Review: High Test by Elizabeth Noble

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, older Neal Kirchner, a successful architect 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.

I am a firm believer that there is a perfect time for a book to be read and for me, after having a stressful morning where I was hustling to get everything done, it was nice to spend some down time with Neal and Hayden watching them fall in love. This was such a simple yet sweet romance that I read in a single day. It’s a nice an easy read and Elizabeth Noble gave me a wonderfully light but poignant story that was perfect for my day.

Told from Hayden’s POV, the men meet as Hayden is working his university’s event for his major high-performance automotive design. Hayden has noticed Neal from across the room but on Neal’s arm is a woman. I liked that the first glance of Neal, Hayden realizes he is older than his 20 something years but admires that Neal is the type of man that just gets older with age and dubs him Mr. Silver GQ. When a patron decides Hayden is lonely and pawns him off on someone, that someone is Neal and the meet cute happens.

I adored Neal from the beginning. Of course from the blurb we know he is rich but his meeting with Hayden and how they get along paints Neal as a regular guy, an architect who loves his work as much as Hayden loves his. The age difference is there, roughly about 20 years between them, but you don’t feel in in this book. The men get along wonderfully throughout the evening and when Neal asks Hayden to dance, we get a swoony moment that leads into a sort of fairytale with Hayden having to run off to catch his bus home, leaving Neal without exchanging numbers.

From there the story moves along at a nice pace with Neal stopping in the coffeehouse where Hayden works and making a joke about Hayden keeping an eye on business the old fashioned way. Neal makes an observation when he puts Hayden’s last name together with the name of owners of the coffee house he works at, The Owens Coffee Company. Hayden realizes this mistake but doesn’t correct Neal immediately not wanting the man he’s now crushing on to think he is below his financial status. But the thing is, while Hayden knows Neal has money based on his appearance, he has no idea that Neal Kirchner is from old money and part of the family that owns the Indian Rose Tea Company. Just like age is mentioned in the story but not the main focus, wealth is mentioned but not the main focus. Really, this is a character driven romance that is sweet and sexy.

So while Neal pursues Hayden and they have a fantastic time together being able to talk about what they love with someone who gets it, there is this misunderstanding of Hayden’s family being an elephant in the room. Numerous times Hayden tries to come clean to Neal only to have them interrupted or Neal to tell him to hold the thought. It’s not that Hayden wants to keep this a lie by omission between them and does try to tell Neal the truth but circumstances don’t allow him to spill his guts.

I liked the time the spent together. It was romantic the way Neal courted Hayden and the physical attraction was definitely there but the men decide to take their time. I didn’t always want to them to wait... especially when Neal ‘rubbed one palm over the swell of Hayden’s ass, massaging lightly and slipping between his cheeks for a few beats.’ because it was kinda hot but I admired their respect and restraint. And yet, the moment they give in it was hot. With this series we are limited to the number of sex scenes we get and I love it when they author makes them count and these definitely counted.

Along with the romance, the talk and driving of expensive classic cars, there are a pair of dogs that belong to Neal, a woman who doesn’t get Neal likes dick and not her, wonderful friends of Hayden’s, staff members of the hotel who are like family to the couple and family members both good and bad. There is also Neal’s religion of Hinduism that was mentioned and we are given a few details of it.

But what I absolutely love about this book is how the author handled Neal’s age and the May December romance. . Too often we are given characters in romance that are over *gasp* the age of 40 and treated as if they are in their late 80’s. Being 40 myself, I find it a smidge offensive that folks my age are seen as this decrepit and geriatric human that is so old etc. etc. etc. In this, we get that Neal is 45 and that he is older than Hayden but other than the fact we know it and they mention it less than a half dozen times, that’s it. Age is just a number and the way these two men feel about one another is more important than the year they were born.

High Test isn’t just the name of Hayden’s favorite coffee blend, it’s also a lovely and light romance that made my Monday bearable. It’s a romance that proves age is in the eye of the beholder and the truth will set you free, even if the truth was already known.

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