Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
When Miles Piekus took over his parent’s pickle shop, he had hopes that one day he and his boyfriend Itai would run it together. The two have had some rocky times, including a temporary break up due to Itai’s infidelities. But when they got back together, Itai assured Miles that he would be faithful, and that after he sold his IT company, he would help Miles run the business. So far, however, Itai has shown no interest in the shop, spending all his time with his business partner (and former lover). Miles can feel that the spark that was once there between them has dimmed, but he is still determined to give things a chance between him and Itai, especially since it is a stressful time for at work for both men. Miles has expanded the pickle shop into a full scale restaurant and catering business and he is swamped and exhausted, especially as Chanukah approaches.
Miles finds some unexpected help when he meets Detective Dominic Delbene. Nic has a tip that there is a drug deal that will be going down in Miles’ shop, and offers to work the store with him in order to be on site when the deal happens. Nic’s family also owned a restaurant, and he has such joy working at the store and trying Miles’ food that Miles feels excited and re-energized. The more time he spends with Nic, the more it is clear that things with Itai are long over. And that Nic may be just perfect for him. But breaking off a relationship that has been a long part of his life is not easy. Both Nic and Miles must make some decisions about their futures and figure out what they really want out of their lives.
Ok, so first off, don’t read this book when you are hungry. My favorite part of this story is how well Amara immerses us in the world of Miles’ shop. We get great detail on the food he makes, his family recipes, and the process for making the pickles and other treats. I could practical smell the vinegar and taste the flavors of all his delicious items. This is food porn at its best and seriously I was craving deli and especially pickles the whole time I was reading. I could feel Miles’ exhaustion at the end of one long day after another, and the thrill of trying a new recipe and having it come out just perfectly. Amara just really brings the shop to life with such incredible detail that I felt right there as a part of it all.
The story also incorporates the holiday of Chanukah nicely, as the book starts around the first day and ends at the last. Miles is Jewish and Nic is Catholic, and the two share an interest in and appreciation for each other’s backgrounds. We see how important the celebration is to Miles, and how hurt he is when Itai seems indifferent. Amara builds the holiday into the story nicely and shows how important Miles’ faith is to him.
I think where I struggled here was just with the pacing. This is a very slow build, and most of the story focuses on Miles and the shop, and Miles’ relationship with Itai, much more than on he and Nic. Clearly they like each other and we see early on how much Miles enjoys working with Nic. But there is really nothing much more than a casual friendship between these guys for most of the book. It isn’t until around the 60% mark before we start to sense that something could actually develop between them and it is even longer than that before they act on it at all. It is not that I necessarily wanted Miles to start something with Nic before ending it with Itai, and I know how many readers feel about cheating. But for so much of the book things were just casually platonic so that we don’t see enough of the growth of their relationship. Even within the short time frame of the story, I wanted to feel more like the two of them were the focus, instead of maybe the third most important thing happening.
A few other small things. First, I found myself a bit frustrated with Miles. Clearly Itai is a major cause of the problems between the two guys as his cheating is a major conflict between them. This has been an issue in the past and something he promised not to repeat, so his behavior is certainly the key reason things aren’t working between them. But in other areas, it seems like Miles is making as little effort as Itai in making things work, yet he blames Itai for everything. For example, when they go to Itai’s launch party, Miles is just so bitter and grumpy. He is mad because Itai didn’t make a big deal out of Miles’ big catering job. Yet when he goes to this huge event Itai has been preparing for for months, he is surly and grouchy and whines because he doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t like to make small talk, hates parties, and ends up bailing. I mean, I get why he is fed up with Itai’s behavior and it is more than justified, but this just came across as such a double standard. He wants Itai to support his business but he is annoyed to have to go to Itai’s big event.
I also felt like the whole drug deal issue came across as too contrived and really went no where. First off, unless this was a huge deal, the idea that the police would put a full-time detective to sit and pretend to work the shop, along with multiple plain clothes officers day after day seemed unrealistic to me. But maybe not, what do I know. And then, although there is a short resolution at the end, this whole subplot pretty much goes nowhere. If we are going to bring in this drug deal, undercover operation, etc, I wanted more payoff and more impact on the story. Instead was just sort of a fizzle at the end that seemed tacked on to tie things up and definitely not the suspenseful side plot I expected when it is introduced early in the book.
In the end I found this one sweet and enjoyable, with great details and descriptions on the food and the restaurant that I really loved. I felt like things moved a little too slowly for me, both with the relationship and the drug dealing side plot. I think I just wanted a bit more intensity here. But there is definitely some charm to this book and if you are looking for a sweet and light holiday story, this was fun and easy and will definitely activate your food cravings!