Tuesday 10 August 2021

Summer of Love 2021 - Stripped

As you know if you have been following the Pewter Wolf Reads or myself on other social medias (such as Goodreads/Twitter/etc) since last year, my main COVID-19 pandemic reading/obsession was the Four Bear Construction series by KM Neuhold, a MM romance with little/no angst. This series, I think, was my main drive for me to explore MM romance – or romance in general – the past few months. This series, originally a four book series, followed the four construction workers falling in love in their early 40s with a Happily Ever After (HEA). The series, then, got expanded to three more stories with characters introduced within the series (I reacted very happily when I read that news last year!).

Title And Author: Stripped by K. M. Neuhold

Publisher: Self-Published by Author

Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: Bought 

Stripped follows Miller, a ripped trans construction worker at Four Bears who, while on a job at a local university when he dumps into Demetri, a plus-size bear of professor who wears tweed, knits his tortoise cosizes for their shell and who Miller had a huge childhood summer camp crush on. There is an instant connection (of course) but Demetri doesn’t date. He has self-confidence issues and doesn’t think someone like Miller will look at him twice that way. They can just be friends... right?

Before I go further, I know that this series isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s little to no angst and can be too sugary/sickly sweet for some people. Plus, it’s not exactly the most descriptive writing in the world. And many fans of this series found the previous instalment, Stud, wanting (which I totally get. The more I think of it, the more I think that Stud is probably the weakest instalment. Might have to change my rating on that one...).

But Stripped was really good and enjoyed myself hugely. It gave me near strong vibes of when I read the first in the series, Caulky, (which I loved and am very strongly considering rereading, FYI) where I was sucked into the world (the other books in the series never really came close. This has been the closest so far) and rooted for both to get together.

I loved how the relationship between the pair grew from their first meeting and how, over the course of the story, Demetri’s self-confidence grew (though there were times, which I will talk about below, where I did think “Oh, really?”).

I really liked the trans rep and how it was never truly a big deal. Demetri knew Miller’s tran from the get-go (due to a OTT, and yet, funny incident) and it was never a big issue. Yes, Miller did wonder on one or two occasions whether Demetri had issues but that was dealt with very quickly. Plus, it never felt forced. There was no awkward conversions about Miller being trans – he just was and it was refreshing for it to be handled this way.

Same goes with Miller having ADHD. This was gently handled and wasn’t a big deal. But, as someone who has read the whole series, this was the first time Miller ever mentioned he has ADHD and was diagnosed in his mid-twenties. You would think that he would have mentioned it in passing in a previous instalment (mainly Stud as he and the lead in that, West, are quite close)

I do have one or two niggles though. The first is Demetri’s self-confidence. I liked how it grew throughout the book, don’t get me wrong, but because of this, he doesn’t see himself as attractive and we see several times that people do see him that way (including his hot mechanic of a neighbour, Auggie, who I will come back to). And yet, Demetri is so obvious. Miller sees it almost straight away that Auggie has a small thing for Demetri but he doesn’t see it. I don’t think he ever realises.

Another niggle is Apollo and Ridge, two characters who work with Miller at Four Bears. Apollo was introduced in the fourth instalment, Screwed (if I'm remembering right) and Ridge was introduced in this instalment. It’s obvious that these two have a history and I get why Miller and the other characters want to know more, but there were a few occasions that it can feel like “Ok, we get it. They are the next romance in the series, stop pulling it!”. I am going to read the next and last instalment, Drilled, (hell, I preordered it as soon as I could!) but even I, on one occasion, went “Oh, for pete’s sake!”

Now, the next book in the series will be the last, but there was a scene near the end of this that gave strong vibes that there will be a spin off, starting Demetri’s neighbour, Auggie, and where he works, Big Bull Mechanics. And I am here for that! I even tweeted the author to ask/beg for this to happen and she replied with “I am planning a spin off series” and I am here for it! Might not happen for a while, but I am ready to preorder when news breaks!

I enjoy this series hugely and this is one of its stronger instalments.

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