Friday, October 26, 2018

The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster

It can take losing everything to realize what you had all along.

Up-and-coming London chef Marcus Vine is poised on the edge of success, but the only men courting him are investors. That leaves Marcus with some free time—which is fortunate, because his godchildren need him.

A year ago, a horrible accident killed Marcus’s best friend, Raine, leaving her children without a mother and her husband, Tom, without a partner. Consumed by grief, Tom has been going it alone, refusing help, but when Marcus sees him out with the children, it’s obvious that Tom and his two daughters need someone. His persistent caring finally wears Tom down, allowing him to accept the comfort Marcus offers. Soon Marcus is up to his elbows in homework, home-cooked meals, and after-school activities. Over time he helps them rebuild their world, until soon their lives are approaching normal.

Then the unexpected happens: Tom confesses he has romantic feelings for Marcus, and nothing can ever be the same.

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Dreamspinner  Press

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This was a strong four-star read until the very end... the last word tipped it right up to a five-star just like that!

I am a huge fan of chef/restaurant romances, and I really liked how this one managed to combine the very talented, celebrity chef that is Marcus to the outside world, with the caring, friendly, best friend that he is to Tom and his children.

We know from the beginning that Marcus found Tom attractive, but as they work together to restore family order just a year after Tom's wife Raine's death, feelings develop on both sides. Tom certainly doesn't know how to deal with his new reality, and we can only sit back and watch the good, which is very sexy, and the bad, with is very disappointing. Luckily the author has a few twists to tease us with, and as I mentioned before, the most perfectly timed last word in a book, ever.

Grab a tissue, a coffee, and a comfy chair, this book will engage, amuse, and move you – enjoy!

This is a sweet and angsty romance about a celebrity chef who falls for his best friend’s grieving husband. Marcus’ life might be glamourous but he’s also lonely and missing his friend. A year after his wife’s death, Tom is a mess. When Marcus steps in to help Tom and his daughters restore some order to their lives, he quickly becomes part of the family.

A gay-for-you story that is further complicated by Marcus’ lifelong friendship with Tom’s late wife, this isn’t always an easy read. Tom’s kids save the story from becoming too dark, but Marcus and Tom’s emotions are complicated and neither man has great communication skills.

I loved the complex characters in this book. The connection between Marcus and Tom is awkward and complicated. Tom hurts Marcus badly when he starts to question his sexuality. As Marcus starts to fall for Tom, he wrestles with his desires and his boundaries.

Brian Lancaster is a new author for me. I enjoyed the writing style and I loved Marcus and Tom. I’m not a fan of child centred romances and I’ll admit that this was way too domestic for me. But it works. It’s a thoughtful story about difficult circumstances and honest emotions. It’s a relatively low heat read and while the children are cute, they make for a story that is sweet rather than sexy.

While I enjoyed the book, I’m not sure this is a great fit for the Dreamspun Desires books. This is a very domestic story about two men whose lives revolve around young children. This is a story grounded in realism. The author doesn’t really make use of any traditional romance tropes and family days out to waterparks and petting zoos aren’t really fantasy material. The themes of grief and loss also feel a bit too dark and a bit too realistic for classic romance.

Brian Lancaster once believed that writing gay romantic fiction would be easy and cathartic. He also believed in Santa Claus and the Jolly Green Giant. At least he still has fantasies about those two. Born in the rural South of England in a town with its own clock tower and cricket pitch, he moved to Hong Kong in 1998. Life went from calm and curious to fast and furious. On the upside, the people he has since met provide inspiration for a whole new cast of characters in his stories. He also has his long-term, long-suffering partner and two cats to keep him grounded.

After winning two short story competitions in 2006 and being published in a compendium, he decided to dive into writing full-length novels. Diving proved to be easy; the challenge has been in treading water and trying to remain afloat.

Cynical enough to be classed a curable romantic, he is not seeking an antidote. When not working or writing, he enjoys acting in community theater productions, composing music, hosting pub quizzes, and any socializing that involves Chardonnay. And for the record, he would like to remind all those self-righteous white wine drinkers that White Burgundy, Chablis, and Champagne are still essentially Chardonnays.

Connect with Brian

Facebook  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster to read and review.

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