Thirteen years ago, Noah Becker’s abusive father almost killed him. Noah managed to escape with the help of his best friend, Tyler, and Tyler’s parents. Noah has spent the intervening time on the run from his father, moving from town to town, but for the last three years he has been the chef at a small-town diner where he gets to create wonderful food. Noah knows it is approaching time to leave again; he can’t stay in one place for long, as he won’t risk putting others in danger if his father tracks him down. So Noah is totally unprepared when someone from his past walks into the diner one day.
Ezra Rosin has always regretted not being able to do more for Noah, for not realizing what was happening to him at his father’s hands. Ezra and his ex-wife got Noah out of town, gave him some money, and haven’t heard from him since. Ezra is now in a life transition, recently divorced, retiring from his job in New York, and getting ready to open a winery in Sonoma. He has taken a semester-long teaching job in Hanover to help him unwind from the stress of his former job and prepare for his new one. When Ezra joins a friend for lunch at Blue Plate, he is stunned to see Noah working in this small town under a new name.
At first, Noah’s instinct is to flee, as he is terrified of his father hurting the Rosins to get to him. But as he catches up with Ezra and the two begin spending time together, the men realize they have a connection. Not the paternal one they shared when Noah was a kid who was best friends with Ezra’s son, but an adult bond of attraction and shared interests in food and cooking. While they know things can’t go anywhere long term with Noah needing to move on out of town and Ezra heading to a new job across the country, they can’t help but give in to the chemistry between them. Ezra shares more about his interest in kink and Noah is eager to explore it with him. The men are realizing that there is something real between them, something they could consider turning into more. But when the past comes back into Noah’s life, it could be the end of things between them.
Blue Plate Special is the second book in Layla Reyne’s Table for Two series. While there is passing mention of the MCs, Greg and Tony, from The Last Drop, from a story perspective this one stands alone just fine. I never read the first book and had no issues at all jumping in here. That said, this story is set within the larger world of some of Reyne’s other books. We get casual mention of Miller and Clancy from Dine with Me, and the story takes place in the same town as What We May Be, and some characters and events from that book are referenced here.
This story starts out intensely as Tyler is bringing a severely beaten Noah to the Rosins for help. We see them provide medical treatment and help Noah escape out of town (Noah is about 20 at this point, so old enough to be on his own). Reyne does a nice job conveying the intensity and the danger Noah is in from his father here, even in a few pages. We also get a peek into Ezra as well, so it sets the groundwork nicely for the rest of the story. The book then jumps to present day where Noah is now working as a chef and Ezra has come to town as a professor. The two connect almost immediately, finding a common ground from years of knowing one another, but also from similar interests and a strong attraction as adults. Ezra does give thought to the dynamic of dating his son’s former best friend, but Noah is a grown man in his early 30s at this point, and Ezra is almost 60, so they are both adults and years past when they had an adult/child relationship. There is nice chemistry between the pair; Noah is eager to learn more about Ezra’s interest in kink and they have a nice heat and intensity together. The relationship develops easily, even as the guys feel like there must be a shelf life, but there is always a bit of an undercurrent of fear on Noah’s part about what may happen if his father tracks him down. So I think Reyne balances these two elements of the story well, and I really enjoyed the dynamic between Noah and Ezra. This is also a foodie romance for sure and we get lots of scenes and discussions surrounding food. I liked that aspect of the book and think it adds a nice element to the larger story (plus, it will make you really hungry!).
This is a relatively short novel and I think overall it has nice pacing. The story feels tight and well developed. But a few things get dealt with a little quickly for me, particularly the ending resolution with Noah’s father. The threat of him has shadowed Noah for 13 years and impacted his entire life and the plot is resolved with barely a mention. I wanted to see more in the aftermath to really balance out the story.
I enjoyed my first foray into Reyne’s foodie world after being such a fan of her romantic suspense books. It sounds as if more books are planned for this world and I am eager to check out what is to come.