most of the way through. I liked Raven, and being inside his head, and understanding him. Caleb was a very sweet guy, and perfect for Raven.
Their meeting and start of relationship was very insta attraction, but I felt it worked. After one little heated kiss in the beginning, these guys take it real slow due to Raven's insecurities. I liked that they took their time to get to know one another, and just dated with a bit of making out instead of going all the way. It was a very slow build. It was very sweet when they finally had sex, but the sex is not the focus of this story. It just happened naturally as part of taking their relationship to the next level. I can appreciate that.
The title, Tartan Candy, is a reference to Raven setting up "Tartan Candy" as a small business where he and his friend, Will, can do model gigs, being "eye candy" in kilts. Tartan being the name of the pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours on the kilts.
(several of these are referenced in the book as kilts Raven owns and wears.)
The Tartan Candy work is in the background, though. There really isn't much referenced to it in the story. The focus is Raven and Caleb's relationship, and Caleb has nothing to do with the Tartan Candy. Only that he absolutely loves his man in a kilt.
I did feel the story was a bit repetitive. The characters feelings and thoughts of events were repeated a lot. Like Raven's accident and scars. They were of course a big part of the story, but I felt it got brought up too many times. Like I couldn't help but think "I heard you the first few times.
I also found it weird that the author praised her own writing in a way? I felt the author was set on telling me about the importance of course in creative-writing. The references felt really out of place, and the third time it was referenced, I had to roll my eyes.
Almost unworldly in his beauty -- and no, Caleb had never regretted the creative-writing elective he'd taken when getting his college HVAC technician diploma -- Raven was simply stunning. Black dress shirt, bright red plaid kilt, and hair that matched both. Raven looked almost regal, but his smile was approachable.
[On their dates] Instead, they'd talked about school (they'd both taken creative writing as electives.
For a moment, he wondered if Raven's love of reading had developed after the accident, for lack of anything else to keep him occupied, but then he remembered that they'd both taken creative-writing courses in college.
I'm also not too happy about some descriptions the author made through the characters. Like Caleb saying that knitting equals gay.
He needed a fucking hobby. For a second, an image of himself knitting a sweater came to mind, making him laugh. Not only would that effectively out him to his family, he didn't require a whole lot of knitwear in Orlando.
I got really offended that Caleb views men knitting as automatically outing them as gay. When is that a rule? Also, I wasn't all too impressed with Raven saying:
Simultaneously, the two of them shuddered, and Raven giggled, just a bit. He hadn't realized women could be that weirdly cool.
What really knocked the rating down from 3 to 2 star, is the way Caleb reacted to Raven's secret being outed. Caleb was a totally sweet, gentle, and patient character throughout 80-90% of the book. Despite of the few niggles I mentioned above, I really liked both characters. But then Caleb turned around and had the biggest assholish reaction. It shocked me! And then it was suddenly straightened out, and wrapped up so quickly that I didn't have time to get over the shock before they had made up, and the story had ended with an epilogue. It felt me flabbergasted and reeling, especially since the whole book had been about taking things slow, and a slow build up. Raven forgave way too quickly, Caleb should have grovelled much, much more because of the mean things he said to Raven! This whole episode totally ruined my impression of the book, and Caleb as a character.
---- end spoilers---
All in all, it was an okay book, with niggles, and one big WTF moment from me. It might not bug you, though.
The next book is about Will, Raven's friend and work partner in Tartan Candy. I'm looking forward to his story.