Welcome to our second week of celebrations for the outstandingly talented
In today's post, we'll talk about dinner. Dinner At Home and Dinner at Fiorello's, two of Rick's contemporary romance novels that made his readers' mouths water with talk about scrumptious food, and the fabulous recipes inside the former. We have excerpts for both, and even one of the amazing recipes from Dinner At Home. And we'll take a look at Blink, a novel of second chances.
We'll also find out five little-known facts about Rick - can't wait for those! And of course, all the way down at the bottom of the post, we also have a giveaway!
Shall we get started?
First up, Dinner At Home:
It only takes a few days for Ollie D'Angelo to lose his boyfriend, his job, and his home. Instead of mourning what he doesn’t have, Ollie celebrates what he does: the freedom to pursue his real passion—cooking. He begins Dinner at Home, a home-catering business, and it takes off.
Late one night, Ollie catches Hank Mellinger, a streetwise hood down on his luck, about to rob his car. Ollie soon discovers that appearances aren’t necessarily what they seem. Hank isn’t a criminal caught red-handed, but a hungry young man trying to make a life for himself and the four-year-old niece he’s trying desperately to take care of.
Instead of calling the cops, Ollie offers Hank a job and a way to pull himself up by his bootstraps. Together, they discover they can really cook... and that their shared passion for food just might lead to a passion for each other.
"Go ahead, you do it."
Ollie looks up at his mother, her warm smile, her dark hair and green eyes as she stares down at the five-year-old, expectantly.
"Like this?" Ollie asks and he upends the jug of milk over a couple of slices of white bread his mother has placed in the sink.
"Rub it in. Get the bread all nice and wet," his mother says.
"Like it's getting a bath?" Ollie asks.
His mother laughs. "Like it's getting a bath."
Once the bread is thoroughly wet, Ollie picks it up and holds it, dripping, over a bowl of equal parts ground beef, veal, and pork.
"Now grind it all up," his mother says. And Ollie squeezes the bread, squeezing and twisting it until it drops in damp crumbs to the meat.
"Very good." His mom pats his head. "What comes next?"
"That's right." His mom hands him the first egg and Ollie awkwardly cracks it against the side of the glass bowl. Some of the white runs down the outside of the bowl. "That's okay," his mom says when he looks up at her, lower lip out and eyes wide. "You'll get it right with this one." And she hands him another egg.
He does, cracking the egg and opening it over the meat and bread mixture so the yolk breaks when it hits. He looks down at the mixture, then back to Mom. "What's next?"
"You know what's next."
"Lots of garlic." She has already chopped the cloves fine and she gestures for him to cup his hands. When he does so, she delivers the pungent smelling stuff into his palms and tells him to scatter it around.
They add dried basil, oregano, onion powder, and salt and pepper. "Now get your hands in there and mix it all up." She rubs his back as he combines everything, giggling at the wet mushiness of the mixture. She giggles too.
"Now the best part!" Ollie says. "Meatballs."
His mother pulls a chair from the kitchen table and sets little Ollie on it so he can work more easily. She rolls up her sleeves and says, "Let's get to work."
Ollie awakened from the dream with a smile. One of his favorite childhood memories was helping his Sicilian mother make her spaghetti sauce and meatballs every Sunday. He did it throughout his life. He could now make her simmer-all-day-thick, rich, and delicious sauce with his eyes closed. Even though he used all the same ingredients in all the same proportions, it never tasted quite the same. Good, but just not quite the same. There was no substitute for a mother's love.
Mom's Spaghetti Sauce and Meatballs
1 29-oz. can tomato puree
1 12-oz. can tomato paste
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon each oregano, basil, and onion powder
2 handfuls grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (half a cup?)
7 cups water or 1-2 cups red wine with the remainder water (I usually use wine)
Note: Most all of the above ingredients can just be eyeballed. Mix everything in a big pot, add meatballs and pork and simmer for at least four hours. Highly recommended: brown some pork (ribs, chops, whatever's cheap, a little less than a pound in the pan you're going to cook the sauce in. Just caramelize it. Once it's done, pull out, deglaze with a splash of red wine, and begin making your sauce.)
1 lb. ground beef (or beef and pork, or turkey)
1 slice bread
¼ cup milk
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, parsley, onion powder, basil, oregano (just eyeball all of this)
Take a slice of bread, wet with milk, crumble into meat, and add seasonings and egg. Mix with hands, form into balls, brown in hot fry pan on stove in a little olive oil, and drop into the sauce.
