Thanks for having me today Divine Magazine! Dinner for One is a novel about two men connecting and falling in love thanks to food.
It’s the first in a series of four, following four brothers in the Carlisle family as they grow up and pair off. This one starts with James, a food critic, and Bastien, a French chef. There’s some deception, a lot of baking and cooking, and a unique method of apologizing.
In many ways this wasn’t the easiest book to write, because I’m not someone who cooks things other than Mac and Cheese, and I’m an only child so writing sibling dynamics is… interesting. But there’s one thing I like doing, and that’s comfort baking. If I need a way to distract myself or I’m feeling eh, I’ll look up recipes on Pinterest and I’ll attempt (key word there) to replicate them. So in the exclusive excerpt below, I have a scene where Bastien is in need of some comfort and he turns to excessive baking for his family in order to find it. The idea for the pancakes stemmed from a breakfast restaurant located in Deleon Springs, FL, where they give you different batters and a bunch of toppings, and you make the pancakes yourself right at the table. They’re simple, but delicious and good comfort food.
Bastien isn’t used to bad reviews. His French restaurant is the toast of the town, and when a well-known critic insults it, he’s left off-kilter. Luckily for him he’s found a distraction. He’s just met an attractive writer at his niece’s school bake sale. He’s into food, into Bastien and the touch of kink they share, and there’s a chemistry between them that might make the perfect recipe.
James isn’t expecting to meet a good-looking French chef at a bake sale, but he’s not going to let the chance slide. It comes as a surprise when the chef turns out to be the owner of a place he knows—and has reviewed—and it puts James in a sticky situation. So he might have to omit some pertinent information to make it work… at least for now.
Review by Elaine White
Book – Dinner for One
Author – Meg Harding
Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 200
Cover – Very nice.
POV – 3rd person, present tense, dual POV
Would I read it again – Yes.
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Chef/Critic, Food Porn
WARNING: tame BDSM elements (paddle, c-ring and mild dominance), Food Porn – this story will make you hungry!
I loved this! It had food – Yum! – and a food critic (because I’m a meanie like that), so it had absolutely everything I could want from a chef/baking story. The fact that the chef and food critic get together, by accident, was genius. The attraction began before they knew who each other were and that’s the best part, because then the rest of the book was spent in nervous anticipation of when the bomb would drop and how.
I wasn’t disappointed on that front.
Nor was I disappointed with the characters. Often when books are a dual POV, I find myself hating one of the characters, but these two were equally perfect. Bastien was the big guy with a gooey center, while Jaime was a little pretentious, very opinionated but really sweet and romantic. Together, they were like chocolate and strawberries: perfect!
Even the side characters – Jaime’s extended family, as well as Bastien’s family and his staff at the restaurant – were intriguing and all vital to the progression of the plot. There wasn’t one person who was made more important than the other, but there also was anyone of them added pointlessly. They all had their place and that made it really easy to remember who everyone was and what they were like. I especially liked the twins, Laurence and Marcy, and Jean. They were all so much fun to read.
As for the plot, there wasn’t one thing I didn’t love about it. From the description of the baking/cooking, the detail of the small but important things and the fact that we actually got to watch the relationship between Bastien and Jaime grow meant that it was a solid 5 star for me. I didn’t miss out on any of the important parts of the relationship, nor did I feel like we were given any unnecessary scenes between them. Everything was just so well planned and executed.
I loved that the misunderstanding wasn’t blown out of proportion by either of them; that they both knew they’d need to talk, but that they also needed some time apart to think, as well. I loved the way Jaime thought to remind Bastien that eh was there, waiting and ready to talk when he was ready. It was all so natural and not at all overreactive like I’d feared. Just perfect for how level headed these two are.
Though this is a plain text ARC, with minimal formatting and probably pre-edits, I literally only found 2 problems (both involving a missing word). Now, for an unedited, unformatted ARC, that is almost unheard of and I can only applaud Meg Harding and the team at Dreamspinner for achieving this.
What are my downsides? Well, there are no translations for the French and I didn’t want to ruin the flow of reading (because I couldn’t put it down) to stop and check Google Translate for what they meant. I’ll do that now, though it won’t help my understanding of the scenes as I was reading them. Also, there needed to be something more visual to divide the POV’s, maybe a dash or the usual three stars you get in most stories. It got a little confusing, at first, when the “gap” of one blank line separating POV’s blended far too well into the copy-blank-space of my Kindle app, so that I couldn’t see it. A few times I had to flick back a page and forward again, to check that I was actually reading a new POV, just because the gap went unnoticed.
