Lewis Mandineau is the head chef at Laurels, a restaurant that has been in his family for generations. Two years ago he lost his parents in a car accident that left his sister Rachel with a brain injury. His ex-boyfriend embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from Laurels, and Lewis had to sell the building and restaurant to an American company to make up for the loss. When Devon Trelawney shows up to assess the business, Lewis knows he’s in trouble. Not only is the man gorgeous, but he’s a complete ass. To say that they get off on the wrong foot is an understatement.
Devon’s focus has always been the bottom line. Solely looking at the numbers, he knows the best thing to do would be for his company to pull up stakes at Laurels and sell the building. He’s hardnosed and focused, but his father urges him to take time to really get to know the place. Devon is reluctant, but agrees. What he learns is that the staff of Laurels is deeply committed and loyal, and runs as a tight ship. The history of the building, and of Laurel’s itself, sparks his interest. And the more he gets to know Lewis, the more his thoughts shift to saving Laurel’s instead.
The men are clearly attracted to each other, and come to an uneasy truce. Part of their agreement is for Devon to work at some of the lower positions to really see how the restaurant is run. He begins by shadowing Rachel. Though she’s nineteen, the accident left her acting and feeling much younger. But he knows just how to handle Rachel, and the two get along great. With each day that passes, Devon and Lewis move into friendship and then finally much more. Just as they are beginning their relationship as lovers, and Devon is working out a plan to save Laurels once and for all, a fire strikes the building. The reason and person behind it are a shock, and Lewis is left reeling. He doesn’t see how he can go on. But Devon isn’t about to let Lewis go, and his determination is going to save Lewis and Laurel’s as well.
I knew this was going to be a good one just from reading the blurb, and I wasn’t disappointed. We have two men that you just know are going to be at odds from the get go, and I couldn’t wait to watch their walls crumble as they got to know one another. I was really pleased with this story, and I read it from beginning to end in one go over a couple of hours. I couldn’t put it down, because I just had to see how it all turned out.
Lewis had a grip on my heart from the moment he stepped on to the page. He is barely keeping his head above water, he’s lost so much in the last couple of years, and yet he’s still mostly a glass half-full kind of guy. He loves his sister immeasurably, and takes care of her with gentleness and grace. He never sees it as a duty, and I loved how we got to see his heart right away. You just wanted this guy to catch a break, for things to work out in his favor. I seriously enjoyed how developed and fleshed out he was.
Devon is a bit harder to like at the beginning. He is, to put it bluntly, an ass. But he’s also suffering from a migraine and jet lag, and he has a certain focus, which is not easily overcome. Devon quickly grew on me though, and I thought he showed the most growth throughout the story. His turning point felt organic and real, and that made me happy. All too often in these sort of stories, the pivotal moment can feel forced or contrived. Not so here. Devon has a real, normal reaction to upsetting Rachel, and it fit perfectly with the guy underneath the hard-assed surface. From that point on, Devon makes a concerted effort to be nicer, to everyone, and it really shows who he is.
It took a while for these two men to get together, and that was how it should be. They butt heads at every turn, so the attraction between them often took a backseat. Not to mention that it’s just a bad idea for them to get involved. But when they did finally share that first kiss, it was a natural progression to their relationship. My only complaint is that we didn’t get to see that much of them together. There were some really lovely scenes of them moving forward in their relationship, but I would have liked a little more to really cement that love for me. As it was, that jump to love felt just a bit too sudden to me. I could see how good they were together, but I wasn’t quite ready to believe it was love, despite the fact that it’s clear they would get there eventually.
One of the things the authors did really well here is the subplot about the arson. Several restaurants in the area have been the victims of fires. It was subtle and well played, because I didn’t figure out who was behind it and why until just before it was revealed. And as soon as I did, it made perfect sense. It wasn’t glaringly obvious, but there were enough clues dropped in that it didn’t feel like it came out of the blue.
This is a really fantastic story about two men how have some serious hurdle to overcome, and manage to do it in a believable and wonderful way. I really enjoyed this book, and can absolutely recommend it to you.