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Secondly, we have Dinner At Fiorello's:
Henry Appleby has an appetite for life. As a recent high school graduate and the son of a wealthy family in one of Chicago’s affluent North Shore suburbs, his life is laid out for him. Unfortunately, though, he’s being forced to follow in the footsteps of his successful attorney father instead of living his dream of being a chef. When an opportunity comes his way to work in a real kitchen the summer after graduation, at a little Italian joint called Fiorello’s, Henry jumps at the chance, putting his future in jeopardy.
Years ago, life was a plentiful buffet for Vito Carelli. But a tragic turn of events now keeps the young chef at Fiorello’s quiet and secretive, preferring to let his amazing Italian peasant cuisine do his talking. When the two cooks meet over an open flame, sparks fly. Both need a taste of something more—something real, something true—to separate the good from the bad and find the love—and the hope—that just might be their salvation.
Carmela came back just a few minutes later. Henry looked down, expecting to see a printed application form in her hand and maybe a pen, but there was nothing. His immediate thought was that whomever she talked to in the back had told her they weren’t looking anymore, or that Carmela had said he was completely wrong for the job.
“Got somebody already lined up?”
“What? Oh! For the job? No.” Carmela scratched her head. “Rosalie wants to talk to you.”
“Oh. Okay.” Henry’s nerves ratcheted up a notch. “Why?” He mentally kicked himself under the table for asking such a dumbass question.
“Oh, I don’t know. She thinks you’re hot. We got kind of a casting couch situation for new hires here.” She winked. “Rosalie digs all kinds—boys, girls, you name it.”
Henry shuddered. “Really?”
“No, of course not, you twit.” She reached out and grabbed Henry’s wrist, digging her fingernails into it hard enough to make him wince. He snatched his arm away, rubbing at the red marks she’d left. Carmela said, in a low voice, “Don’t you dare mention I said that. Not even joking!”
Henry stood up from the table, and Carmela moved back to let him pass. As he went by her, she said, “Just so you know, she wants to talk to you about the job.” Carmela said the words slowly, enunciating each word with exaggerated precision. Henry didn’t know whether he should love or hate this girl. Right about now, he was leaning toward the latter.
He headed into the kitchen and paused once he passed through the swinging doors. It was like stepping into another world. Where the light was muted and warm in the dining room, here the illumination was harsh from overhead fluorescents. In the dining room, there was the murmur of people talking and cutlery clinking on plates, all underscored by a muted backdrop of Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, and a bunch of others Henry was much too young to know the names of. Out there, dishes came out perfectly plated, garnished with fresh herbs and slices of lemon. But in the kitchen, it was organized chaos. A very tall, husky man Henry took to be the chef, clad all in black, stood at the stove, flipping ingredients expertly in two different sauté pans. He had a mop of curly black hair, and Henry was amazed at his dexterity and concentration. Down from him a bit, a short guy, probably only a little older than Henry himself, chopped vegetables and herbs at a cutting board. His hands were a blur with the chef’s knife, and Henry checked quickly to see if the guy had all his fingers.
The man at the stove turned for an instant, presumably to see who had entered his domain.
And Henry’s heart just about stopped. While Antonio in the front of the house was good-looking in a slick, player sort of way, the chef was—how could Henry put it? Rough-edged? His eyes, the color of whisky, were fierce and penetrated into Henry’s core with the simplest of glances. He had a heavy shadow of beard across his face and strong jawline, too heavy to be called five-o’clock shadow. Maybe nine o’clock or even ten. This brute probably needed to shave three times a day.
But he was gorgeous. There was something brooding, dark, and exotic about him. Henry wondered what the chef would look like clad in, oh, maybe just an apron. Shame on you! Get your mind out of the gutter!
Henry smiled weakly at him and he nodded, lifting his chin only once. If Henry hadn’t been staring so intently at him, he might have missed it. But he couldn’t take his eyes off the man. He suddenly understood what the term “awestruck” was all about. And that was maybe why he didn’t see the fifty-pound bag of yellow onions on the floor as he moved toward the chef, hoping to at least shake his hand. Henry tripped and went down hard on one knee. He grabbed for the counter as he fell and knocked off a ceramic mixing bowl, which shattered.
Henry stood, hands shaking, and then bent over to reach for the broken pieces of bowl at his feet.
