Summary Review: Jonathan and Cole could not be more different but they both wanted the same thing – each other. Could they speak the same language to understand how to fill the holes in their lives?
When Jonathan Kechter agrees to a blind date with Cole Fenton, he expects nothing more than dinner and a one-night stand… but he gets more than he bargained for in Cole. Cole is arrogant, flamboyant, and definitely not Jon’s type. Still, when Cole suggests an arrangement of getting together for casual sex whenever they’re both in town, Jon readily agrees.
Their arrangement may be casual, but Jonathan soon learns that when it comes to Cole Fenton, nothing is easy. Between Cole’s fear of intimacy and his wandering lifestyle, Jonathan wonders if their relationship may be doomed from the start—but the more Cole pushes him away, the more determined Jon is to make it work.
Strawberries for Dessert Series
Strawberries for Dessert is the 4th book in Marie Sexton’s wonderful Coda series and this is Jonathan’s story. Many of you may remember Jon and Cole from some of the other books – Promises, The Letter Z, or A – Z but I don’t believe it’s necessary to read them in order to enjoy Strawberries since the author does a great job of filling in the blanks.
The story starts 18 months before the final resolution of Jon’s and Cole’s romance, when Cole’s ex Jared sets up their first meeting, a blind date. Jon’s expectations of the date were low since with his busy work schedule he didn’t have time for dating or relationships. He had a successful career and spent so much time in the air going from state to state, serving his firm’s clients and climbing the corporate ladder that he didn’t have much of a personal life, and the only sex he had was one night stands or the occasional trip to a bathhouse. Getting a phone call from Cole Fenton with a dinner invitation was certainly a pleasant way to spend an evening with perhaps some sex thrown in at the end of the date. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as he expected – his cell phone kept ringing and he kept answering because he was all about business. Cole became more and more annoyed as the evening progressed at Jon’s lack of attentiveness, until he left in disgust. This didn’t bode well for another encounter but they decided to try again. The second time, while not the charm, was much better and they agreed to meet occasionally when they were both in Phoenix, as Cole’s lifestyle also involved flying, except his travels were around the world and strictly for pleasure.
Although there were no flashbacks or flashforwards in the book, but rather a straight trajectory, the first chapter gives readers a pretty good indication of where matters stood between the couple, as Jon is making a last ditch effort for his and Cole’s happiness:
The flight was six hours long. Six hours to contemplate all the ways this could end…. Every choice I had ever made had led me here, to this airplane. Everything I wanted in the world was at the other end of this unbelievably terrifying cross-country flight. What if it all went wrong? The fear was almost overwhelming. It might even have been crippling, if not for one simple thing: underneath it all was something stronger. Something pure. Something that drove me on. It was hope.
Strawberries for Dessert is told from Jon’s first person POV and the only time there are glimpses of Cole’s real persona, other than through his relationship with Jon, were his emails to Jared with whom he had remained good friends. These emails were initially very brief but became more revealing as the story progressed and they were the keys to what drove Cole and made him such a complex character. What was surprising to me was Cole’s evolution in the book from a flaming queen which it became clear was an assumed personality when he was nervous, to a wonderful character who was fragile, vulnerable, felt unloved and insecure, and someone who did not believe that he was worthy of love.
I thought that at times Cole’s personality was the more dominant, complicated and sensitive, until the end when Jon showed how much he really loved Cole and would do anything for him. Cole kept everyone at a distance, even his lovers. He didn’t believe in kissing, cuddling after sex or other forms of affection. He had lovers all over the world and made it clear to Jon that their relationship was only exclusive when he was in Phoenix, which suited him fine, at first. When his career stumbled Jon realized that perhaps he had made some wrong choices along the way, but pride still stood in the way, especially his. The relationship changed when their feelings became involved but neither used the “L” word nor was prepared to meet the other half way, and eventually everything blew up in their faces. It was then they realized what they had had together and lost.
Both protagonists were three dimensional, engaging and complex, even though Jon was all about his career initially and I had a hard time liking him. He loved his father and tried to spend as much time as possible with him because he knew how lonely he was. At first I couldn’t relate to Cole’s character which seemed fake and over the top, but as he and Jon became a couple, although a very strange one, it was evident that there was a lot more to him than appeared on the surface and I fell in love with him.
The supporting characters were also well drawn. Jon’s father loved him as he was the only family he had left in the world, but he had a difficult time accepting his sexual orientation although he really tried, and eventually he became less judgmental. I did admire the fact that the author did not take the easy way out of the typical homophobic parent but tried to show him as sympathetically but as realistically as possible, and her strategy worked. Julia, Jon’s neighbour and friend, was not the typical fag hag and did a great job of making Jon see that he was guilty of the same crime that he accused others of: discrimination.
The dialogue was excellent and very funny and I think you will like Strawberries for Dessert as much as I did.
UPDATE: After re-re4ading this book for the umpteenth time a couple nights ago I decided to change the rating from 4.75 stars to 5 stars because it’s most deserving of the higher rating.