Dinner at Jack’s (Crabbypatty’s review)

Title: Dinner at Jack’s
Author: Rick R. Reed
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Release Date: October 3, 2016
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 220
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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.

It’s probably no secret that I really enjoy Rick R. Reed’s mad writing skills. For example, Reed’s Big Love is one of my 2016 Mid-Year Favorites. His latest book “Dinner at Jack’s” is in the same vein as “Big Love” in that it really delves into the two main characters – Beau St. Clair and Jack Rogers – and its conclusion is heartfelt, satisfying and well worth the wait, much like a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal.

Beau is a trained chef who has recently broken up with his cheating spouse and moved from Seattle back to his small Ohio hometown. Casting about for something to do with his days, he answers a Craigslist ad from Maisie Rogers, who wants someone to make some meals for her adult son and maybe spend a bit of time keeping him company. Jack’s “had a rough road, let’s say, and he lives with me.” She [Maisie] sighed. “My son, Jack’s his name, is kind of a shut-in. He’s, uh, young, only in his thirties, but, uh, as I said, he’s had more than his fair share of bad luck.”

Beau begins making meals for Jack and slowly figures out what trauma Jack has suffered, as well as why Jack looks so very familiar to him. “Dinner at Jack’s” has a slow pace that matches Jack’s gradual awakening and recovery. There are just a few sex scenes (nothing very explicit) but there is love in every line of this story. Reed shows us the love between parents and their children, romantic love, that special love shared with beloved pets (loved Beau’s little pug Ruth!) and expressing love for someone by preparing food that nourishes their body and soul.

That’s the thing people who say they hate to cook don’t realize—it doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t need a shopping cart full of exotic ingredients. No meticulous timing required. Sometimes the best dishes are the simplest, the ones that arrive with little effort but come from the heart.

As a bonus, “Dinner at Jack’s” contains several mouthwatering recipes for good comfort food such as White Trash Mac & Cheese, Minestrone, Dark Beer and Beef Stew, Sicilian Roast Chicken, etc. Each recipe starts with basic ingredients that aren’t fancy but add up to something wonderful – much like “Dinner at Jack’s.” It’s not a dramatic, angst-ridden story with mystery and high adventure. It’s something much better because it comes from the heart. Highly recommended!

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"Dinner at Jack's" is not a dramatic, angst-ridden story with mystery and high adventure. It's something much better because it comes from the heart. Highly recommended!

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Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.  Frederick Douglas I distinctly remember that day in school when, all of a sudden, those squiggles on the page made sense and I could read. It has changed my life in ways I still cannot comprehend. My favorite M/M tropes are friends-to-lovers, murder/mysteries, amnesia, hurt/healing and historicals. Shifters, vampires, paranormal? Meh ... not in my wheelhouse, but I'm a sucker for a well-written well-plotted book, no matter the genre. Favorite authors includes Brandon Witt, Rick R. Reed, Abigail Roux, Jay Northcote, JL Merrow, KJ Charles, Lane Hayes, Marshall Thornton and so many more. A few "badges" from NetGalley: 100 Book Reviews Reviews Published Professional Reader