Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Up-and-coming London chef Marcus Vine is poised on the edge of success, but the only men courting him are investors. That leaves Marcus with some free time—which is fortunate, because his godchildren need him.
A year ago, a horrible accident killed Marcus’s best friend, Raine, leaving her children without a mother and her husband, Tom, without a partner. Consumed by grief, Tom has been going it alone, refusing help, but when Marcus sees him out with the children, it’s obvious that Tom and his two daughters need someone. His persistent caring finally wears Tom down, allowing him to accept the comfort Marcus offers. Soon Marcus is up to his elbows in homework, home-cooked meals, and after-school activities. Over time he helps them rebuild their world, until soon their lives are approaching normal.
Then the unexpected happens: Tom confesses he has romantic feelings for Marcus, and nothing can ever be the same.
The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster is one of those contemporary romances that some normally label Gay For You, a tag I’ve never liked or been conformable with. This is a heartwarming, sweet romance about a widower who has lost his wife and finds love again with his wife’s best friend….a man. It’s a slow burn, come to the realization of attraction and feelings story but more than that, it shows the challenges a person faces when they’ve put themselves and their sexuality into a box and now have to step outside if they want another chance at love.
Lancaster has certainly does a wonderful job of giving us a group of connectable and believable characters, from the adults down to the realistic kids, inhalers included. From the minute Marcus reconnects with Tom, the author reveals Tom in a very state of stress and depression. Unkempt and skinny, the house a mess, the kids barely meeting their scheduled activities…things are falling apart. It’s a believable portrait of a man and household going under the loss of their wife and mother.
Marcus, as the children’s godfather, steps in and starts to organize the mess he sees, including Tom. It’s a huge success for all as Marcus slides seamlessly into a family that needs him so. Just as much it turns out as Marcus needs them as an anchor in his hectic life.
Then the thing that destabilizes everything. An announcement of feelings and attraction. Maybe more by Tom.
From there the novel becomes a push me/pull me sort of story as Tom works through his issues with his beliefs about his sexuality. Is he straight? Is he gay? What bothered me here is not once did the words pansexual or bisexual ever come up. Even though there was a long discussion from Tom that he really never had feelings for either men or women before his wife, so why was only two types of sexuality up for discussion here?
Still, the characters are well done, the writing flows, and the romance heart felt.
As this is a Dreamspun Desires novel, yes, our couple (and adorable kids) got their HEA. I thought the scene where Tom came to Marcus lovely and adored the epilogue.
As I said this is a sweet romance and I do recommend it for lovers of contemporary romance and second chances at love.
Cover art: Aaron Anderson. That is exactly my idea of Marcus on the cover. Love it.
ebook, Dreamspun Desires #63, 220 pages
Expected publication: August 7th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press