Rating: 4.25 stars
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Dinner at The Blue Moon Café is a re-release of an older Rick R. Reed work published several years ago. As such, if you know any of Reed’s wonderful writing of late, you can see how far he has progressed as a novelist. While this book was most definitely a horror story that includes highly visceral and descriptive passages of genuine werewolves stalking and killing their prey, a romance it is not—at least in the conventional HEA sense. Instead the suspense and heightened sense of terror the novel provokes in the reader are incredibly real and forceful. These are not your romantic shifters with an alpha seeking a mate; instead it is about a pack that has come to the American northwest to make a new home and have ready hunting grounds available. Unfortunately, one among them is not content hunting animals and, instead, turns its sights on hunting men—specifically gay men who it literally culls from the pack in the dead of night and eviscerates, destroys and, yes, consumes. Did I mention this is a horror story—and a very, very well done one, at that? Let me give you just a bit of a plot synopsis so that you can appreciate the strengths of this novel more fully.
Thad Matthews has been rather adrift emotionally for a while. Having lost his job some months previously, and finding it difficult to find another, he goes through the motions most days, job searching, sometimes going to the gym, and even enjoying an occasional one night stand, but even that leaves him dissatisfied and he finds himself rather disinterested. When he decides to check out the new café that has just opened he meets Sam Lupino. There is an immediate sense of attraction to Sam—something Thad has not felt in a long time. But there is also a real sense of mystery about Sam, his adult son, and his entire family who have all come from Italy with him to make a new life in America. While Thad wants to trust Sam, his tendency to disappear without notice and his own admission that he feels he should not get too involved with Thad despite liking him immensely puts Thad in a bit of a quandary.
Meanwhile, unable to find employment, Thad has begun to volunteer and meets Jared. Jared is everything Sam is not: carefree, fun, and emotionally available. But Thad has gone and fallen in love with Sam and despite the many mysteries that shroud his lover; Thad wants to make their relationship work. When Jared is also attacked by the thing stalking gay men, everything comes to a head and Thad begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together with horrifying results.
It is important to mention that having this entire story told by only Thad’s point of view meant that we rarely got to understand what made Sam tick—it also meant that we had to rely on Thad’s emotional barometer to get a sense of how much Sam loved him in return. This made it difficult, at times, to get a good sense of the depth of their building relationship. Instead it was much easier to focus on Thad’s emotional reactions to Jared and their harmless flirting with each other. The horror element—the suspense was well played and kept me on the edge of my seat. The attacks that took place were all from the wolf’s perspective and that was just downright creepy in every good way. I do believe this was the real thrust of the author’s writing—that the romance element was rather secondary to his unpacking a frightening tale that played out so very well.
As a paranormal novel, I believe Rick R. Reed hits it out of the ballpark with Dinner at The Blue Moon Cafe. His ability to create a tense and unnerving story that moved rapidly was just outstanding. In the end, one should not go looking for the normal lovely romance fare this author is better known for, but instead be happily surprised by his creative ability to give us a story full of things that one would never want to meet in the night and the stuff of which nightmares are made.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.