Title: Bread, Salt & Wine (Tarnished Souls #4)
Author: Dev Bentham
Release Date: September 13, 2016 (Re-released with a new cover by Jordan Castillo Price)
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Hurt/Comfort/Healing, Second Chances
Page Count: 144
Reviewed by: Crabbypatty
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Some wounds never heal. George Zajac grew up in a religious family with a father who beat “the swish” out of him. At thirty-eight he’s a troubled man. Escaping his miserable life as a banker in New York, he moves across the country to start again in Los Angeles as the catering chef for a prestigious French Restaurant. Kenny Marks, a writer who’s currently waiting tables, is everything George cannot be—flamboyant, proud and sexually confident. Enthralled by Kenny, and against his own better judgment, George agrees to a date. Sparks fly. The sex is amazing. But even after the two get close, George is crippled by humiliating sexual hang-ups. Still haunted by his childhood, he lingers in the closet and can’t commit to a relationship with Kenny.
Love is the great healer, but is it enough? George’s emotional scars could drive Kenny away, and with him, George’s last chance at happiness.
FYI: Bread, Salt & Wine is part of Dev Bentham’s “Tarnished Souls” series, but can easily be read as a stand-alone.
NYC 2002: On George Zajac’s 35th birthday, he started the day at his investment banker job and by the afternoon, deciding his whole life was a fraud, quit his job, went home to leave his wife … and decided to become a chef. Fast-forward to L.A. 2005 where George is the newly-hired catering chef for a snobby French restaurant and Kenny Marks, screenwriter/playwright/waiter extraordinaire, has caught his eye. And what’s not to love with Kenny’s spiky blonde hair, big smile and out-and-proud exuberance and sexual confidence?
Despite his total reboot at 35, George has very deep troubling issues, and my heart just ached for him: “I grew up miserable in the middle of cornfields. I’d felt so fucking isolated. I vowed that as soon as I could escape, I’d live in places where there’d always be someone who could hear me if I screamed. […] It had taken a long time for me to get there, safe, single, and unknown. So what if I was lonely? Everything had its price.”
Kenny asks George out and he agrees, only to panic after a night of hot man sex, deciding the only thing he needs is “a regular fuck buddy who could deal with my sexual weirdness without getting too rough.” George offers up a friends-with-benefit situation which Kenny agrees to. But eventually Kenny tells George “That’s not a kink, honey. It’s a sickness. Maybe you should see someone, like a therapist.”
George’s recovery and rebirth is not a short process, with the book spanning 8 years from start to finish before George and Kenny get a beautifully fitting HEA. The book is only 144 pages but it has a depth and strength that belies its brevity and this story held my interest every step of the way. In fact, I devoured it in one sitting. I highly recommend this book!
It didn’t matter how long it took me; I would learn a different way of loving. Because I wanted that, wanted to feel whole and loved, to love someone. No, not someone—to love a man, with my whole heart and body. Kenny’d been right. It wasn’t a kink. It was a wound, and wounds heal.