Dinner At Home, Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Cooking, Contemporary, Family/Child,
Length: 206 Pages
Purchase At: Dreamspinner Press, amazon.com
The last book I read by Rick R. Reed (Penance) ripped my heart out. I was eager to read something a bit lighter. Dinner at Home did not disappoint. Don’t get me wrong, this book is not all rainbows and roses. I found myself a bit teary within the first few pages and that continued on and off throughout the book, but it’s a very enjoyable story. It’s also quite unique. Recipes are placed in front of a lot of the chapters and I have to say that I loved that. I was even highlighting a few of them to try out myself, though my oldest son threatened me if I made banana pudding different from my norm (it’s a birthday tradition at my house). However, the kitchen belongs to me, so I will definitely be trying out that particular recipe in the near future.
Ollie D’Angelo has the perfect life. He has the perfect boyfriend, the perfect job, and the perfect home. Happier than he’s ever been in his life, he is thrown for a loop when his boyfriend breaks up with him without warning and almost immediately after, he loses his so-called dream job. Lost, and completely unsure of what to do with his future, he rents the first apartment he can find and settles in to wait for inspiration to hit. Thankfully he has a good savings and his severance package was generous so he doesn’t have to make any immediate decisions in regards to his future. His parents are also comfortable financially and Ollie knows if he got into a bind, they would jump in and help any way they can.
Hank Mellinger’s life is as different as night and day from Ollie’s. He and his sister were raised by a young, single mother and they often had nothing. Forced to move a lot, they didn’t always have what they needed, much less any extras. At eighteen he took off across the country to Seattle in hopes of having a better life. Instead, what he found were drugs and addiction. Finally pulling himself out of it, he found himself at the Haven, where he could learn a trade (cooking) and have a place to stay until he’s ready to move on and start his life anew. Unfortunately, the family he hasn’t seen in a long time makes their way back to him and he is given responsibilities that he is not prepared for, either financially or emotionally. The most important responsibility is that of his four-year-old niece, Addison.
Ollie, after meeting (and hooking up with) the right person at the right time, finally figures out what he wants to do with his life. He has always loved to cook and is very good at it, so he gets an idea to start his own business, Dinner at Home. What he does is cook meals for families in their homes. Not interested in catering to large groups, he focuses on those who just want a home-cooked meal without the hassle of having to cook it themselves. The business, through word of mouth, takes off quicker than Ollie expects and he’s in the process of considering hiring someone to help him when he meets Hank.
Hank has ‘graduated’ from The Haven and is now solely responsible for his niece, Addison. Addison’s mother is not in the picture, nor is Hank’s own mother, so the little girl depends completely on Hank to feed her, clothe her and give her a roof over her head. Unfortunately, Hank is having a very difficult time with all three. Doing the right thing at his last job got him fired and now he and the little girl are hungry and staying in a rundown apartment not fit for a little girl (or anyone really). Desperate, Hank attempts something that he had never done before – stealing. Hank may have been a druggie and he may have sold himself for meth, but he was not a thief. Only in desperation does he do what he does – the one thing that ultimately saves his and Addison’s lives.
Hank attempts to steal from Ollie. Thinking an open car door late at night would give Hank something, anything, to sell in order to buy food, he takes a chance. When he’s caught by the big burly man (Ollie), he loses it and all the pain of the past few months comes crashing down on him. Thankfully, Ollie is kind and doesn’t call the police. When Ollie hears Hank’s story, he rushes in to help. This is when I fell in love with both Hank and Ollie. Addison, on the other hand, needed to be in time-out constantly in my opinion. The child had a mouth on her.
What begins with Ollie helping out Hank and his niece later turns into a nice working relationship and a friendship. Ollie is the type of person everyone hopes to be someday. He took a chance with Ollie and Addison (and Rose, another employee, later) and he did it out of kindness, not expecting anything in return.
Ollie and Hank are complete opposites. Ollie is thirty-three and Hank is twenty-two. I love books where the two main characters have a substantial age difference and this was perfect for me. Ollie came from a relatively comfortable life and is pretty settled. Hank has had a rough life and is totally unlike any man Ollie had been attracted to in the past. Somehow they work. It takes a little while into the book before their feelings for each other become known, but that slow build was perfect for these guys.
