I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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We first meet Beau St. Clair in the prologue, during a memory of a date eight years back, a first date with a great guy named Jackson, a date he enjoyed so very much. Sparks flew during their date, over Gnocchi's at Soldano's, an Italian restaurant in Seattle, and Beau was looking forward to their next date when they said good-bye for the night.
Only, he never heard from Jackson again.
Fast forward eight years, and Beau, now a personal Chef, finds out one morning during an innocent copy/paste action on Facebook that his husband Ross is cheating on him. Heartbroken and devastated, after a divorce from his cheating "I don't love you anymore" husband, he returns to his small Ohio hometown against the advice of his father to lick his wounds and start over. He's got a bit of money in the bank after the divorce settlement, so he has a bit of time to find a new job.
From the start, I liked the narrator's somewhat snarky voice. He drew me right in, and I read with ever-growing fascination as the story unfolded. He talks to his dog, a little pug named Ruth. The dog talks back. Not really, of course, but in Beau's mind, she does. It's fun. I found it endearing.
So, back in Fawcettville, Beau is unsure how to proceed, having just rented a FROG (furnished room over garage) close to the river, with a gorgeous view, until he finds an ad on Craigslist from someone looking for a personal Chef to make some home-cooked meals for her grown son. That someone is Maisie, a sweet older woman, who works hard to make a living, and takes care of her son Jack who used to be a lawyer and lives with her. Jack has what appears to be PTSD from a traumatic event he doesn't remember. He's mostly hiding from the world in his room, doesn't eat much, and spends his days watching TV.
My spidey senses were already going off here. Could it be... ?
So Beau takes the job that pays very little, and at this point, the author begins providing us with detailed recipes for every meal Beau makes (like he's done in all of his "Dinner At" books. Cue the mouth-watering. I'm going to try all of them myself, I tell ya. They sounded scrumptious!
This is a wonderful book. It's about second chances, about doing what you love, about finding the one truly meant for you, about healing from trauma and about living again. Beau isn't deterred by Jack's initial gruffness, and once he realizes who Jack really is, he gently continues to pull him out of his shell, out of hiding, and back into the land of the living. Under Beau's warmth and compassion (and the fabulous food), Jack begins to blossom again. So beautiful.
There are setbacks, of course. Jack also eventually recognizes Beau, but doesn't believe he has anything much to offer. Recognizing Beau though triggers the memories that he suppressed all these years, and there are the expected challenges from those.
I enjoyed reading this so much. My only niggle is the long time between what happened to Jack and the memories surfacing. I wondered if that was realistic, but without doing a ton of research, I'll go along with this.
The romance is by design slow-burn, and I think if their relationship had moved faster, this book wouldn't have worked as well for me. There's almost zero steam here, also by design, and I'll reiterate that this book wouldn't have worked as well for me otherwise. What we are given, however, is a quiet, sweet, and comforting second-chance romance between two people who had a spark once, a spark that reignites when they meet again.
Beautiful. Excellent, well-drawn characters, fully realized personalities, including the supporting cast. Even Ruth, the little dog, had a personality that was just so endearing. The writing was engaging and kept me glued to the pages, and the story had an easy flow, unfolding in perfect timing.
This may be my second-favorite book by this author, withBig Love firmly at the top. Dinner At Jack's though is a very close second. Well done, Rick, well done. I loved it.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **