Title: Dinner at Fiorello’s
Author: Rick R. Reed and Joel Leslie (Narrator)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press LLC
Release Date: February 24th 2016
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary
Length: 7 hrs and 11 mins
Reviewed by: Belen
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.17 stars out of 5
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.
Henry Appleby is eighteen and basically has his life laid out for him: he’ll intern at his father’s Chicago law firm, go to NYU in the fall, and eventually become a lawyer just like his father. However, Henry doesn’t want that life. He dreams of being a chef, and is at his happiest around food. While struggling with the possibility of disappointing his parent’s expectations, he’s also dealing with the betrayal of a friend, and finding out his parent’s are fallible as well.
Vito Carelli lost everything one night over a year ago. He draws his grief around himself like a cloak and keeps everyone at arms length. He lives for three things, his mother, his two beloved dogs, and his job as Executive Chef at Fiorello’s.
When Henry takes a summer job working as a dishwasher/busboy and sometimes sous chef at Fiorello’s, it’s not just his resemblance to Vito’s lost love, but his persistent pursuit that begin to melt away the ice around Vito’s heart.
There were two things I loved about the story: first, is the vivid imagery Reed uses in creating this world. Chicago is like another character, and the food is so lovingly detailed that I was hungry through most of Joel Leslie’s narration. Which brings me to the second thing I loved, which is Leslie’s narration. He drew me in and kept me captivated. I could practically smell the foods, or feel the ‘L’ train rumbling.
As for the story itself, I was confused as to whether it was a new adult contemporary novel or a romance. From the blurb I thought it was a romance, but it doesn’t play out that way for more than 78% of the story. Then, in the end, it’s a rushed romance that felt inauthentic and not organic to the story that was being told.
Also, the story contains two things that generally annoy me. First, when there’s a, to me, unnecessary build up of a “terrible thing from the past” that’s alluded to over and over again, without letting the reader in on it until late in the story. That just drives me nuts. Second, when the “romance” comes out of left field with no previous groundwork built.
In this case Henry has some trouble with boundaries, following Vito home, standing outside his apartment for hours, snooping in the apartment once he’s invited in, stripping naked and getting into Vito’s bed uninvited…they were troubling things to me that are glossed over in the story. There’s also a lot of telling, and almost lyrically so, but not so much with the showing. The two men barely have a few conversations before suddenly they’re moving towards a relationship. It was jarring for me, and I didn’t believe the romance that did suddenly pop up only in the final chapters and weak epilogue with a nebulous HFN.
All in all, the writing is lovely, with wonderful descriptions of places, and people, and food. The narration is well done, with great character voices and accents. However, the romance of the story left me cold and disappointed.