I can’t believe that I haven’t already posted this… and if I have? So what? It’s such a classic, it deserves to be seen again… and is a definite re-read!
By Annabella Michaels
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Giovanni Romero had been dealt his fair share of heartbreak throughout his thirty years, including losing his beloved parents in a horrible car accident. After suffering yet another devastating loss, he decided to chase his dream of opening his own restaurant and was soon the proud owner of Romero’s, a hugely successful and critically acclaimed Italian restaurant, nestled in the heart of Chicago.
Knowing that one more blow to his heart could destroy him, Giovanni had built walls up around his heart to protect himself. He has created strict rules for himself about the men he sleeps with, which include never exchanging names and absolutely no repeat performances. That is until he meets a young man who he finds impossible to forget.
After spending the last few years travelling throughout Europe and The Mediterranean, working as an apprentice to some of the world’s top chefs, 23-year-old Caleb Greene was finally moving back home. While he had enjoyed his studies, he couldn’t wait to reunite with his big, crazy, loving family; especially his twin brother, Carter. Most importantly, he hoped to finally begin his career working as the head chef for Chicago’s most prestigious Italian restaurant, Romero’s.
After a night of celebration with Carter, Caleb finds himself in a rare position, going home with a tall, dark and sexy stranger. Caleb had never had a one night stand before, but there was something about the man that drew him in. Unfortunately, the man insisted they could only be together for one night.
Unable to get the intriguing young man off his mind, but resolved to let him go, Giovanni is shocked to find that Caleb has been hired as his new head chef. Working in such close proximity to each other, could he keep his carefully erect walls in place and protect his heart or would Caleb have the strength to tear those walls down, setting Giovanni free?
Oh my goodness, I loved this book. Frankly, I would award it more than five stars. I didn’t want it to end and can hardly wait for the sequels to be released.
There is one word to describe this book: real.
These two had genuine, real, heartfelt conversations, and their sex scenes were intense, just like their love.
The book was very well written. The story was relatable and, I thought, realistic (yes, this sort of thing could happen).
Unlike several other reviewers, I did like the author’s descriptive style of writing – for me, it helped to further develop the characters, make them and their situation(s) more relatable, and it added more depth and substance to the storyline. It gave the book warm, cozy and cuddly almost-like-you’re-there feeling. There are some elements to the storyline that separate it from similar stories in this genre, namely (spoiler alert) the twin dynamic, divorce between a bisexual man and his college sweetheart (female) that led to relationship insecurities, more well-defined emotional turmoil from a break-up other than “woe is me”, the fire that ruined a physical business structure yet fed into fueling a future relationship (and hopefully, fingers crossed, sequel) and further solidifying and defining an existing one, and real, meaty conversation. I also was surprised that it was Caleb who proposed to Giovanni and not the other way around.
Kudos to author Annabella Michaels for writing such an intensely enjoyable and satisfying story featuring authentic and relatable characters, delivering the story in a well-written manner, and setting the stage for anxiously anticipated future additions to the series. I know I’m looking forward to Carter’s story, as well as Micah’s.
The “huh” part?
It’s not so much a “huh?” as it was a surprise, and that was that Caleb was the one who proposed instead of Giovanni.
I’m not sure. I liked the entire book, but probably when Giovanni blasted Juliana and had his final “good-bye”. It offered closure for Giovanni, but it also was a victory for Caleb – even though he wasn’t there to hear it, the reader was and had a chance to enjoy it.
Yes, this is beyond a 5-star read in my opinion.
He gazed down at me with a look of complete adoration and trust and I knew in that moment that this man owned me, body and soul. Somehow he had broken through all of my defenses and found me. I loved him completely and it scared the shit out of me.
I leveled my gaze on her, seeing things clearly for the first time since she walked out of my life. “I would have given you everything, Juliana. Your happiness meant more to me than my own, that’s why I walked away from my dreams and pursued a career in law instead. It’s why I bought you a fancy house and let you decorate it any way you wanted, regardless of my personal tastes. Even after all of that, I wasn’t what you wanted. I have spent the last three years torturing myself, trying to figure out what I had done to drive you away. But now, I realize that this was never about me, it was always about you. Yes, you had a terrible childhood, but you know what, Juliana? Get over it! A lot of people have rough childhoods. You should see what some of the kids at the center I volunteer at have gone through, but they don’t use it as an excuse to destroy other people. You are an incredibly selfish woman and you almost destroyed me. I built walls around me to protect myself from ever being hurt again, the way you hurt me. Because of those walls, I pushed away the one person who means the most to me. I lashed out at him because of the hurtful things you had said to me, but I’m not giving you that kind of power any more. You no longer hold any power over me because I don’t give two fucks about you anymore.” I walked towards the door and opened it. I turned back to see her stricken face. “I’m glad I finally got to see you again, because in doing so, you’ve set me free. Goodbye, Juliana.” Without waiting for a response, I shut the door behind me. A feeling of complete calmness and peace washed over me and a wide smile spread over my face.
Before I made it out of the kitchen, Marco rushed over and whispered in my ear, “Boss, you’ve gotta fix this, I think you broke him.” Instead of answering, I simply nodded my head once and led Caleb to my office….
“Then Juliana showed up and once again, I was left feeling like she had ended our marriage because of some flaw in me. Maybe I hadn’t been a good enough husband to her, maybe I hadn’t loved her well enough, maybe I just wasn’t good enough. I took all those feelings of worthlessness and I projected them onto you and for that I am so, so sorry. I never should have said the things I said to you because it was a lie.”
Tears rolled down both of our faces, but his eyes were filled with hope. “Caleb, you are the best man I have ever met and I am completely, ridiculously, head over heels in love with you.” A sob broke from his chest as he began to cry harder. “I want a relationship with you, I want to take a chance with you because, Caleb, you are worth it, you are worth everything to me, sweetheart.”
“I haven’t been with anyone else since the night I met you, Caleb. I haven’t wanted to be.” He sighed in relief. I cradled his face in both of my hands and rested my forehead on his. “Please, tell me I’m not too late, Caleb.”
“You’re not too late, I’ve waited my whole life for you.” I felt the smile on his lips as I slanted my mouth over his. We kissed until we had to come up for air. “Make love to me, Gio.”
I kissed him again, letting my tongue sweep in and explore his sweet mouth. “Thank you for giving me another chance because I really don’t know how I would have gone on without you.”
“You’ll never have to find out, baby. I’m exactly where I want to be.”
How could I have ever thought of letting this man go? I needed him like I needed my next breath.
Caleb looked down shyly until I lifted his chin with my fingers so I could look in his eyes. “It’s just that the last time you left a mark on my neck, was right before…” He looked at me apologetically. “And it hurt every time I looked at it because it reminded me of you, then it started to fade and that broke my heart.”
I looked at him seriously, my words sincere. “I promise you that this time is different. This time, when I mark you, it’s to show the world that you are mine. This time when it starts to fade, I’ll be here to mark you all over again because you will always be mine. I’m never letting you go again.”
We both groaned at the contact. “Do you think this insatiable need to have each other will fade over time?”
“Not a chance,” he growled. I sighed as his tongue swept into my mouth. He tasted like oranges, strawberry jelly, and Giovanni: three of my favorite flavors.
Review originally posted on Amazon and Goodreads on July 23, 2016.