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?
Book Title: Abstract Love
Author: Sara Dobie Bauer
Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Release Date: September 4, 2020
Genre/s: Contemporary MM romance
Trope/s: enemies-to-lovers, age gap, co-workers, office romance,
bisexuality, businessmen, artists, bondage, comedy
Themes: sexual awakening
Possible triggers: depression, suicidal ideations, biphobia
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 71 000 words
It is a standalone book.
For new readers, tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Halloween-obsessed extroverted introvert who loves yoga, pizza, horror movies, and my sexy rock-climber husband. I live in Cleveland, Ohio, but I’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. I bartend to retain my sanity. I write mostly MM romance in all genres: paranormal, dark and twisted, fluffy and funny. As long as I get to work with charismatic characters who can’t keep their hands off each other, I’m happy.
What inspired you to publish your first book?
I had dreamt of being an “author” since I was a little kid, so publishing a novel was always the endgame. I’m not sure if I was inspired or just born to do this crazy writing thing.
Where did the idea for Abstract Love come from?
I first wrote a novella entitled “Abstract Love” at the behest of friend and colleague Renee Botbyl for the now out-of-print Come Play charity anthology. It was for a great cause: The Trevor Project, an organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people under 25. As someone who suffers from severe anxiety and depression, this is a cause I take personally. Initially, the novella had a beginning, middle, and end, but Renee told me to end on a cliffhanger … and write a novel about Donovan and Sam. So I did. Abstract Love is dedicated to her.
What’s so unique about this book as opposed to others you’ve written?
I’ve always infused comedic moments in my work—little bits that make you laugh in the midst of something dark or scary. But this one? This one is FUNNY. F-U-N-N-Y. I started my career writing comedy, so Abstract Love is a nice return to my roots. Also, I dunno about you, but I really need a reason to laugh right now, so comedy feels fitting in these ridiculous times.
What was your favorite thing about writing Abstract Love?
Probably writing the banter between Donovan and Sam. I love writing banter. LOVE IT. However, I also enjoyed designing Sam’s outrageous outfits. Many of his ensembles are based on the real-life clothes of actor Timothee Chalamet, so taking inspiration from Timmy and translating it into Sam was a blast.
What makes a good enemies-to-lovers book?
Tension. Seriously, the main characters need to really dislike each other at the beginning. It makes for such catharsis when they finally get together. Also, back to the banter. You gotta have good banter, that snarky give-and-take, for a strong enemies-to-lovers vibe.
How do you choose your titles?
HA! Oh, dear … I often have a lot of trouble with titles. Usually, I ask my beta readers for their suggestions. Eventually, something stands out or their suggestions inspire me and I reach my eureka moment.
What makes your books stand out from other authors in this genre?
There are so many talented MM romance authors out there, so I can hardly look down my nose and say why I stand out amidst such greatness. I do love to make my characters change. Like, a lot. Donovan in Abstract Love is an excellent example, as is Ethan from Handsome Death. I can’t tell you how they change, because that would be a spoiler, but trust me—they change. I also think my dialogue and sex scenes are a strength.
What are the three things each of your books must have?
Characters who change.
A happy ending.
What can we expect from you in the future?
A stalker Santa MM novella in December. (It’s a very dark twist on Christmas.) Then, next year, I have two additional MM romance novels scheduled: one is young adult rom-com, while the other is slow burn fated mates werewolves.
What’s one question you wish we asked in this interview?
Advice for newbie writers? Stop listening to other people; write for you. Rejection is a constant, so get over it. Enjoy the process, not the end game. Writing is your job but not your life. No matter what you do, some people will never like you.
Donovan sifted through a few hand-drawn logos on the desk and froze when he found a crudely drawn sketch of himself. Sam must have done it during a meeting at some point, capturing Donovan’s faux hawk, wide jaw, and severe expression.
Jesus, was this what other people saw when they looked at him? Did he really look so miserable?
“Make yourself at home?”
Donovan dropped the picture and stood straight at the sound of Sam’s voice.
He leaned against the doorframe, with one ankle crossed over the other.
