A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: A sweet (in more ways than one) story about two men who have loved each other from afar. Yet, when they come together, they find that they really have to work for their HEA.
One part lover-running-scared plus one part sexy-Italian-chocolatier equals the perfect Valentine’s Day recipe for love.
For as long as the doors to Chocolate Dreams have been open, Joel Raner has been stopping every night on his way home from work to get his ritual treat. They’re always ready when he gets there and always handed over by the chef himself.
Chocolatier Aaron Neilson takes the time out of his day to talk to the handsome accountant, not for the sake of his business, but because the more he gets to know Joel… the deeper Aaron falls in love. When the Lovers’ Holiday rolls around, Aaron decides it’s time to make his move.
Will Joel see the love waiting right in front of him or will Cupid’s arrow miss this Valentine’s Day?
This short story starts after the events in the blurb take place. Joel is late getting off work. Usually, he leaves work at stops at Chocolate Dreams for his daily truffles and interaction with sexy Italian pastry chef Aaron around 4:30. So when Joel shows up thirty minutes late and is met by a very angry Italian man, he’s baffled as to why Aaron is upset with him. Aaron soon tells him, giving Joel an earful about how he could have been in an accident, hurt and Aaron wouldn’t have known he was okay. But Joel does know the reason that Aaron is upset with him, and it isn’t because he’s late, not completely anyway. The day before, Aaron finally got the courage to ask Joel on a date. He’s been in love with Joel for a while now (and Joel likewise), but when Aaron asks Joel if he has plans for Valentine’s Day, Joel balks and, quick on his feet, makes up an imaginary boyfriend. So when Aaron finds out that Joel has lied to him, he heads to his house to confront him.
But Joel has been burned badly in the past and hasn’t yet recovered. His family is quite wealthy and Joel’s money has attracted a lot of bad men over the years, the last of which cheated on him and broke his heart at the same time that Joel was paying for his lavish tastes. Joel says that he’s afraid of looking like a pathetic idiot in front of Aaron, not having a boyfriend on Valentines Day (BTW, yeah right, tell that to me!), when in all actuality, being hurt one more time, from a man he loves as much as Aaron, will do Joel in for good. The two might be right for one another, but outside influences will be the only way Joel will let down his walls and allow Aaron to love him.
I found this story when looking for something good to read for Valentine’s Day, and I have to say that I was happy with my choice. Being a lover of sweets I love stories about candy makers, chefs, or stories about food in any kind. While there was actually very little here about food, I didn’t mind because I liked the characters and what could have been a stock story at times had some very witty dialogue. The characters also didn’t fall right into bed, which I admired, especially in a short story where there is often room only for sex.
The story starts off with two characters who, while they only know each other over a few conversations at the bakery, have fallen in love. I was worried that their love wouldn’t be believable, that it would feel like insta-love, but their willingness to work through Joel’s problems really showed that they cared about each other, especially from Aaron. Joel has a harder time admitting his feelings for Aaron, because of his past relationship, and he often used his words to cut at Aaron to turn him away. I love Aaron in these moments because he doesn’t get hurt by Joel at all, he just shrugs it off and gets back to trying to help Joel feel more confident in himself. All of these things made their sexual encounters mean more when they finally got around to them.
I was also impressed with the amount of the story that is packed within just shy of 40 pages. I was a bit surprised that there was no food sex in this story, which almost always happens when there is food involved in the story, but it didn’t really bother me because it would have been gratuitous. It was much more important to me that the sex scenes be about the connection between the two men, and not the way they went about it.
This story had the potential to be angsty, due to Joel’s insecurities and some of the plot turns, but the tone of the story was actually quite light, as much of the story was told from Aaron’s POV, who has a remarkable way of cutting through all of the crap that Joel tries to throw at him in his effort to divert them from his issues. This is a great Valentine’s Day story for those of you who are looking for night in with a good story. And remember, your books will always be there for you 🙂 Recommended.