Rating: 3.5 stars
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Diego Ramierz loves his job as head chef at the Local Dish, a restaurant that specializes in locally sourced dished. When Ben Walsh walks in, Diego is struck by how young and how beautiful the man is. It takes Diego a second, but then he realizes that Ben is the new pastry chef, as well as the restaurant owner’s nephew. At first, things are rocky between them, with Diego acting gruff and cold toward Ben. But he as his behavior is pointed out to him, he starts to soften. Having gotten out of a very bad relationship not that long ago, Diego is gun shy, and he knows that getting involved with Ben is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. Though the attraction between them is strong, Diego has so many hang ups he can’t sort out what he’s thinking or feeling. A chance run in with his ex has Diego flailing, and then saying some harsh things to Ben. Diego quickly realizes he’s gone too far, and Ben isn’t going to give him a second chance. But when Ben is on the verge of making a very bad decision, Diego knows he has to pull out all the stops to help him. He only hopes he can.
Yes, Chef is one of those nice little novellas that, on the surface, present as a great story. And there were moments where I really enjoyed it. I thought the author has a great voice and style and the words flowed well. But I had a few issues with inconsistencies in the characters, and some of the time cuts left me wondering exactly how much time had passed, pulling me out of the story. So there were times when I was absorbed in the book, only to be jarred out of it with a strange time jump or someone acting out of character. The story was good, but I wasn’t overly impressed.
This is Diego’s story, really. And, for the most part, I enjoyed him. He has a big heart, and loves his job. And he had been stomped on by a controlling ex. I thought the author got his mindset right and portrayed it well. He is a bit of a victim, and he hasn’t quite healed from everything yet. I didn’t quite see him as much of an asshole as others said he was, and when he had outbursts of temper it seemed out of keeping with the character I was learning about. I will admit that his wishy washiness started to get to me at about the three quarters point, as he was supposed to be an older man (in his forties, I think) and he just wasn’t acting his age. A few instances where he couldn’t commit or second guessed himself would have been appropriate, but as it repeated, I started to have trouble with it. I was relieved when he finally had epiphany moment, and cheered him on as he set about making things right.
Ben is a bit more of a puzzle, and we only get to see him through Diego’s eyes. I felt a little detached from Ben, to be honest. Because some of the big revelations came through secondary characters, it felt a little out of place when Ben suddenly opened up to Diego. I think this was a problem with some of the plot points as well, as there wasn’t enough lead up, and so some of them seemed to come up from almost nowhere. But I liked Ben’s sweet attitude, and I loved that he stood up for himself. Life had dealt him some tough blows of late, but he was coping and healing. I liked that he knew himself well. And as a side note, I loved that he was fostering a tortoise, as it’s not a pet you often see in books. As the owner of a tortoise, I can tell you that the author certainly did get the animal’s actions correct, which is really lovely to see.
So overall, I liked this book, but I had some issues with it as well. It definitely had its moments, but on the whole, I felt that fleshing out some of the scenes would have given the book a little more heft and, in my estimation, given me a better connection to the characters.