Overall, I really loved the detail and attention that the author gave this story. It deserved it and I’m so glad to see that it was given that chance. From the cooking to the drama, to Jaime’s gifts, there wasn’t one thing I didn’t love about the story.
While I would happily read more about these two – or their family members – I also love that this is a solo novel, because I feel it ended just right. So, unless Jean or the twins get a story, I’m happy with the lovely, very well handled ending of this story.
“I totally get why you were flirting with the redhead behind the table. I think you should marry him so we can eat these all the time.”
““Is what right?”
“Adult couples don’t have sex all the time. They need to know how to do other things with each other.” Fleur sounds like she’s reading off something she found in an article.
Chandler sends Bastien a pitying look, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “It’s true,” he says, not sounding like he means it at all. “It’s heartbreaking when you find that out. Like seeing a pile of Christmas presents and realizing they’re all for someone else.””
“He hears the door open, even with the pillow pressed around his head. His body tenses. Either he forgot to lock the door after Georgina the morning before and someone’s coming in to rob him (unlikely sine they rang the doorbell) or one of his siblings has come by. He’s half hoping for the robber.”
Cooking has always calmed him, and who deserves a fancy breakfast more than his family after the night they’ve had?
The kitchen is well stocked, so he grabs all the necessary ingredients and searches out all of the implements he needs. He starts with making the crepes batter, in the mood for apple crepes with a salted butter caramel topping. He whisks that together in the blender, losing himself in the rhythm of measuring out the perfect amount of flour and sugar, making sure that when he cracks the egg, none of the shell ends up in the mix.
He moves that to the fridge to chill while he whips together several pancake and waffle mixes. It’s more food than they’ll eat, but they can always freeze it and eat it for meals later in the week. He’s got five different pancake mixes set aside—blueberry, apple, cinnamon, strawberry, and peanut butter (a favorite of Avery’s)—by the time he needs to take the crepes batter out and start baking that.
He drizzles the batter into the pan and flips when he needs to, setting each one on a plate to the side when it’s done. While he’s waiting for each one to cook, he sets up the other burners so he can start on some of the pancake mixes, and he preps the Belgian waffle press. Cooking multiple things at once is even more soothing for him, distracts him further. His gaze is constantly flicking between his dishes, and he’s a blur of motion as he works to make sure his timing is perfect.
Two hours later and he has plates stacked high with the crepes, pancakes, and Belgian waffles waiting in the oven to keep warm. He pulls out more fruit once that’s all done and starts slicing everything, putting it in bowls so that it can be easily scooped out and used as a topping. He makes the topping for the crepes and leaves that in a bowl in the oven to keep warm. He’ll let everyone drizzle however much they want on them.
When he’s done with that and everyone is still sleeping—and he’s checked on Avery, still so asleep he can’t bring himself to wake her—he feels bereft. He isn’t ready to stop moving. He isn’t prepared to be alone with his thoughts just yet.
He cleans up the mess he’s made and starts to make another one. If he makes muffins, those can be eaten over a period of time. They’ll have food ready and waiting for later that day. Which gets him thinking: should he precook dinner? Maybe he could make something elaborate, use a slow cooker.
He hasn’t used that much. He reaches for his phone, thinking he’ll look up recipes on Pinterest, when he realizes it isn’t there, and he remembers why he doesn’t have it on him. His throat feels tight.
No slow cooker, then.
He’ll make a pie. That’ll be a nice dessert for after dinner.
He’s halfway through the crust when he hears shuffling footsteps, and he turns to find Avery standing in the doorway, bright eyes shadowed as she looks at him. He stops what he’s doing and crouches, arms wide—heedless of his messy hands—and holds her carefully when she steps into his grip.
“Smells like the bake sale,” she mumbles into his shoulder. “Did you make brownies?”
Meet Meg Harding
Meg Harding is a graduate of UCF and Anglia Ruskin University. For as long as she can remember, writing has always been her passion, but she had an inability to ever actually finish anything. She’s immensely happy that her inability has fled and looks forward to where her mind will take her next. She’s a sucker for happy endings, the beach, and superheroes. In her dream life she owns a wildlife conservation and is surrounded by puppies. She’s a film buff, voracious reader, and a massive geek.