Todd Navarro is halfway through college, trying to juggle his art studies with extra hours at work and finding time for his friends. Things aren’t exactly easier with the feud going on between the gallery he works at and the one next door. Or the fact that his dad just doesn’t seem to understand that art can be more than just a hobby—not everyone can be an accountant, dad!
So when his best friend Mela invites him to a frat party, he only accepts because he needs a breather from everything regarding his future. So, really, he doesn’t expect to meet Daniel Berger, who might just be his future. Well, until he finds out that Daniel has a lot more to do with the future of the gallery than Todd would have ever guessed.
Content Warnings: MC with anxiety dealing with it on page, insensitive comments towards MC with hearing loss (by minor characters),
*A copy of this book was provided by Interlude Press
And I’m back with my quest to catch up on reviews. 😉 Today I want to tell you about how awesome E.S. Karlquist’s debut Brush Strokes is.
Brush Strokes follows Todd, who pretty much lives and breathes art.
He’s still in college – studying art, of course – and when not in college he works in a small gallery to earn some money. (Plus he loves art so what’s a better place to work?)
The story is told solely from his point of view which – at times – makes it harder to get a read on Daniel (the love interest), but I really liked Todd’s voice. He’s a 20 year-old who is still finding his place in the world, so he’s – at times – a bit stubborn and immature but throughout the book the reader can see him grow a lot.
He meets Daniel at a student party – one which his best friend Mela “forces” him to go to so she can meet up with Jesse, who she just met. Things start of awkwardly and stilted between Daniel and Todd when Todd thinks Daniel is ignoring him. We learn later that Daniel is hard of hearing and simply didn’t notice that Todd was talking to him. Once they get that cleared up and get over Todd’s natural awkwardness, they basically stay glued together the whole night just talking and getting to know each other a bit. So cute and endearing!
I could totally relate to that, because I’m also more likely to be the person sitting in a corner talking to people than rocking out on the dance floor.
What I loved was how – especially because I know that awkwardness – I was instantly swept away in the story. Karlquist writes that clumsiness so well that the reader can’t help but cringe a bit in sympathy with Todd. You know that feeling when you just feel out of place? She captured that perfectly!
I really appreciated the slow build-up of the romance between Daniel and Todd. While it appeared to move very fast at first – when they spent the whole night together at the party – things slow down between them after that.
I do have to say that I did expect this book to be more romance-y.
Brush Strokes definitely delivers on the romance front, but after the fast start to the story things focus more on Todd’s life in general and I’d say it’s more of a coming of age romance. Todd is trying to prove to himself and his parents, especially his father, that he is a grown-up and that he can handle things himself. So he refuses to ask for help from anyone even though he very clearly needs some support. That pressure he puts on himself leads to a high level of anxiety until that anxiousness leads to him just not doing…anything.
The only thing I really missed in this story was the feud that is mentioned in the blurb. That just… didn’t happen? It’s mentioned once or twice in the story that the gallery Todd works at and the one next door are in a bit of a competition to get visitors but it wasn’t a feud. Which is sad because I really looked forward to that!
Overall I really loved Brush Strokes, though. It has the perfect mix of a great story, an endearing romance arc and a lovely cast of side characters (like, Mela and Jesse – Todd and Daniel’s best friends – need a special mention because I loved them both so much!). Definitely recommended!
E.S. started writing stories as soon as she learned how to string letters together to create words and sentences. One of her first creations was around seven pages, eighty words, and about a tortoise living in a microwave. Since then, her stories have become a little longer, and perhaps slightly more complex. E.S. works for the Swedish government and has a master’s degree in human resources.