Author ~ Rick R. Reed
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 1st may 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.
Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.
When you pick up a book with Rick Reed's name on the cover you can be assured of a quality read and Dinner at Fiorello's is no exception. A gentle contemporary romance set in Chicago, the book benefits from an interesting cast of secondary characters with their own agendas and an engaging pair of MCs from widely different backgrounds.
Henry is the rich lad with every material comfort and a clear path before him designed to lead him, in twenty years or so, to financial security and personal power plus the usual trappings - a rack of designer suits, expensive cars he has no time to drive, trophy wife he no longer cares for and children he barely knows. At least that will happen if he follows in Daddy’s footsteps. But Henry has a secret passion – cooking, with that precision in choice of ingredients and balance of flavours that makes him feel he could aspire to the title ‘chef’. Faced with the immediate threat of starting work at his father’s office on Monday, Henry panics and applies for a job as a lowly kitchen assistant at Fiorello’s, a family run Italian restaurant in a nearby but far less salubrious neighbourhood. The difference between his sterile home life and the apparent chaos of Fiorello’s kitchen couldn’t be greater.
That chaos is actually perfectly organised. Between them, the matriarchal Rosalie Fiorella, owner/manager and occasional waitress of the restaurant, and Vito Carelli, the chef, run the busy kitchen at a breakneck pace to keep up with the demands of their customers for the best of Italian comfort foods cooked with loving care and made from the finest ingredients. Rosalie and Vito have their doubts that Henry with his designer background will fit into their hardworking world. Henry, while scared silly on one level, has no real doubt. He WANTS this with every fibre of his being – and after his first sight of the intimidating Vito he wants him too.
But nothing in a world constructed by Rick Reed is ever that simple. Vito is a man refusing to bow down under a profound burden of grief. The ferocious hours he puts in at the restaurant are his refuge from the memories that await him at home and the last thing he needs is some goggle eyed kid hanging on his words. Or anything else.
First Henry must prove himself, both in the kitchen and as a friend, before he can stand a chance with Vito but there are other issues at stake.
In many books the emphasis on the main characters is such that the secondaries are almost part of the furniture. They appear briefly to assist with plot points or to provide information but generally don’t take much of the attention. But this book is peopled rather than furnished and one of its joys is in seeing how the actions of characters who are not contributing to the romance impact on the mental tone of Henry and Vito. Co-workers, family members, friends are leading their own lives without reference to the MCs, though the ripples of their actions spread. Another thing that came over strongly is that sometimes people do bad things, but that there’s always a reason that makes sense to them at the time, bad things can be put right and minds can be changed.
A word about the setting. I’ve read several of the author’s books set in Chicago and while I will probably never visit the city – I’ve been told such scary stories about O’Hare airport! – I’ve come to enjoy Chicago almost as a character in its own right and am looking forward to seeing more of it. Also, since I know that the author often picks up a character from one book as the MC of another, I’ve been trying to guess whose story will be told next.
I found the book a delicious morsel and would love to have dinner at Fiorello’s.