“It’s really bullshit when people say that, you know?” Sam said. “Make yourself at home. No one actually wants their friends to take off their pants, drink all their beer, and binge The Great British Bake Off.” He paused. “What are you doing in my office?”
“I didn’t mean to snoop.”
The office door closed as he stepped inside. “Sure you did, or you wouldn’t be in here, so what’s up?”
Sam circled the desk, so Donovan circled the other way, although he noticed it was true what coworkers said: Sam did smell good—like clean laundry and cedar. “I think we started off on the wrong foot.”
Sam snort laughed and flipped through some files on his desk. “More like wrong continent, man.” When he found what he was looking for, he tapped the file’s corner against his palm. “I can handle guys like you, you know.”
Donovan shifted back on his heels. “Guys like me?”
“Hmm. Corporate assholes. All you see are dollar signs. You take no pleasure in your work. Advertising is money to you, not art, but without the artists, there wouldn’t be advertising, so…” He sucked his cheeks into his mouth, a momentary fish face.
Donovan wanted to tell him it wasn’t true. Donovan loved art.
He used to love art.
Sam continued, “I know I look like a six-foot-two Disney princess, but you’re not gonna rattle me.” To prove his point, Sam got right up in Donovan’s personal space until Donovan took a step back. Again, he was not used to dealing with someone his own height. “And I’m right about the Great Lakes ad campaign. If you’d pull your head out of your ass, maybe you’d notice.” He turned away abruptly.
“I’m sorry.” Ouch, that hurt coming out.
Sam’s rebuttal: “Prove it.”
He rested a hand on the desk and cocked his hip out—the very picture of young attitude. “Listen to me in meetings.”
“I was listening.”
“Nope.” He shook his head and ran a hand through his unkempt, unprofessional hair. “No, you were hearing. I need you to listen. There’s a difference. And I know I’m just some fucking kid to you, but I ruled the New York City advertising scene. I know what I’m doing, Donovan, so let me do it.”
“Fine.” He’d had enough. He’d apologized, okay, so he’d done his Monica-enforced duty. He didn’t owe Sam anything else.
He didn’t run for the door, but he definitely moved with speed.
I’ll admit, I went back and forth on this book. Donovan was an a$$hole. Sam was a d!ck. Then Donovan wasn’t as much of an a$$hole, but Sam was still a d!ck. However, what you learn quickly, is these two guys are pretty messed up, and so you can forgive a little more knowing that they are products of the lives lived.
*small spoiler* First, I will say, if you are someone who is adamantly against one of the MC’s having sex with someone else on page, while reading a romance, this may not be the right book for you. Sam, who professes from the beginning that he doesn’t do relationships, but loves sex with pretty much anyone (except his best friend), spends a bit of this book sleeping with others. So, if that is a huge no-no for your reading, you may want to find something else.
However, if look past that, and see what really is happening with Sam, you might understand where he is going with all the sex with whomever. He’s been hurt, badly, and when he is hurt badly again, he either has sex with whomever is closest, or he lashes out. The dichotomy that was Sam was equally fascinating. He was confident, brash, knew his worth as both an artist, and his physical beauty. Yet, when it came to matters of someone’s heart, he could be shy and scared. All in all, though, his personality was fantastic. He didn’t care if Donovan was pissed, or if he was busy, or if he knew he was going to make Donovan pissed, he went forward with whatever he wanted to say or do. We all kind of want to be that person a little in life, right? 🙂 Also, moving back to Cleveland, basically for Joe…super sweet. It was great to see how their relationship evolved.
Donovan had his entire life upended, and then had to deal with a new snarky employee with brass balls, who knew what he was doing, and how best to get it done. He had a different kind of awakening than Sam. He needed to realize that he had basically hated everything about his life, but until circumstances made all of that clear, and gave him no choices, he didn’t want to change it. I loved how he worked so hard on his “heart”, only to have it shredded (or almost shredded) and then brought back to life again. It really was a metaphor for his entire life.
These two men changed in the book, just as the author says in her interview, really almost 180 degrees from their previous personalities, but they changed for themselves, not for each other or for their relationship. That is the kind of change they needed.
4 pieces of eye candy
Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film.