by Layla Reyne
Series: Table for Two #2
Also in this series: The Last Drop
Publisher: Layla Reyne
Publication Date: January 24, 2023
Source: Valentine PR
I received this book for free from Valentine PR in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Giving orders in the kitchen is chef Noah Becker’s specialty. He’s made a name for himself dishing up seasonal, farm-to-table comfort food at the local diner. A name that isn’t really his.
The last person Ezra Rosin expects to find while he’s on sabbatical in a small town is his son’s best friend. The one he helped disappear thirteen years ago. The one who’s grown into a hauntingly beautiful man.
Noah and Ezra grow closer, reconnecting over their shared love of food and wine until their friendship smolders into more. They agree to explore the unexpected dynamic, to enjoy each other while Ezra finishes the semester, but when past and present collide, Noah and Ezra must decide if their chemistry across the table and between the sheets is enough to cook up a delicious future together.
Blue Plate Special is a stand-alone M/M foodie romance novella in the Table for Two universe. It features an age-gap romance between mature characters, family finding their way back to each other, and lots of noshing.
I don’t usually read age gap romances, but since I’m a fan of the author and the previous novella in the series, I figured I’d try this out anyway. I’m glad I did because it’s got the same foodie vibes and a heartbreaking backstory with a happy ending.
Noah ran away from his abusive father with the help of his best friend and his dad, Ezra. Though they were high-placed and well-off, Noah was afraid that his father would retaliate against them, so he cut all ties. The last thing he expects is for Ezra to walk into the diner he works at in a small college town in North Carolina. Retired and divorced, Ezra has just bought a winery/restaurant in Sonoma and he’s taking a semester teaching at the college before jumping back into another workaholic career. He instantly recognizes Noah, but it turns out the man is far different from the teen Ezra remembers. With attraction – and the specter of their past – simmering between them, can they trust each other enough to give their semester fling a chance?
Noah’s been on the run since he left his best friend, never staying in one place for too long so that his father can’t find him. He’s worked his way up to being the main cook for a diner near the college campus. While his coworkers are wonderful, he’s already feeling that itch to move on when Ezra pops back into his life. Sure, finding out that his childhood best friend is happily married and doing well is a relief. But Noah’s still terrified that anyone in his vicinity could be targeted by his father and it takes a little convincing before he’s willing to consider a friendship with Ezra. But while catching up, they both realize they’re attracted to each other. Noah’s bulked up from the scrawny teenager he was more than a decade ago, and Ezra is even more of a ginger fox. What harm could there be in a no-strings-attached fling for the rest of the semester?
Both men have several hurdles to overcome. For Noah, it’s how he’s let his past – his fear – drive all of his decisions. So while he can’t resist a relationship with Ezra, he wants to keep it secret, even from Ezra’s son and ex-wife. For Ezra, his hurdles have already scuppered his marriage, though he still remains good friends with his ex-wife. He’s more mindful of putting his relationship with Noah ahead of his work, of not neglecting everything else (including himself) in favor of it. There is a 25 year gap between the two, though they are both mature adults (35 and 58) in the book. Noah frequently read as much older anyway, so it wasn’t such a big deal to me. There’s a bit of mild kink, including discussions of boundaries that are respected on page. Overall there’s just a general comfort to this book, especially watching Ezra getting folded into the family that Noah has built.
There’s a lot to love about this book. Of course, there’s the food. Ezra’s never had any food work experience, but he still knows how to cook and appreciate a good meal. Noah may deny he’s a chef since he’s had no formal training, but his food is excellent and inventive and had my mouth watering. I also loved Noah’s work at the local youth shelter, his bone-deep understanding that providing good food is just as important as any other intervention for LGBTQ+ kids who may not have that same support at home. There’s also afew Whiskeyverse connections, from mentions of the triad from What We May Be and references to the restaurant from the previous novella.
Overall, a welcome change of pace for me! Lots of delicious food, found family, and a general comforting vibe!
Content notes: View Spoiler »Child abuse (emotional and physical, in the past, but injuries are described), cardiac issues (in the past), housing insecurity, food insecurity, discussion of homophobia « Hide Spoiler