There will be spoilers for the manhwa series Talk to Me Tenderly.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to extortion, homophobia, forced coming out, bullying, coercion, blackmail, BDSM, violence, sexual assault, self-loathing, and cheating, as it appears in the manhwa.
Gabriel Kee doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. Having graduated without ever confessing to his crush, his best friend Ray, and still in the closet for the most part, he escapes to the military before coming home and taking a dead-end part-time job at a bar. Realizing his life is going nowhere fast, Gabriel decides if he's going to be alone, he might as well do something with his free time.
So, he buys a special vibrating toy to help stave away the loneliness and his backdoor virginity. Unfortunately, though, the moment he takes his new playmate out for a spin, it dies on him. In the throes of sexual frustration, Gabriel calls the customer support line for the website he purchased from, only to find his lust reignited by a sensual voice on the other end. He ends up doing just fine without the vibrating toy, thanks to the mystery voice man, and finally understands the allure of toys.
However, due to his enthusiastic session, he finds that his little soldier doesn't want to stand up anymore. Fearful that he'll never get an erection again, he goes to work and mourns his short and lonely sex life. To his surprise, though, while working the bar, he runs into the very man who put him into this predicament in the first place: Luke, the customer support guy with a sexy voice. Thankfully, all it takes is hearing that voice again to stir those feelings. Now that he knows exactly who this person is, Gabriel must do all he can to make that voice his.
Usually, I like to start my reviews talking about the art because that is usually the first thing people see. Plus, the art is an essential aspect of manhwa for me, so I like to talk about it first. However, in this case, there is something even more important that I feel I need to discuss first. It's not common, but there are some series where, rather than maintaining the Korean names, they use English names to replace them. Why is this so important? Because there are some jokes and meanings that are lost when the names are altered like that. For example, Gabriel (Yeongha in the original Korean version) hears Angel's name (Sunnam in the original Korean version). He imagines something that I am sure has a meaning to his Korean name but makes no sense with his English variant, and there is no explanation. If his Korean name had been used, I imagine we would have gotten some kind of notation explaining the joke, which would have made it much more humorous, as I am sure was the intent. There are a few other awkward moments like this due to attempts at name jokes, but they're not as successful due to the lost meaning in the translation.
Now, on to the art. The art is very inconsistent and is certainly not my favorite style in the world. The characters have overtly long limbs, hands that are bigger than their heads sometimes, and their face shapes change with the wind. Sometimes, though, I love it. It's got super high highs but very low lows, and there is very little in between. I have to say, though, the coloring is beautiful. I am not sure what it is about the color palette they chose for this, but it is very beautiful. It's bright and vibrant. I just wish the art was more consistent.
The sex scenes are absolutely killer, though. The way movement is depicted is almost sexier than the sex itself. There are moments where it shows Gabriel sliding down the side of the counter onto the floor while having sex with Luke, and I can't tell you how tantalizing that was. Multiple moments like that are so hot even without it showing the entirety of the act. It's truly skillful. There are just as many good moments in the sex scenes themselves, like with Gabriel being on top, wearing a harness, and the like, that you almost forget the inconsistent art style. The sex is the best it can get in manhwa, for sure. If you're looking for good smut and lots of it, this doesn't disappoint on that front.
Something that did annoy me, though, that no amount of great sex could fix, was the sheer amount of assholes surrounding our main characters. How Angel has any friends at all is astounding. He's an ass for the sake of being an ass. Likewise, everyone surrounding Luke is an asshole, minus Gabriel. There's no question why they ended up together because Luke had no other choice. Everyone else is trash. There's no wonder that, in the side story, Luke hangs out with Gabriel's friends because everyone else Luke knows is garbage.
I was a bit tougher on this one, but I really, really did like it. This is one I read as it was coming out, and it was one that I looked forward to every week. It certainly isn't the best out there, but it's a good one. I look at it fondly now. Would I have re-read it if it weren't for this review? Probably not, but it was still a good time, regardless of which read-through it was.
Have you read Talk to Me Tenderly? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!