Asher and his husband, John, had been running their successful restaurant, Idlewild, in downtown Detroit. It had started out as John’s dream, but then also became Asher’s. When John died, everything in Asher’s life followed and the restaurant is barely hanging on as Asher is almost bankrupt. Needing a fresh start, he fires the entire staff and begins to breathe new life into the restaurant and himself. He also takes a chance on hiring 23-year-old Tyler Heyward.
Tyler has just finished college and has never worked in a restaurant before. His dream had been to go to medical school, but he’s taking some time off under the guise of saving money, but really, medical school is no longer his dream and he doesn’t know how to tell his family. While Tyler and Asher both grew up in Detroit, the areas they lived in, as well as their core experiences, are vastly different. As friendship turns to romance, their relationship tells the story of dreams achieved and then lost, old loves, new love, the power of perspective, letting go, letting in, and getting it right.
Simply put, this is a beautifully written book. It’s a genuine and almost leisurely journey of two men who grew up in the same city, yet come from completely different places. At first, it’s the story of Asher. He fell forever in love with John and when John’s life was cut short, in many ways, Asher’s life was as well. Asher is barely hanging on. He thinks he’s moved through the stages of grief, yet he’s cut off his family, he’s distanced himself from his friends, and his business is on life support. Although he doesn’t think he will ever find love again, he’s open to the possibility, yet he doesn’t think it ever will truly happen.
Tyler bursts into Asher’s life and brings the sun back into his world. The story then also becomes Tyler’s. Tyler has been in a relationship with Malik and on paper they should fit, except they don’t. Tyler’s relationship with Malik illuminates what’s not working in Tyler’s life with detail that’s both subdued as well as bright. Tyler has always felt the need to bend to be what he thinks everyone else wants him to be. At times, he’s hesitant in his own skin as he either feels not dark enough in Malik’s world and then not light enough in Asher’s. Tyler and Asher start as co-workers and then become friends. The air around them crackles and sparks when they are near, they both feel it, but it’s not until Tyler ends his relationship with Malik that the men truly stoke the flames.
This book is wildly romantic while being sweet and seductive. Sierra’s prose is art-like as she paints the picture of the intense desire between Asher and Tyler and her words become the lyrics to the music of their story. There are so many gorgeous lines and their first kiss is something that should be experienced first hand with context as all of their intimate time together is exceedingly sensual. It’s a slow build of a story between the city, the restaurant, and the men. It’s also not an easy story as there is tension and anxiety tightly wound around them. The men tread lightly through hope as well as deeply shuttered grief breaking through to an intense, overwhelming intimacy that leaves the men raw and exposed as they are deconstructed by turns throughout the book.
Through all of this, Sierra also tells the story of two different men who have walked through different spaces in the world and have seen different things within the same city. The city of Detroit and the restaurant itself become characters on their own and she is spot on with her descriptions of the life within the restaurant world. While clearly she also showcases a deep love for Detroit, at times the stories shown to illustrate the space between the men simply became too much and threads were left open.
I would encourage you to spend some time in this world as Idlewild depicts a layered and nuanced love story where one has to know their own heart before they can fully give it away.