“Leave it,” Carmela hissed.
Henry stood up straight again, wiping his hands on his pants. He knew his face must be cherry red because his cheeks were burning with a kind of four-alarm intensity. He looked to the chef, to give him a sheepish grin and, he hoped, get a little sympathy.
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And third in our line-up today, Blink:
Life can change in the blink of an eye. That's a truth Andy Slater learns as a young man in 1982, taking the Chicago 'L' to work every morning. Andy's life is laid out before him: a good job, marriage to his female college sweetheart, and the white picket fence existence he believes in. But when he sees Carlos Castillo for the first time, Carlos’s dark eyes and Latin appeal mesmerize him. Fate continues to throw them together until the two finally agree to meet up. At Andy’s apartment, the pent-up passion of both young men is ignited, but is snuffed out by an inopportune and poorly-timed phone call.
Flash forward to present day. Andy is alone, having married, divorced, and become the father of a gay son. He’s comfortable but alone and has never forgotten the powerful pull of Carlos’s gaze on the 'L' train. He vows to find him once more, hoping for a second chance. If life can change in the blink of an eye, what will the passage of thirty years do? To find out, Andy begins a search that might lead to heartache and disappointment or a love that will last forever….
The guy obviously has a thing for me. I’ve caught him staring now a couple of times and, hey, I’m flattered. He’s cute. No, maybe that’s not a strong enough word. He’s handsome, with green eyes and dark wavy hair that clues me into some sort of Mediterranean heritage. Italian maybe? Greek?
Whatever. Maybe the word I’m looking for is hot.
I can imagine kissing him and the feel of his dark, bushy moustache against mine.
I don’t ride the train to meet men. I don’t do much to meet men, period, to be perfectly honest. I ride the train in the mornings simply to get to St. Philomena elementary school on the west side, where I teach fourth grade.
I’m okay with being gay. I wasn’t always, hence my stint in the seminary where I studied to be a priest. I learned pretty quickly, by the grace of god, and the hands and mouth of a fellow seminarian, that the priesthood was not work I was cut out for. Not if I wanted to live my life honestly, anyway.
So I left. I had already gotten my teaching degree, concurrent with my seminarian studies, so the job at St. Phil’s, low-paying as it was, was a natural fit.
But I digress. I’m trying to sort out my feelings for this sweetheart on the train. I know he’s gay too. I know he’s attracted. But I also know that nothing will ever come of it.
Why? Because I can see that, when our eyes meet, he’s filled with shame and guilt. I recognize his remorse because I cloaked myself in that dark, heavy fabric myself for many years.
And maybe still do, a little, to this day. The Church teaches us that same-sex feelings are to be avoided. They are not of our natural order. We should turn our sights away from our own sex and devote them instead to loving and pleasing the Lord.
Yeah, good luck with that.
The Lord created that cute guy that gives me the eye on the train, the one I feel this probably misplaced connection with. What is it about him that makes me think of him all the time? Why do I hope he’ll be in my train car every time I step on to it in the morning, even though most times he’s not? Why do I try and quickly scan the windows of the train as it rumbles into the station for a glimpse of him?
Is it just because he’s cute?
There are cute men, hunks, whatever, all around. I occasionally venture out to the intersection of Grand Avenue and Clark to the New Flight bar for happy hour and bring one of them home. Or I head up farther north to the Loading Zone on Oak, where I can watch free porn in the back or dance up front. Somebody usually brings me home.
I never make any lasting connections. I don’t even know if want to. Shame lingers on me like the scent of cigarette smoke after leaving those places.
But there’s something about the guy on the train. He tugs at my heart as well as my loins. Even from the brief glances we exchange, he makes me think there’s the possibility of more than just sex. He makes me think, for the first time in my young life, that maybe I could love another man.
And that terrifies me.
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And now, five little-known facts about Rick:
- I’ve done manual labor and have worked in an industrial pottery and a steel mill.
- I have never been to San Francisco.
- I have suffered numerous head traumas and have had stitches several times (explains a lot).
- Judge Judy and The People’s Court are guilty pleasures.
- I am up most days at 4 a.m.
More about the author:
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.
He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, "a writer that doesn't disappoint."
Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever "at work on another novel."
Thanks for joining us again this week. In our third week's post, we'll take a look at some of the contemporary suspense and horror novels Rick has written, and Rick will share a personal story.
Until then, happy reading!!