Tag Team Review: Abstract Love by Sara Dobie Bauer

I hate Sam Shelby. So why do I want to kiss him?

Sam never expected to move back to Cleveland.
Donovan never expected to be attracted to a man.
Well, shit happens.

After high school, Sam Shelby moved to New York. Eight years later, he returns to Cleveland and lands a job at the best ad firm in town. It would be the perfect gig, if his boss weren’t such an ass.

After his wife leaves, Donovan Cooper questions everything. The arrival of a young, arrogant, gifted graphic designer at Donovan’s firm is the last straw.

Tempers flare over office gossip, and following a nasty argument and scathing kiss, Donovan flails away from heterosexuality while Sam struggles to keep his “no relationship” rule intact.

Despite ugly socks, fiery fights, and their best intentions to not fall in love, these bullheaded coworkers can’t deny their chemistry. Donovan seeks happiness while Sam seeks success, but is there room for more?


R *A Reader Obsessed* - 4 Hearts

If you’re wanting an office romance featuring an age gap, opposites attract, enemies to lovers progression with dominance overtones then look no further!

Donovan is a top notch grump at a top notch advertising company. He’s also a control freak, makes no apologies nor any concessions, and he’s very very good at his job. NO ONE questions him, until one day new hire Sam, a daring brilliant artist, explodes onto the scene and proceeds to challenge Donovan in all aspects of his life.

On principle, Donovan hates everything about Sam, from his wild off putting clothes to his inability to be intimidated to his genius unfiltered mind. Sam is sunshine and charm, sass and beauty, enchanting all those around him, even slowly melting Donovan’s unbreachable defenses. In turn, Sam’s attracted to the cantankerous asshole and takes personal glee at pushing every single one of Donovan’s buttons, secretly hoping that Donovan will exert his bossy will on Sam just a little bit, pretty please.

Hence, annoyance breeds animosity, turns into lust, causing clashing confrontations, ultimately resulting in angry desperate oh so hot interactions. These two can’t stop thinking about each other, and neither can they stay away for very long, the chemistry irresistible, the pull undeniable. There’s just some “minor” snags in achieving a happy ever after, one of which is Donovan has always identified as straight, and Sam never ever does relationships.

Despite the oft used aforementioned obstacles, Bauer brings a snarky antagonistic back and forth between Donovan and Sam that was highly entertaining to witness with thankfully, little protracted angst. There's the inevitable evolution and growth to both men, of course. Donovan is still reeling from his recent divorce and must come to terms with how miserable he is with his life despite being so successful, and Sam has terrible family dynamics to work through that have obviously affected how he goes about any and all of his relationships, never getting too attached to avoid the sure to come loss.

Beware lots of jealousy, running away from one’s problems, awful parents being awful, and a pretty fast progression to love proclamations. Regardless, this still succeeds at some really wonderful UST, foreplay, and fantastic dialogue!

As one can see, I enjoyed myself just like I did with Bauer’s A Lord to Love for different reasons. This author apparently dabbles in a varied mix of genres that makes me all the more curious to explore her backlog as well as keep an eye out for what she may bring to the table next!

Annery - 5 Hearts

Donovan Cooper is tall, handsome, and professionally successful. He’s also miserable, angry all the time, and his marriage has imploded. These things are not unrelated.

Sam Shelby is beautiful, an eccentric dresser, and a graphic designer wunderkind. He’s also lugging around some family baggage.

These two forces collide at Stoker & Steele, an advertising agency in Cleveland, and sparks fly. Donovan is Sam’s boss and to all appearances they two go together like oil and vinegar, not an unfair assessment, but they also bring out the best in each other.

I’m delighted to say that this book by Sara Dobie Bauer brings me back to the level of enjoyment I had with We Still Live. Maybe I enjoy her Ohio set stories better? Dunno. Last year I read what I now know are the first few chapters of this in the Come Play anthology and I liked it very much. My complaint was that it just stopped and here is the full, satisfying story.

There is age gap, first time gay (Donovan), and some kink, (the domineering kind), but these things are almost incidental to the development of the relationship between the MC. Make no mistake, the sex scenes are scorching and reading how creative Donovan gets with Sam shouldn’t be done in public. But what I liked most was how SDB explored the reasons for Donovan’s perpetual bad mood and Sam’s NO DATING policy. I loved that, despite everything, Donovan didn’t deceive himself or make a big production about his attraction for Sam. I loved that though he enjoys submitting in the bedroom Sam doesn’t let Donovan get away with anything outside the bedroom. He’s very clear on a demarcation between what he wants in his sexual relationship and who he is as a man in the world. I was thrilled to see actual bi representation with both MC. I loved that Donovan’s ex, though flawed, isn’t portrayed as a villainess, just human.

I really enjoyed the sense of humor, Sam and Donovan’s inner monologues particularly, but also Zen (her trippy self) and Monica who translates Donovan to his colleagues. I liked how these people were grounded in authenticity. In a former life I worked in advertising and IMO the author perfectly captured that world. I particularly enjoyed the art aspect, how the MC related to it, how it informed their lives. I can also say that this is perhaps one of my favorite covers ever. Not only because I find it beautiful but because it perfectly captures the story between the covers and speaks to its sensibilities.

If I must have niggles I’ll say that … nah. Nothing. Nothing worth complaining about in a romance that otherwise made me happy with smart characters and a love story I can believe without having to squint even once.

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