Book Review – A Brighter, Darker Art

Title: A Brighter, Darker Art
Author: Halli Starling
Series/Number: Ask Me For Fire #2
Genre: Romance
Age: Adult
Publication Date: February 8, 2023
Themes: MM Romance, Age Gap, Low Stakes, Low Angst, The Art World, Father MC, Employer/Employee, Messy Friends With Benefits Situation, Teasing, Relationship Agreements,


A chance meeting at a bar.

An instant connection.

But that connection turns from a spark into all business. For the moment.

And it’s a really bad idea to date the boss…

Raphael (Raf) Lutz, is under immense stress with the opening of his fifth art gallery in a few months. He’s mentally and physically exhausted, and given his perfectionist nature, deeply concerned that this gallery won’t stack up to the rest. His best friend, Ambrose and Ambrose’s boyfriend, Barrett, have trusted Raf with a very special set of illustrations belonging to Barrett’s deceased friend. Raf is making the illustrations a highlight of the gallery’s opening, and it has to be just right. Perfect. But he’s drowning and he needs a marketing manager yesterday.

On the other side of town, Silvan Diedrich has just been downsized from the marketing firm he helped build, and drowning his sorrows in a few drinks and maybe some company sounds about right. The man who takes the stool beside him is dangerously handsome with a clear flair for the dramatic. Company, indeed. But as he and Raf talk, Raf offers him the one thing Silvan hadn’t been expecting – an interview.

Which he passes with flying colors.

But close proximity to Raf, day after day, is far too much temptation. Raf doesn’t need any more complications. Silvan’s not been with anyone in a long time, as he’s been the primary parent for his now college-aged daughter.

So they make a deal. Hands off, for now.

Sticking to that deal proves to be rather difficult for both of them.

Thank you so much to the author for an eARC of this book.

I am going to give you a warning now but this review is probably going to be unhinged and completely incoherent.

I don’t even know where to start with this book. How do I review a book that was incredibly hot while being incredibly tame and actually made me cry? Like, how do you talk about a book that was the most delicious kind of emotional rollercoaster.

For starters, I loved meeting Raf in Ask Me For Fire. His relationship with Ambrose is absolutely lovely. I adored seeing the two of them be so incredibly supportive of each other and happy for each other. In A Brighter, Darker Art we get to see more of their relationship through their phone calls and facetimes. I adored seeing how they interact and talk to each other. It felt exactly like how two best friends would talk to each other. I can’t say enough how much I love that Starling makes all the characters feel like real people.

Now, on to Silvan. I really loved getting to know Silvan. He is smart and witty and careful, which I loved. I really enjoyed the single father angle as well, he has a college age daughter and an incredible relationship with his ex, his daughters mom. I adored that the relationship between Silvan and his ex was so caring and loving, and that the whole explanation of their relationship and situation wasn’t all about the drama but just two people growing apart and being better as friends.

Okay, here is where I get incredibly unhinged. Raf and Silvan meeting for the first time was weird and hilarious. They meet at a bar, intending to flirt with each other, but end up with Raf offering him a job. I mean… how does that even happen? From there they have to figure out how to navigate their obvious attraction for each other while working together to open Raf’s new art gallery. If you think it was a wild ride it was! They are flirty and teasing and obviously can’t stick to just being coworkers, because that interest is there and too strong. Enter smart Silvan with a plan, but also his major Daddy vibes and Raf is done for. I was absolutely LIVING for the teasing that man did to poor Raf. Like lock him up and throw away the key for the level of teasing those two did. Also, keeping it all a little bit secret and Mr. Older Dad Silvan taking care of Raf! I can’t. Honestly, the teasing in this alone is a reason to read the book. If you like teasing in your books, this one is full of it. And I mean FULL. Silvan is one of those characters that just knows who he is and is confident in himself completely and I LOVED it.

I just want to scream about these two. I don’t even know how to talk about the two of them together without collapsing. It was hot and sweet and lovely and I loved how they complimented each other. Raf being a bit wild and Silvan being more practical. It’s just… perfect. I loved how they cared for each other and supported each other. I just can’t get enough of the casual intimacy and affection they have for each other. It was all so sweet and soft.

Also, the ending made me cry. It was just so SWEET. I can’t say anything without spoilers, but it was the nicest and sweetest thing and I loved how all the little details were tied up. It literally put tears in my eyes from how sweet it was.

If you take nothing from this review other than that Silvan is the best service daddy Raf could ever have, that’s all you need to know and you should read it.

Rating: 5/5 stars

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