Dinner at Jack’s, by Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: October 3, 2016
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Personal chef Beau St. Clair, recently divorced from his cheating husband, returns to the small Ohio River town where he grew up to lick his wounds. Jack Rogers lives with his mother, Maisie, in that same small town, angry at and frightened of the world. Jack has a gap in his memory that hides something he dares not face, and he’s probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Maisie, seeking relief from her housebound and often surly son, hires Beau to cook for Jack, hoping the change might help bring Jack, once a handsome and vibrant attorney, back to his former self. But can a new face and comfort food compensate for the terror lurking in Jack’s past?
Slowly the two men begin a dance of revelation and healing. Food and compassion build a bridge between Beau and Jack, a bridge that might lead to love.
But will Jack’s demons allow it? Jack’s history harbors secrets that could just as easily rip them apart as bring them together.
First off, I have a small problem with books that switch between first person and third person point of view and if this is something that grates on your nerves, you might prefer to give this one a miss. Personally, I prefer the author stick with one or the other, but If you’re totally okay with it, then keep reading because this might be the book for you.
Dinner at Jack’s oozes sweetness and romance. From the charming characters to the delicious descriptions of home-cooked food, eagerness and sincerity pour from the page and it’s quite obvious this was a labour of love for the author. At times, it was just a little too sweet and a little too eager and details that might have given us a glimpse into certain characters are deliberately glossed over. A little more spice to compensate for the sweet, would have been nice.
That being said, I’m sure there are plenty of people who will enjoy this straight up, relatively low angst romance and for the foodies in the house, there are some mouth-watering recipes included that may satisfy some of your fussiest eaters.
The story begins with Beau St. Clair, a Seattle chef who has returned to his hometown to lick his wounds after his marriage has ended. Financially stable after his divorce, he finds himself at loose ends and decides to answer a Craigslist ad asking for someone to cook “nutritious, appetizing, and wholesome” meals for a local shut-in for a few nights per week.
Jack Rogers has returned to his hometown to live with his mother ever since a debilitating attack left him with severe PTSD. Unrecognizable from the independent, outgoing lawyer he once was, Jack prefers to spend his days cocooned in his room watching TV and occasionally taking out his frustrations on his long-suffering mother.
The meat of this story revolves around Beau and Jack and how they come to recognize each other. While it’s hard to provide too much information as it would give most of the plot away, this book reads like an ode to the healing powers of home-cooking. Jack’s PTSD is handled deftly and with sensitivity, even if his breakthrough and recovery are wrapped up a little too neatly at the end. Still, one can appreciate that a good meal made with healthy ingredients can certainly do more for you than any “instant” food that comes out of a can or a box (and I say that as someone who relies at little too heavily on the latter and not nearly enough on the former!).
The few side characters in Dinner at Jack’s run from sadly sweet (Maisie), gruffly sweet (Beau’s dad), and selflessly sweet (Daisy) and are mostly one-dimensional. The only one with more personality is Ruth the Pug. Her inner dialogue, as imagined by Beau, is actually kind of cute and almost makes her more interesting than the other three combined.
This book is definitely for readers who enjoy a straightforward romance with a hint of angst and only the smallest pinch of drama. While the themes may initially seem dark, they are handled with a very light hand, not delving too deep and nicely resolved by the end. That you get some pretty neat recipes out of the deal is certainly a bonus.
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). His novel, Raining Men, won the Rainbow Award for Best Contemporary General Fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.