Review by Penelope Adams
Member of the Paranormal Romance Review Team
Landing the Café Belgie as a client would be a big coup for Gold Restaurant Supply, so when Peter Christopoulos’ boss asks him to take the meeting, he agrees. Wouldn’t you know, the skies would open up when Peter gets there. For a man in wheelchair, rain is not your friend. All he can do is pray for a break in the weather. Luck is on Peter’s side, not only does the rain let up, but he is met part way to the door by a very helpful man holding an umbrella. He soon learns that Russell Baker will be the chef at a new Greek restaurant being opened by the owners of Café Belgie, and that is the restaurant they will need a bid for from Peter. Peter is immediately attracted to Russ, and learns he has a boyfriend. The rest of the meeting goes well and Peter leaves and sets to work on a bid.
Peter has had problems getting men to see past his wheelchair, so after Russ’ let down, he takes himself off to the local track where he often goes to let off steam by wheeling himself as fast as he can around it. As fate would have it, Russ and Peter run into each other there, they exchange a few pleasantries until Russ’ partner comes to pick him up. Peter notices that Russ’ partner seems angry with him. He feels like something is off with the relationship and puts it in the back of his mind. Russ’ relationship is more than just off, and soon he will find himself in need of a few good friends. Lucky for him, Peter just so happens to be available for friendship, or whatever else just might develop. Peter and Russ, both have much to overcome and will find that with the help of friends and one’s own self worth, that there is no battle to difficult to fight and win.
Author Andrew Grey has taken two sensitive themes, disability and abuse, and combined them into a touching story that is both sweet and tough at the same time. Peter and Russ are both damaged men, and are afraid to trust and let the other in too much, but they both also know that the other is a good person. The story is told alternatively between the two POV’s, so we get a good glimpse into what each is thinking and where they are in their lives.
Peter has been in a wheelchair for a number of years, and has learned how to live life around it, but still has moments of self pity, and feels that he will never find someone who can look past the chair. He is a good looking man, and as a track star on a path to the Olympics, he lived a golden life, so the loss of his legs crushed his soul. Most of the time he dealt with it well, but I felt that there were times he dwelled on the difficulty a bit much. Russ had been in his abusive relationship for four years, and like most victims of abuse, felt sure it was his fault and that his partner, Barry, really loved him. When his bosses noticed his bruises and pointed out that this is not love, he finally gets the courage to move out. Peter was easier to get a handle on than Russ. One moment he was strong, and the next he was passive, and I got a little confused as to which personality was really his. There is a great cast of supporting characters who make for some nice moments and there is even a little twist thrown in for good measure.
I applaud Mr. Grey for tackling both these subjects, one by itself would be an undertaking, but to take on both at the same time and still keep a good love story going was amazing. There were painful moments, in both Russ and Peter’s lives, that were handled well. There were also lots of tender moments, and lest we not forget that this is erotic romance, yes there were a number of steamy scenes between the two as well. When I realized this book dealt with abuse, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to read it, as the subject is normally a difficult one for me, but it was so well handled that while I was moved, I was never uncomfortable. My normal warnings apply, there are M/M sex scenes that can be a bit steamy but not too graphic, and there are abuse scenes that are not too explicit but might make some readers uncomfortable. I recommend anyone who likes a good love story with a message, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, grab a box of tissues and settle in.