I like romance and boys loving boys in my books.
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It's no secret that I have loved almost all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, having
read devoured every single one, and this latest by Ari McKay was no exception.
Liam Walker, almost-famous NYC celebrity chef, cousin to Beau (from Striking Sparks), is in a resort/hotel near Asheville, NC, licking his wounds from a bad review he got that prompted him to punch the reviewer, in public, in the face. Served a less than mediocre meal at the resort, Liam doesn't hold back in his disgust with the frozen and clearly not fresh shrimp he's being served, and demands to talk to the manager.
Enter Carter Galloway, owner/manager of the resort, having distanced himself from his overbearing father and mother, barely holding it together, what with bills and old appliances and needing to succeed so he can finally break away completely from his father's demands and expectations.
Sparks fly at first sight. This is also right about the time where the reader needs to suspend all disbelief, as Liam offers his services to Carter to help out in the kitchen and train the young chef currently employed. For free. Because that's what a celebrity chef would do, right?
Whatever, I went with it. Because at that point, I was already invested in the characters and needed to find out what would happen next.
So the sparks are definitely there, but Liam is planning to return to NYC and Carter isn't interested in a fling. Liam cooks and teaches and longs for Carter, and Carter longs and watches and shares pieces of himself with Liam.
I liked both characters, despite Liam's initial arrogance, and I enjoyed how both of them had personal struggles to overcome. The title is apt - both of them have to break free of their bonds to others before they can have their HEA.
It's low steam, which I don't mind at all, but the UST just jumps off the pages, and when they finally, finally get together, it was well-fought for and ever so awesome. Liam at times seems a bit more sophisticated than Carter, but I think that was also part of Carter's charm - he's not a simpleton, for sure, but more laid-back, kind and generous, with a lot of respect and fairness in his heart.
There's a lot of talk about food, naturally, which often made me salivate, and I thought that the food choices worked well for the type of location represented here. This wasn't a hot spot NYC restaurant catering to celebs, but a resort-style place that catered to locals and tourists alike.
I liked quite a bit that Carter seemed to find his backbone in this story, and the courage to stand up to his parents, not allowing them to continue to berate him and demean his choices. He did so a little quicker than Liam, for whom the moment of clarity arrives at a later time, but bolstered by what he might have waiting for him in the mountains of NC. Their romance was believable within the setting of this book and worked well within the tropes employed here.
The requisite villains in this story, in the form of Carter's father and Liam's boss/mentor, were somewhat one-dimensional, but served their purpose. I thought that Marco, Liam's boss, was smarmy, self-serving, and rude, and Carter's father (and mother by extension) was nothing more than a stereotypical homophobic control freak who decided what his son would be and was then belligerent and condescending when his son chooses his own path.
The book utilizes the expected tropes rather well, and I thought it was a perfect addition to this harlequin-like series. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and if you like the sweet, fluffy, and easy-read romances, this is definitely a book for you.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **