Authors: Chris Quinton and RJ Scott
Publisher: Love Lane Books
Length: 141 Pages
At a Glance: A charming enemies-to-lover’s story with some likeable characters.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
Blurb: Serving up passion, family, love and hate, with a side order of arson.
Lewis has lost nearly everything, and now it seems that Devon is here to take the last thing he has left – working in his beloved restaurant, Laurels. But when an arsonist threatens everything Lewis loves, he realizes sometimes everyone has their ghosts, and he discovers an unexpected ally who is prepared to risk everything for him.
Set in the small cathedral city of Salisbury, Master Chef Lewis Mandineau no longer owns the Laurels, the restaurant that had been in his family for generations. Betrayed and robbed by an ex-lover, he’s had to sell to Carnegie Enterprises, an American corporation. That isn’t all Lewis has to contend with. Rachel, his beloved younger sister has been left severely hurt by the car crash that killed their parents, and taking care of her has to be his priority.
Enter Devon Trelawney III, sent to assess the viability of the restaurant and its staff. Devon knows all about family tradition. But he also knows sentiment has no place in business matters, and the Laurels’ potential is swamped by the debts it has accrued. Devon is a hardheaded businessman, first and foremost, but Lewis and Rachel test his resolve in different ways. Soon Devon is forced to admit that what seems like an impossible love can sometimes become something very real.
Review: Lewis was absolutely wonderful. Having lost nearly everything in the span of a couple of years (his parents, his lover, his house, his belongings, ownership of his family restaurant) and being the guardian of his sister, Rachel (who has mental disabilities due to a car accident), he is the epitome of strength. Yes, he gets snappish and withdraws a bit. He is under a lot of stress—rightfully so—and he is holding on to everything by a thin thread and trying to make it all work, even if the cards keep stacking against him. Having been forced to make tough decisions and selling the family’s restaurant, yet holding on to a hope that even if he isn’t the owner, he may still be able to keep his family’s business running. I admired his commitment to all those he cared for as he continued to try to make the best out of the horrible situation he was in. He wasn’t sunshine and flowers and happy endings. He wasn’t under some delusion that he couldn’t lose the restaurant and was very aware that it was the most likely outcome. But, he still pushed forward. Gave his all in trying to save the Laurels.
And then there is Devon Trelawney III—not wonderful. I wanted to punch him right along with Lewis. He is all business and no heart. He comes in pretty much knowing the Laurels will not make it, and essentially putting everyone’s back up from the beginning. He makes sure he comes off as top dog and lets the Laurels’ staff know he is not there to make friends. It is all about where a profit can be made for Trelawney Enterprises. Which, in his world, how profit is made is often at the expense of people’s livelihoods. Always his mind was calculating and on the numbers. How to make money. What corners could be cut. He didn’t care about morale of the staff, or even understand sometimes little things like nice coffee make a difference. Obviously he was extremely well written since I couldn’t stand him, and was hoping Lewis may knock him on his behind.
Rachel is really the key that unlocks Devon, and she was truly a delight to read. Although she has disabilities, she is valued as a staff member for what she contributes. They didn’t force her into something she was unable to do, and worked with her on expanding the skills she did have, and she excelled at them. She, too, was a picture of strength, and that was due to the wonderful characters, and her brother’s way of communicating, and his patience with her—wanting her to be as independent as she could be and giving her the tools to do so. Although Lewis was her guardian, and at times her situation needed special attention, I didn’t feel like she was placed in the story as an afterthought and a burden to be carried by Lewis. In fact, at times she carried him with her surprising insight and the directness of her thoughts. Her childlike mind helped those around her to see things more clearly, because she didn’t have the emotional walls that adults tend to build around themselves, inhibiting their thoughts and feelings.
From the first meeting, the tension between the two MCs is palpable and I was excited to see how the hard-ass Devon was going to grow. I had hoped I would find a way to like Devon more. To see his development as a character on page. But while there was a little bit, his change of heart and personality seemed very quick. So even though he did ultimately undergo a revelation that life isn’t all about business, I still never really got to the point I loved him as a character. Liked? Yes. Loved? No.
And that really is the one issue I had with the story. The plot was a great idea, and I enjoyed the mystery aspect (there is a firebug burning restaurants around town), and our two protagonists going from enemies to lovers, but it was all a little too quick of a change for me. Maybe a little more on page with Devon as he learned how the restaurant operated and spent time with Rachel would have helped, because I understood the reasons why Devon had a change of heart and the circumstances that lead him there, but I didn’t feel I got to really see much of it happening.
This story is on the quicker side, and I did spot some minor editing issues that were barely a blip on my personal radar and didn’t take away from the story at all for me. However, I know for some people it is one of their pet peeves (which, those same people probably have trouble reading my reviews since I am well aware how far from perfect on the grammar front I am!)
Overall, though, a nice read and I would love to see how Lewis, Devon & Rachel are doing now!
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