Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: September 16, 2019
Received From: A Novel Take PR
Life never tasted so good.
Miller Sykes’s meteoric rise to award-winning chef is the stuff of culinary dreams, but it’s all crashing down around him. He’s been given a diagnosis that could cost him something even more precious than his life: his sense of taste. Rather than risk the very thing that defines him, Miller embarks on a last tour of his favorite meals while he still can.
But there’s a catch: he needs a financial backer to make it happen, and he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s sick.
Dr. Clancy Rhodes has two weeks to come to terms with putting aside oncology to work at his father’s thriving plastic surgery practice. When the opportunity to travel with a Michelin-starred chef presents itself, the foodie in him can’t believe it. It doesn’t hurt that Miller’s rugged good looks are exactly Clancy’s cup of joe.
As Clancy and Miller travel from coast to coast and indulge in everything from dive bars to the most decadent of culinary experiences, they’re suddenly sharing a lot more than delicious meals. Sparks fly as they bond over their love of flavors and the pressures of great expectations. But when Miller’s health takes a turn for the worse, Clancy must convince him he’s more—so much more—than just his taste buds. And that together, they can win a battle that once seemed hopeless.
SEXUALITY: bisexual, homosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, homoromantic
TROPES: last meal, foodie romance, age gap, there’s only one bed
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters
WARNINGS: medical diagnosis, cancer, pregnancy, vomiting, child abuse, ableism, slurs, gendered slurs, alcohol, hospitalization
Logic was hard, s’mores were easy.
This book. Oh, this book.
Going into this book, you know it’s going to be a roller coaster of emotion. And many of them sad and upsetting, because how could it not be when one of the main characters is struggling so hard with the end of his life being so near?
But what I didn’t expect was the pure joy to be found within these pages.
This story is undoubtedly a sad one, and at times, it’s extremely difficult to travel alongside Miller as he suffers, not only from the cancer itself, but from the very fact that he’s going to be leaving behind so many people he loves very deeply, and some he’ll never get to meet (his best friend is pregnant). Despite this, though, Reyne manages to pack in so much happiness and joy and life. As Miller and Clancy travel together and get to know each other, they’re able to open each other’s eyes, and even those of the reader, to little pieces of unexpected happiness.
In some ways, that makes the great majority of the novel that much more heartbreaking. Because they fall for each other so quickly, and show each other what kind of amazing lives they could have–together and separately–but neither they nor the reader are entirely sure they’ll get there. Now, of course, this is a romance novel, so it has to have a HFN (Happy For Now) ending at the very least, but Reyne also manages to leave the reader essentially on the edge of their seat. You don’t want to believe she could pull a bait and switch (and in fact, she doesn’t), but there’s a certain kind of intensity that’s created when one is put in this kind of situation, and Reyne handles it masterfully.
And, as author Adriana Herrera described it when she and I spoke about the novel recently, it’s for sure a foodie dreamscape! All the descriptions of food and drinks within the pages are so lush and enticing! They leave the reader wishing they were able to be on the food tour with Miller and Clancy, that’s how vivid and well-written they are. And, in their vivacity, it becomes clear that Reyne shares the passionate love of food she has imbued into both of her main characters, which makes the read all the more enjoyable and tempting.
Finally, my absolute favorite aspect of the novel: the beautiful variety of relationships! Miller and his ex-wife, Sloan, are best friends, and their relationship is complex, but one that is full of love and undying devotion. When they were old enough, Miller married Sloan to help her escape her abusive household, and overtime, moved her as far away as he could from them. Over the course of their 20 years friendship, they formed a bond that is unbreakable, and oftentimes, confusing for people who don’t understand their relationship, especially when you consider their continued closeness despite that she’s marrying another man. The beauty of this relationship, to me, was how intensely loyal the two are to each other, how they would do literally anything for each other, and their refusal to accept partners who wouldn’t accept and understand that Miller and Sloan are one of the most important people in the other’s life. It rings familiar as a queerplatonic relationship, which is something that is particularly special for me to see in fiction as it’s so rare, but something many of us experience. And it was made all the more wonderful by the fact that Clancy didn’t, for a second, question or take issue with the relationship. Instead, he accepted it at face value. He has the benefit of witnessing, from the outside, the same kind of triad between his father, mother, and stepfather, which perhaps makes it easier for him to slip into that third role without feeling like a third wheel, and I think Reyne did a lovely job of illustrating these relationships from all sides.
This novel is worlds different from Layla Reyne’s normal fare, though it shares many of the same aspects as her romantic suspense stories, such as the sense of humor and sarcasm, the deep personal relationships, the emotional impact, and more. But even as it’s different, it’s still uniquely Reyne and a story that is incredibly easy to fall into and devour. If we’re ever blessed enough to get more stories like this from Reyne, I won’t hesitate to grab them up!
Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs.