A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: Though not without a few issues for me, a nice read involving family and food.
The lunch rush at Darryl Hansen’s restaurant, Café Belgie, is getting to be too much for one man to handle, and Billy Weaver is a young man in search of a job—any job—to support his family. Billy gains Darryl’s respect with his earnest nature and willingness to work hard, but Billy’s admiring looks resurrect pain and shame from Darryl’s past.
Until Darryl stumbles across Billy’s secret, Billy is suffering in silence: his father died a few months earlier, leaving him struggling to raise his twin five-year-old brothers. Darryl takes Billy and the boys to the restaurant, where they’ll stand together to face the smorgasbord of troubles in their future…while Davey, Donnie, and Billy all worm their way into Darryl’s heart.
I’m a sucker for stories with kids in them, and as a foodie, tales set in a restaurant will draw me every time. A Taste of Love should have been a winner for me, then, and while I did like the story overall, a few issues prevented it from being such.
Darryl lives alone and owns a thriving restaurant in the small town of Carlisle in south-central Pennsylvania. As the lunch business grows, so does his need for wait staff. Darryl hires the desperate-for-a-job Billy on the spot, and soon learns that his newest server is struggling to support himself and his five-year-old twin brothers after his father has died. Darryl does everything he can to help out and the entire staff at Café Belgie pitches in as well. The men have mutual attraction, and Darryl falls for the kids in addition to beautiful, young Billy, but a situation and its repercussions in Darryl’s past as well as concern over his and Billy’s age difference have him hesitating to make a move. Both taking a chance, they decide to give it a try for making a family. When a crisis arises with the boys that threatens all of their futures together, they must unite and be strong to get through it.
What worked for me:
My favorite parts were, not surprising, at the restaurant. I loved reading about making food, trying new dishes, providing late lunches for the entire staff (which is really family) and so on. It fondly reminded me of when I worked as a server in a small, family-run Chinese restaurant, and at the end of the day, all sitting down for a late supper after the last customer had gone.
I thought all of the characters were likeable and believable, if not slightly under-developed. I really liked watching Darryl take control of the situation and the generosity he showed with Billy and the kids, welcoming them into the restaurant, his home, his life and heart. I enjoyed watching the scenes with the kids, and while at times I thought they came across as younger than five-years-old, I thought they were really the central part of the story.
I liked that Grey did not take the easy way out when the situation with the twins came up, and, while a teensy bit saccharine at the end, I thought it was all handled very well. I even shed a tear or two. And despite the nature of the situation, it never fell into over-the-top angsty melodrama, which I really appreciated.
My biggest issue was that I didn’t feel Darryl and Billy as a romantic, passionate couple. I could see them as parents — as I said above, I loved how they were with the kids — but that’s it. Much of the time, they felt a bit stiff to me. I think part of that is we see a lot of interaction with the kids, but not between Billy and Darryl on their own outside of the smexxin and as such there was telling instead of showing of them together. Regarding the smexxin, I thought there were a touch too many in the second half, and found myself skimming them.
The thing with Darryl and the traumatic event from his past seemed to resolve itself unrealistically for me. Here is someone who we’re told has been emotionally effected for over a decade because of what happened, and with one strange phone conversation with his parents, it’s over and instantaneously all is better. Plus, their reaction and the scene itself were just odd to me: (paraphrasing here) his mom cries and says “We should never have listened to them and they were wrong, the bastards,” and his dad says “Yeah, and since no one talked about it for a long time we thought you forgot about it” and Darryl is like “Really? So everything’s cool? That’s great!” and moves on.
Billy seemed younger than his twenty-one years, and had I not known, I would have guessed he was in his mid- to late-teens. In addition to being innocent and naïve, he seemed to lack the maturity I would have expected at that age, especially for someone who has essentially raised his brothers for the last five years.
Though not without a few issues for me, A Taste of Love is a nice read involving family and food. Fans of the author as well as those who like kids and/or food in your stories will probably like it fine.