Tuesday, February 23, 2016

12 Courses by EM Lynley

Title: 12 Courses
Author: EM Lynley
Purchase at Amazon
Purchase at All Romance eBooks
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Genre: contemporary
Length: 32k words
Formats: epub, mobi, pdf

Thom Kennedy Leyton returns to San Francisco to take up the reins of Graze, one of the city’s best restaurants, years after he lost his job when his innovative new set of recipes was stolen. Thom’s loss of self-esteem eventually caused his boyfriend, Blake Warner, to end their relationship, sending Thom into a deep depression.

Now, cured of fifty excess pounds and any attraction to Blake, Thom’s back in town. Blake catches him off guard when he visits Graze several days in a row, and Thom lets himself get caught up in Blake’s allure, despite knowing better.

Thom juggles a renewed relationship with Blake, a Christmas visit from his parents, and an important holiday menu based on a Twelve Days of Christmas theme. When an old acquaintance reveals that Blake knows more about the theft of the recipes than he lets on, Thom doesn’t know whom to trust. But the truth isn’t quite that simple, and Thom won’t be able to decide if Blake deserves a place in his life until he learns exactly what happened years ago.

I’ve been following the Delectable series, and was quite pleased with the Christmas-y edition of this food centered series. Not only has the author cooked up a second chances story to break and remake hearts, but the food writing is enough to make you drool.

Poor Thom, never sure of himself, even during his culinary school days. He was a star of the school, but even then he wasn’t quite sure why the hottest guy with the amazing credentials and skills wanted him. And then when it ended badly, following a professional crash and burn of epic proportions, his confidence was rocked even further. At last taking the helm of a noted restaurant in one of the foodie capitals of America, he worries about a repeat of his disgrace. Having Blake walk back into his life is both thrilling and terrifying, and completely entwined with the food.

Thom was the more fully realized character for me, with one thing after another piled on him, from an insubordinate chef who needs a swift kick to parents who mean well but are just Too Much, plus enough in his past to make any man look over his shoulder twice. I wanted to cook him mac and cheese and tell him everything would be okay, right after I kicked his mother in the shins. Sweet guy that he is, he finds his balance and his balls, and let him take necessary risks in both his restaurant and his love life.

Blake would have been just as interesting without the overkill background (Harvard Law? Really?). Handsome and gifted in all areas except perhaps courage, we get to watch his guilty conscience torment him into doing the right thing, and then going overboard.

I’m not sure if it was the blurb or something early in the text (can’t find it now, but terrible blurb, don't read it, read the story) that took the impact out of a big revelation, but if it didn’t surprise me, it certainly surprised Thom, who was rattled right down to his bones. The author jerks him around so hard on the way to letting him find forgiveness in his heart, and Blake too, for needing it and earning it.

The romance progresses with food, both in the restaurants and what they feed each other. Thom’s concoctions for his tasting menu sound divine, and Blake’s lobster grilled cheese sandwiches are the new food of love. The sensuality of the food carries over into the bedroom. The sex was wrapped with body image and I would have been perfectly happy not to have a yet another internal discussion of Thom’s fluctuating waistline. The whole weight issue bugged me, though I could see what it was supposed to for the story, it just seemed tacked on and took away from the joy in the delicious things they were putting in each other’s mouths.

I was flicking pages eagerly, wanting to see how exactly they were going to launch this new chapter in their relationship, and then… I discovered how much back matter there was. There’s a lot. Not the author’s fault, but when it’s over 12% of the file it’s too much, especially when I wanted more story as badly as I did. I'll be braced for it on the rereads.

This was definitely a delectable romance, and I wish I could eat dinner (and peek at the chefs) at Graze. 4 marbles.

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