Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Jack Shields has returned home for the holidays to the town he hates. His dad is suffering from Alzheimer’s, his mother needs him and his cooking to make things bearable, at least for Christmas. The town Jack grew up in is full of bad memories, especially for a gay boy in Texas, including the cheating boyfriend he loved , left behind after a knockdown fight and has still never forgotten.
Kent Thibault has just returned to the town where he grew up in order to spend the holidays with his mother. Now a musician, Kent has nothing but bad memories of this small Texas town, including the fact that it was where he lost the boy he grew up with and loved. One night, one horrible misunderstanding, one fight and now 10 years later, Kent still thinks about Jack, the one that got away.
Now both have returned to town for the holidays and family. A chance meeting at the local grocery brings up old memories, bad and good and reignites all the old feelings. When two former lovers still very much in love meet again, is it too much for them to hope that a future together is still possible?
From the title to the characters within, I loved Home for the Hollandaise by Julia Talbot and BA Tortuga. A Torquere Holiday short story, it brings up all the best and the worst of Christmas with the family, especially families breaking apart under stress and illness. For 49 pages, the reader is brought into the lives of Jack, his family and his former boyfriend, Kent. Jack is home under the worst conditions as his father has Alzheimer’s and is only intermittently aware of who Jack is. What Jack’s father does remember is Jack’s cooking. Jack is a mini-celebrity chef in Austin and his food is a path back to his father.
I found this element, the relationship of Jack with his father and the scene as they connect over food, possibly for the last time, incredibly touching and real. Its that touch of authenticity and warmth that illuminates the depth of family love over familial discord and brings pathos to the holidays as well as joy.
The characters here from Jack’s mother shaking under the stress and pain of the situation, Kent staying in the trailer his Mom has stashed in the backyard as a rental, and the old football bully from high school, all are created with a deft hand and painted with the realism and knowledge of small town Texas life. I just loved this story and only wish that I could have lingered a tiny bit more with the men back in Austin, trying for that future once again that they thought they had lost.
Cover illustration by A Squires is ok, but with such a great title, wouldn’t you think hollandaise would be on the table as well?