Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars
Narrator: Seb Yarrick
Length: 5 hours, 19 minutes
Marcus Vine is a celebrity chef looking to book a cooking show and open a third (and maybe fourth!) restaurant offering up chic pub grub. The past year has been a bit of a blur, and the anniversary of his best friend’s death is creeping up on him. Raine was a free-spirited gal, and Marcus adored her two daughters—his goddaughters as it happens—and had a not-so-secret crush on Raine’s husband, Tom. Marcus was devastated when Tom told Marcus to keep his distance after the funeral.
A chance encounter has Marcus meeting a disheveled Tom and kiddos at a café—and Marcus is mortified at the way Raine’s family has seemingly disintegrated. Marcus will not accept Tom putting him off any longer. Working around his chef schedule, he begins to pick up the kids from school and help with their homework while feeding the family healthy meals. Tom’s dependence on Marcus’ help happens quickly and soon the men are spending quiet nights in, while caring for the girls. One of the girls has chronic asthma, which becomes a serious issue at a couple of points. Marcus is an excellent caretaker and makes a good partner to Tom—despite Tom’s initial reluctance. Their friendship grows more intimate, until it crosses from casual touching and confidence sharing to physical affection. While Tom was also reluctant to take Marcus as a sexual partner, they click in ways that Tom was denying himself for so long.
Actually, he continues to deny the growth and shift in their relationship. Tom doesn’t consider himself gay, but his attraction doesn’t seem bi, either. Through some exploration, Tom learns he may be demisexual, which is why he struggles to warm up to new sexual partners. And, he’s also not cool with being partnered with a man, thinking it will upset his homophobic parents. Marcus had thought all his dreams for a family were coming true, and to have Tom deny him so abruptly is rather crushing. Tom makes bad choices for bad reasons, and yet Marcus continues to take him back. He is sympathetic to Tom’s sexual confusion, and he does have a lot of love for the little girls who remind him so much of Raine.
I adored Marcus and I understood Tom—even when I wanted to wring his neck. The narrator, Seb Yarrick, does a great job of differentiating the many characters in this story—between two young girls to two older women, plus some male suitors who wouldn’t mind buttering Marcus’ muffin. I liked how Marcus handled the (many) men who desired him, and was honest and true to his own feelings. Yarrick really articulated Marcus’ wonder at parenthood to Raine’s girls, and Tom’s slow-growing affection. He also clearly showed the annoyance and frustration Marcus felt for struggles he faced—personally and professionally. There are some nice sexytimes, and those were rendered in steamy fashion.
I liked this one. It was thoughtful and careful about the pairing. Tom makes amends in rather spectacular fashion and Marcus isn’t too proud to accept the love of a good, repentant man. Tom acceptance of his sexuality—redefining his self-concept in many ways—takes time, and the relationship doesn’t happen in a month or two—nearly a year passes as these lost souls find a strong love.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.