Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review of Bread, Salt and Wine by Dev Bentham

Dev Bentham
Bread, Salt and Wine (Tarnished Souls #4)
Loose Id | June 11, 2013

Author’s website | Goodreads | Buy book here

Some wounds never heal. George Zajac grew up in a religious family with a father who beat “the swish” out of him. Now he's a troubled man. At thirty-eight he moves across the country to start a new life in Los Angeles, working as the catering chef for a prestigious French Restaurant.

Kenny Marks, a writer who's currently waiting tables, is everything George cannot be--flamboyant, proud and sexually confident. Enthralled by Kenny, and against his own better judgment, George agrees to a date. Sparks fly. The sex is better than good. But even after the two get close, George remains crippled by humiliating sexual hang-ups. Still haunted by his childhood, he lingers in the closet and can't commit to a relationship with Kenny.
Love is the great healer, but is it enough? George's emotional scars could drive Kenny away, and with him, George's last chance at happiness.

Genre & Keywords: Contemporary Romance, M/M, Friends With Benefits, In The Closet, Catering Chef, Waiter/Writer, Abusive Childhood, Jewish Holiday

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 2 out of 3 flames

Bread, Salt and Wine is a story about the courage to come out of the closet, the courage to seek help for childhood trauma's, the courage to be yourself and the courage to love. George needs a lot of that courage. This is more his story than it is Kenny's. It's not a coincidence that it's solely told from his point of view in first person, because it's kind of his belated coming of age story. Kenny is merely the catalyst for George to gather his courage to do the things he needs to do, for himself. George is a heartbreaking character.

I liked it a lot that George realized that he needed therapy and got help after he and Kenny broke up. He didn't seek help to save his 'friendship-with-benefits' with Kenny, but to save himself. Although Kenny's remark about George's kink being not a kink but a wound propelled him into taking the necessary steps. We don't get to see how George goes through his therapy, the story makes a time lapse there and we only learn about it in hind sight. This is not the only time lapse in the plot: the story covers a period of 8 years.

The pace of the plot is well dosed. Due to the use of the time lapses the developments in George's healing process get enough room to make them realistic. However, they caused me to feel like I missed some important occasions in George and Kenny's growing relationship as well. It wasn't very visible nor tangible how or why they fell in love, because it all felt a bit fragmented. Also, I had the feeling I didn't know Kenny very well. George's characterization is done much, much better than his.

This is the fourth book in the Tarnished Souls series but can be read as a stand alone. Only at the end I got the feeling I was missing out on something when all the couples from the three previous books made a cameo appearance. I think book #3 took place somewhere during the 8 years of George and Kenny's story. But it didn’t bother me very much that I had to guess about the other couples. Now I'm only more eager to read the previous books as well.

Apparently, the four books in this series are all centered around a Jewish holiday. In this last one it's Purim. As the author writes in her acknowledgment "Purim is a funny holiday (...) yet the Purim story deals directly with the potentially deadly consequences of bigotry." I thought the way this holiday played a role in the story was done very cleverly. Kenny organizes a Purim party twice in the plot, once before George's healing and once after. George's part in this Purim party on both occasions reflects his development as a person wonderfully. I enjoyed those scenes at the last party very much, especially with the knowledge of the meaning of the holiday combined with George's personal history. His transformation really felt completed.

This was the first book by this author that I've read, but it certainly tastes like more. I liked that it was not a conventional romance but more of a novel about personal growth with a romantic plot line and a happy ending. I also admired Bentham’s clean and compelling writing style. And last but not least, I enjoyed the emotional layers in this story not being overly dramatic but heartbreaking nonetheless. Overall, this was an engaging and entertaining novel written by an author whose voice I love and definitely like to see more off.

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