Review: Brush Strokes by E.S. Karlquist

Oh, this book! I read a lot of LGBTQ fiction and this has settled itself next to my heart. I may have to build it a little house there so it can stay. This is Karlquist’s first book and I have to say, I will definitely pick up anything else she writes!

This story is about Todd Navarro. He’s in the middle of College, works at a struggling Art Gallery and suffers from Anxiety. I’m laying it all out like a list, but the author does a lovely job of painting a picture of Todd that is detailed and gentle. I found myself growing quite fond of him quickly, and even though he can get very caught up in himself… he’s likable.

When Todd heads out to a party with his Best friend Mela, he meets Daniel Berger. Todd pegs Daniel as a jock almost immediately – sure, he’s a hot one, but he’s a jock. Todd can’t imagine Daniel being interested in him, only it turns out… he is. They have a great night together, Daniel is attentive and sweet, he’s caring, he’s interesting. In short, he’s all the things that Todd wouldn’t have expected a Swim-Team-Jock to be. And Daniel wants to see Todd again.

One of the things that I found endearing about this story is that Daniel Berger is hard of hearing. He was born hearing so he speaks without a problem but he reads lips and/or uses ASL. What I like about Karlquist’s writing style is that the reader learns about Daniel’s hearing at the same time as Todd. I picked up on it quite quickly as I used to work with Deaf and hard of hearing people, so the intensity of his gaze and the way he repeatedly asked for clarification made sense to me. But, it is subtle and well-written and there is a gentle learning curve for anyone who may be unfamiliar with people with a disability. Daniel isn’t written as though he is “less” because of his disability… he’s just different. Todd has challenges. Daniel has challenges. We all do.

While this book is a love story, it’s also very much centered on Todd and the way his thought patterns get him in trouble. He’s obviously living with anxiety and struggles with the decisions he has to make every day.  It’s well-written, and I love how Todd has so much support in his life. It was refreshing and made my heart feel good. Support aside, Todd gets caught up in his emotions, and in the way he sees things. He struggles with having to change direction, rethink things, and seems to second-guess himself all the time. There are times when he’s his own worst enemy.

And there’s conflict! Did you think you might escape that? Nope. It turns out that Daniel may have something to do with the fact that the Art Gallery Todd works at is in danger of closing. I won’t ruin the ending…but I loved it.

If all of that doesn’t convince you to read this book, the author also posted a playlist of songs that go with the story.

This is a beautiful story about misunderstandings, hurt, family challenges and friendship. It’s staying on my shelf of favorites.

This book is available on March 12!



I was given an ARC of this book by Interlude Press via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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