Then there are other characters, who are integral to the story. Addison, for one. I’m all about books with kids in them but I had an issue with this one. I didn’t dislike her or anything, but I did have a problem with what came out of her mouth often. This is coming from a mother whose children to this day (all grown) refuse to say so much as “damn” in front of me out of respect, so that might be why I wasn’t too keen on the four-year-old saying it often and little being done as far as consequences for it.
There’s Stacy, Hank’s sister and Addison’s mother. No matter what happened with her later, I couldn’t like her. Again, this is my own “mom” thing coming into play, so others may not be bothered by her. I did feel sympathy (after awhile) for Hank and Stacy’s mother, even if I didn’t like how she went about doing things early on.
Rose was introduced as another damaged character who Ollie took in not long after he initially helped Hank. I really liked Rose and my sympathy for the poor girl was huge. I was happy to see her find her own happiness later in the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed Dinner at Home. There are some things I wish could have been elaborated on a bit more, but never did I feel as if I was missing anything. The love story between Ollie and Hank was written beautifully. I can’t imagine it playing out any different from how it did. I’ve said this a million times but I’m going to say it again – Rick R. Reed writes about real issues in his stories. In Dinner at Home, those issues were Hank’s addictions, hunger, and despair over trying to do the right thing by his niece. While page after page were not devoted to each subject, they were covered adequately and with just enough emotion to show the reader the seriousness of them.
I’m a southern girl and where I live, food is comfort. If someone is ill, you feed them. If someone is sad, you feed them. If someone is happy, you feed them. There’s no such thing as too much food in the deep South. Food is the solution to everything, according to most in my area.
“We’re both about feeding people and showing love through what we put on the table. Feeding them is loving them and I don’t think there’s a better or more basic way of letting someone know you love them than by giving them something wonderful to eat and filling their bellies.”
I couldn’t agree more.
This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Well I officially love Ollie, he sounds really kind and I’m glad he helped people and found his happiness.
I have learned that about the south. I have had offers of red velvet cake and coffee form southeners and I think that is a great thing. So, I hear you on that.
Lovely review, Cindi!
Ollie is a wonderful character. You can’t help but really love him.
Yes, you know all about us southerners and how we offer you cake, coffee and pretty much anything else to eat or drink. If anything happens, we are always quick to bring food. Oh, and it must be made from scratch or we lose our southern cards.
Thanks so much, Cindi, for reading and reviewing my new book (it doesn’t even come out until tomorrow, so you’re way ahead of the curve). As always you write thoughtfully and well and I couldn’t be more pleased. I hope DINNER AT HOME lives up to its goal–that food and love are connected in deep and meaningful ways.
You’re very welcome.
It definitely does live up to its goal and I couldn’t agree more that love and food are connected in deep and meaningful ways. I joked in my review about the way us southerners are when it comes to food, but that’s really the way it is here.
It’s a very good book and I now have a lot of new recipes that I can’t wait to try out.
I think Southerners and Italians are much the same way when it comes to food. My mom’s side of the family is Sicilian and “eat” and “eat some more!” were common imperatives I had growing up.
I agree that we are the same when it comes to food. I have this total love for anything Italian (and I’m not just referring to the food) and that is kind of a running joke around my house and with Kazza. *grin*
I have written down the ingredients for the spaghetti sauce and meatballs in Dinner at Home. I think it would be the perfect Mother’s Day meal.
I enjoyed the review and loved hearing about your love of food and it’s healing/nurturing qualities. I know I’ve often used this bandaid, especially with family and friends. It sounds like a great read knowing that y’all recommend it so highly.
Ollie sounds amazing, and I love reading stories where characters overcome their adversities through determination and grit.
Look forward to checking it out.
Thanks, Judy. Food is totally comfort where I live. Like I say in my review, if someone is ill or has any problems, we believe wholeheartedly in feeding them. It’s our way of comforting them sometimes when words can’t. It’s a way of life for us.
Ollie is amazing. The whole book is. I highly recommend it. I am eager to hear your thoughts when you do read it.