Asher Schenck and his husband John opened their downtown gastropub at the start of Detroit’s revival. Now, five years after John’s sudden death, Asher is determined to pull off a revival of his own. In a last ditch attempt to bring Idlewild back to life, he fires everyone and hires a new staff. Among them is Tyler Heyward, a recent college graduate in need of funds to pay for medical school. Tyler is a cheery balm for Asher’s soul, and their relationship quickly shifts from business to friendship. When they fall for each other, it is not the differences of race or class that challenge their love, but the ghosts and expectations of their respective pasts. Will they remain stuck or move toward a life neither of them has allowed himself to dream about?
Publisher: Interlude Press
Heat Level: 4
Romantic Content: 5
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay, Genderqueer
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 26-35
Tropes: Age Difference, Class Differences, Friends to Lovers, Interracial Relationship, Slow Burning Love
Word Count: 72500
Setting: Detroit, Michigan
Languages Available: English
It’s not that Tyler, asleep in his bed, appears young, precisely. But there’s an innocence in the way Tyler’s legs curl toward his body. His hands are tucked under the pillow, and in stillness, there’s something almost other about him. Tyler’s charisma comes from his body and words, and from his bright and changeable eyes. His face, lost for its animation, displays his natural beauty differently than when he is awake.
Asher lets him sleep for a while longer, though. Wrapped in a blanket, he sits with a mug of tea on the couch and lets the lovely buzz of satisfaction linger. Down in Asher’s bones is the relief of finally connecting with another human body, of giving touch where he’s ached
to for a long time. His body had starved for it, but he’s been so busy. That he’s had the privilege of doing so with Tyler, this bright, beautiful flame of a boy he’s been lucky to have in his life, is an honor.
He has no idea what happens from here.
Tyler's spent weeks caught in a back-and-forth with Malik. He’s worked harder than anyone might expect, given Malik’s obvious fears and inability to commit. He wonders if it is too much to let Tyler sleep here. But it’s late, and he certainly doesn’t want him to leave.
Asher is tired: the good kind of tired, but still tired. He gets into bed carefully, hoping not to startle Tyler awake. He pulls the covers up when Tyler’s eyes open, hazy and hardly cognizant. He smiles and slides over, tucking his head onto Asher’s shoulder and tangling their legs. He’s asleep almost immediately, and then so is Asher.
* * *
Morning comes with the buzz of his phone. It’s too early for sunlight; it’s that part of winter when sunlight becomes a rare commodity. Asher’s always been lucky because he’s never felt low when the days are short and the darkness presses.
He grabs the phone and swipes at the screen. He’s got shipments coming this morning, but he has a little time. Usually he’d use this time to tidy the restaurant or to try to keep up with the office system Tyler set up.
But Tyler’s sleeping body is still a warm presence in his bed; they’d shuffled apart in sleep, but under the covers is the delicious warmth of another body. Asher is still unsure of what happens when the day does truly break, and they have to have a conversation about what this means.
Right now though, there is a beautiful boy in his bed whose eyes melt, liquid and stunned, under his attention, who is reticent to let go but breathtaking when he gives in to his body’s desire to take and take.
He turns on the bedside lamp and rolls over and puts one hand on Tyler’s naked hip, then kisses the back of his neck. Tyler wakes with a sigh, then a long, arched stretch. He rolls onto his back and smiles at him.
“Good morning,” Tyler whispers. Asher’s eyes linger on his lips, but when he meets his eyes, he hopes that look communicates what he wants well enough. The loft is hushed in a fragile spell. He wants to lean into that silence with Tyler, to take as much of this night as possible. He mouths the words back. Tyler’s hand strokes down his waist, then carefully, down over the curve of his ass. In his eyes are questions that Asher can answer by rolling on top of him and kissing him.
Kirkus Best Books of 2016
A widowed restaurateur falls for a young waiter in a Detroit-set romance with heart, sweat, and tears.
When his husband, John, died five years ago, Asher let both their restaurant and his personal connections drift. Hoping to breathe life into the dying Idlewild, Asher replaces his entire staff. One of his new hires is Tyler, a recent pre-med grad taking a break from his march to an M.D. Tyler’s intense, youthful exuberance and optimism shake Asher from his distant reserve. But Tyler is in a long-term relationship with Malik. While Asher has moved on in some ways from John’s death, he's in deep denial about his emotional readiness for a new love. Sierra (What It Takes, 2016, etc.) has created a very natural and psychologically astute portrayal of a romantic relationship, by turns funny, delightful, and painful. A poet, Sierra often surprises with a lovely turn of phrase: to describe Tyler’s mixed racial and gender identity: “Tyler knows of the middleness of his body”; on the toll of restaurant life: “Morning is tight in his bones, and he hurts with exhaustion.” Less successfully, Sierra uses the tension between “the two Detroits,” personified in Asher’s wealthy suburban upbringing and Tyler’s East Detroit background, to build conflict; in those passages, the writing can seem didactic. A leisurely read that allows its characters to unfurl in layers, revealing how love of another reflects our true selves back to us in sometimes surprising and challenging ways.
A lovely, finely wrought romance that reminds us that to truly love another, we must know our own hearts.