Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Length: 7 hours, 11 minutes
Although Henry Appleby lives on the North shore, is messing around with his best friend, has been accepted to NYU, and has a summer internship with his father’s downtown Chicago law firm, it isn’t enough. Henry comes across an ad for an entry level job at Fiorello’s; it is minimum wage and bottom of the pecking order. In other words, perfect. Too bad his parents would never go for it.
Arriving at Fiorello’s with the intention of getting hired for the summer, Henry is disappointed to find out that the owner, Rosalie, needs full-time permanent help and a summer job won’t cut it. Henry manages to convince Rosalie that he is the right man for the job, but now he needs to convince his father.
Fiorello’s chef, Vito, finds the younger man enticing, but he is still grieving the loss of his husband and son who passed in a car accident a year before. Vito keeps Henry at arm’s length until one day when Henry arrives late for his shift due to a family emergency: his father found out he was gay and kicked Henry out.
I have read many of Rick R. Reed’s books and find the writing to be consistent and always enjoyable. This is not a story chock full of sex; in fact, the romantic thread is an extremely slow burn that culminates at the end of the story. Some may not like this, but to me, it felt perfect. I was bothered by Henry’s fumbling sexual exploration with his best friend Cade, however. That part didn’t feel like it fit when I was reading it, and it sure didn’t fit once I got into the book.
As I mentioned above, the relationship building between Henry and Vito was slow, steady, and not without its setbacks. I really couldn’t imagine Vito or Henry conquering their demons any faster without it seeming contrived, and as such, I found the story very satisfying. Reed created multi-faceted and realistic characters, with strengths and flaws that allowed me to relate to them in one way or another.
The descriptions of Chicago felt realistic, and having been there on vacation, I could visualize some of the locales and the “L” that I saw everywhere I went and, to be honest, it made me want to visit the city again so that I could explore more than just downtown.
Joel Leslie is a very skilled narrator, bringing much diversity, depth, and a high level of consistency to the performance. I will say that at time, the Italian accents sounded a bit Russian, but kudos to Leslie for managing the cast of characters with such apparent ease. I did wonder though why Vito had such a strong accent when I didn’t get the impression that he was directly from Italy like I felt Rosalie was.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.