Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5
In one day Ollie D’Angelo lost everything. Ollie was dumped by his boyfriend, fired from his job, and his home which was technically his ex’s. But instead of being shattered Ollie found himself exhilarated. Freed of all that had held him in a job he had no passion for and a boyfriend he only thought he loved, Ollie found he could turn his passion for food into a business that filled him with joy and a renewed sense of purpose. Before Ollie knows it his Dinner at Home, a home-catering business, takes off and becomes a success.
Soon Ollie finds himself thinking that he needs an assistant and finds one in the most unexpected way. While out on a delivery, Ollie finds a young man attempting to rob his car. But instead of turning the thief over to the police, Ollie finds himself taking the young man home for a much needed meal. Hank Mellinger, the would be their, isn’t a criminal but a starving young man desperately trying to feed himself and the four-year-old niece he is now responsible for. Robbing Ollie’s car was his last act of desperation.
Like Ollie, Hank finds that one moment can change his life as well as his niece’s. Hank becomes Ollie’s assistant and potentially something more as the attraction builds between them. But Hank’s isn’t out and his fears about his past must just block any future in store for them all. Can two very different men with a passion for food find the courage to believe in a future for them both?
Rick R. Reed’s newest story, Dinner at Home, drew me in as a reader for a number of reasons. One is that amazing cover by Reese Dante that just makes you grin with the total enjoyment and openness seen in that model’s face. The other is that I love stories about chefs, food and recipes and this had it all covered. Plus it offered the addition of a romance to boot. What I found was a bunch of new recipes, some lovely characters and a story that was unexpectedly a little dark.
When diving into this story, you receive unanticipated benefits right off the mark. Each chapter opens with a recipe that will make your mouth water. The book is laid out like a menu. The prologue is the definition of an Amuse-Bouche, an appetizer that is one small mouthful, then it goes on to Winter and then Summer dishes. The first chapter is a scrumptious recipe for Sinfully Soft Scrambled Eggs that sent me running to the kitchen to try it out. It lives up to its name as it is sinfully delicious. I thought I had made great scrambled eggs before. Nuhuh. Try this recipe out and it will become your comfort food go to recipe. The same holds true for all the dinners and meals laid out here. Thankfully, Reed included a section with all the recipes at the end so you can have it at hand when you need it. And trust me, you will need it often. This man knows his food and his ingredients!
Secondly, there is Reed’s characters. I loved Ollie. Big hearted, passionate about his food, and generous in all ways, Ollie is a man to love. That his life is shattered overnight is believable, especially in these economic times. And equally true, Ollie was in a great place in which to make some positive life changing decisions. You could believe in Ollie and you do. And just as Ollie is emotionally and financially well off, Hank is his opposite. For Hank, life has been one struggle after another. That along with some poor choices, a mother who was juggling with her own demons, Hank is one troubled young man. His passion? Food. But as a excon, the jobs he is able to get are on the lower end of the pay scale with little future involved. Rick R. Reed makes us believe in him too.
Less believable? Hank’s four year old niece, Addison, who seems to be a combination of Roseanne Barr and tiny tot. I have read other similar child characters whose dialog and actions came across as more realistic than Addison does. She doesn’t ruin the story for me but neither does she improve it, in my opinion. Others may love her character and find her an utter joy. She is one of those love her or hate her personas that has an equal effect on the story and reader.
Rose, a traumatized young woman who becomes part of this family, is a character I found that I wanted more of. She just appears suddenly in this story and has a horrible back history. I don’t feel that Reed laid any foundation for her startling change into a totally different young woman at the end of the story. Had she been slowly worked into the narrative with the same care and attention to detail that Hank and Addison were then I think Dinner at Home would have felt like a deeper, more layered story than it appears to be.
Did I love parts of Dinner at Home? Absolutely, starting with Ollie and the recipes. Other parts left me puzzled and curiously hungry for more, as if some elements of a main dish had been left out during the preparation. Once you start eating, you enjoy it but can tell from the aroma and taste that the promise of the dish is still out there waiting to be completed. That’s how I feel about Dinner at Home, almost there, just needs a little more umami to bring it home.
If you are a fan of Rick R. Reed, you will love this story. If you love food and recipes to die for, this is your story. Lovers of M/M romance will enjoy this book, with reservation. I certainly enjoyed it enough to recommend it.
Cover art by Reese Dante. I loved this cover, It draws you in and makes you want to get to know the characters pictured on the cover.
ebook, 206 pages
Published May 9th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 8th 2014)
ISBN 162798836X (ISBN13: 9781627988360)