Author: Jude Sierra
Publisher: Interlude Press
Length: 250 Pages
At a Glance: Sierra’s prose is so lovely and rich. She has such a pretty way of getting the story told.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: Asher Schenck and his husband John opened their downtown gastropub at the start of Detroit’s revival. Now, five years after John’s sudden death, Asher is determined to pull off a revival of his own. In a last ditch attempt to bring Idlewild back to life, he fires everyone and hires a new staff. Among them is Tyler Heyward, a recent college graduate in need of funds to pay for medical school. Tyler is a cheery balm for Asher’s soul, and their relationship quickly shifts from business to friendship. When they fall for each other, it is not the differences of race or class that challenge their love, but the ghosts and expectations of their respective pasts. Will they remain stuck or move toward a life neither of them has allowed himself to dream about?
Review: I’ve been looking forward to this novel for months; I was immediately on board when I saw the cover and read the blurb. I’ve realized I have a ‘thing’ for books set in restaurants, or with chefs as main characters. I mean, I knew I liked food! Ha! But, who knew I had a such a fascination with the restaurant biz? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed almost every food-focused or restaurant-setting book I’ve read, and Idlewild was no exception. In fact, this book was so much more than I even expected it to be.
One of the first things that struck me after finishing the book, and as I began to think about my review, was how strong the focus was on just the MCs. There are secondary characters of course, but the bulk of the book is just Asher and Tyler. The fact that they could basically carry the story on their own says something about the strength of the character development. Jude Sierra does such a great job of engaging and gaining commitment from her readers. This book is definitely a slow burn. But, it’s such a lovely, satisfying slow burn.
At the opening of the story, Asher is making a big push to save his restaurant, which has been flagging since the death of his husband. The restaurant, Idlewild, was a long-time dream of John’s, which eventually became Asher’s dream as well. They opened it in the downtown district of Detroit because they both wanted to be a part of the city’s revival. I loved, loved everything in the book having to do with Detroit’s history and the ongoing struggle of ALL the citizens to revive the city, and make people see that effort. And, I loved this:
“Asher finds Detroit so lovely. That loveliness is proof that he’s not alone in his desire to resurrect this city from the ashes of its history.”
‘Resurrect this city from the ashes of its history.’ Such an amazing line. I have to admit I have a renewed appreciation for the Motor City. Reading this book was very eye-opening.
As part of his new plan for the restaurant, Asher does a complete turnover of the staff, and one of his new hires is the charming and vivacious Tyler Heyward. Tyler is sort of an enigma to Asher. He thoroughly enjoys his company—not to mention the strong attraction he feels—but Tyler is somewhat of a chameleon. He seems to have many faces, and Asher isn’t sure if he ever really sees Tyler’s true self.
“At home he was lighthearted and silly and loveable. He didn’t demand attention. With his friends at Affirmations, the LGBT community center, he was femme and funny, the laugh of the party and everyone’s pet. At school he was quiet: the achiever; tones spoken a little lower, clothes a little baggier and the line of his shoulders held differently.”
For some reason, Tyler feels that in order to keep people in his life, rather than be himself, he needs to be whatever they are looking for. Whatever they need. He has done this for so long that now, at twenty-three years old, he’s at the point where even he isn’t sure who he really is or what he really wants. He does know that he loves the restaurant, though. At Idlewild he has found a place where he is needed and valued, and it’s something he feels very strongly about being a part of. He feels ‘right’ there.
I loved that the connection Asher and Tyler start to forge is initially about the restaurant, and how, without even realizing it at first, they begin to rebuild it together. This is monumental for both of them, but obviously even more so for Asher, who has always had John in his mind when it came to Idlewild. Asher isn’t the only one with past relationship baggage, however. Tyler has a boyfriend in the beginning of the book, but for various reasons, within a few months of Tyler working at the restaurant, they break up. Even though the break-up is fresh, Tyler realizes that things haven’t been working with Malik for a long time. If they had been, he wouldn’t have so quickly found room in his heart for Asher.
I loved these guys together. I loved the development of the relationship, and how much they learned from each other and enriched each other’s lives. They were also incredibly sexy. Asher was so confident and sexy in the bedroom, and Tyler was so vulnerable and eager to benefit from Asher’s experience. Things started to fall apart for a small stretch in the last twenty percent of the book—at least, Tyler’s character felt like it did—but the author completely turned it back around for the last ten percent. The end was fabulous; I loooved where Tyler and Asher ended up.
Sierra’s prose is so lovely and rich. She has such a pretty way of getting the story told. If you guys are like I was, and haven’t read anything by Jude Sierra yet, Idlewild is a wonderful place to start. I think you’ll be glad you picked it up.
You can buy Idlewild here: