When Alex Barrow’s job falls apart and his boyfriend breaks up with him, it seems like the right time to return home to Michigan. There he takes over the coffee shop his parents owned and opens the bakery he has always wanted. And the day the bakery opens, Alex sees Corbin Wale, and he can’t take his eyes off the lovely and seemingly fragile man. Day after day, Alex finds himself transfixed by Corbin, who is quite shy and skittish. But slowly the two become friends, even as Alex pines for something more between them.
Corbin knows he is different. Everyone has always told him he is weird and he believes them. Growing up isolated and expecting a future of nothing but loneliness, Corbin has built an elaborate fantasy world in his head, a place he often retreats. He likes Alex, loves the job he gets assisting at the bakery, and wishes there could be more between them. But Corbin knows there is no chance for a future with Alex, and so he does his best to keep Alex at a distance, despite how badly he longs for the man.
As the two work together, creating new items for the shop and planning for the holidays, the men grow even closer. Both wish for more, but Corbin doesn’t believe he can have it. But as the bonds they build continue to grow, Corbin may just realize that he can have a future with Alex, if only he will take a chance on falling in love.
I am a huge fan of Roan Parrish and think she writes such beautiful, layered characters. The Remaking of Corbin Wale is no exception, and Parrish has given us two really engaging men that fit in ways you wouldn’t expect. Alex is strong and solid and grounded. He knows what he wants and is not afraid to go for it. Corbin, on the other hand, is a pretty unconventional guy. He is clearly so lonely, yet that is what he expects from his life. To compensate he has always retreated into the world and the friends he has built in his mind. It makes him strange to most people, this distance and inability to focus in the real world a lot of the time. But what I love here how unconditionally Alex accepts Corbin exactly how he is. Not just accepts, but is fiercely protective over him. From the first minute he sees Corbin, Alex is captivated, and all he wants is to be with this man and make him happy. This is from when Alex first sees Corbin:
He was the most beautiful man Alex had ever seen. Strange looking, a bit awkward, and half-wild, the way animals were that lived side by side with people but never went inside as pets. His face and the set of his shoulders made Alex want to tramp through the woods as the leaves fell, run through fields to tumble him down on sun-warmed grass, press flowers to his lips to see which were softer. Beautiful.
Parrish’s writing is so beautiful and so evocative and this scene instantly gave me a fuller understanding of both Corbin and Alex.
It takes time for Alex to make his way through Corbin’s walls. Corbin has reason to believe he can not have a future with Alex, with anyone actually. And so he keeps his distance, because the longing is just too much for him. We don’t know the reason right away, and Alex doesn’t find out until much later, so there is this tension to the story, even as we see how hard the men are falling for one another. I think the structure here works really well. The book is divided into four parts with alternating POVs between Alex and Corbin. This works so nicely as early on we are in Alex’s POV and, like him, we have no idea what Corbin really thinks of him or why he is keeping his distance. Then we move into Corbin’s head and learn what is going on, but see his confusion about what Alex is thinking. So these alternating sections serve to both help the reader understand the characters’ feelings and motivations, but also keep us removed from certain elements until the right time.
Alex is a baker and Corbin eventually becomes his assistant, and I love the way that food and baking are woven into the story. This is a total food porn book. I finished it dying for chocolate babka and fresh challah and all kinds of other goodies. If you are foodie, or like reading about others who are, I think you will particularly enjoy this story. On top of that, Parrish does a great job integrating the love of food and of creating something special, and even the love that infuses preparing food for someone else, into the story. Some of the most key moments between these men involve baking and it is just so lovely and rich. I also really enjoyed the holiday element here, particularly the celebration of Chanukah. I am always on the lookout for Chanukah stories this time of year, and I didn’t know the holiday was part of this book until I got into it. The men create a big Chanukah meal and it is a lovely way to bring them together, along with many of the other characters. Parrish also highlights the meaning of the holiday and the way it celebrates freedom and miracles and hopes for a brighter future, and she does a nice job connecting those themes with what is happening in the story.
So I really enjoyed this one and it quite lovely and heartwarming. Corbin is such a fascinating character and Alex is a perfect match for him. They are like ground and air, but at the same time, they fit so perfectly. I loved that Alex really sees Corbin, accepts him for exactly who he is, and loves him from almost the start. If you are looking for a sweet and romantic story with a holiday twist and a nontraditional character, I can definitely recommend The Remaking of Corbin Wale.