No one ever said big dreams come easy
For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.
Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food or of Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.
An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.
I went through the WHOLE range of emotions with American Dreamer, going from from liking the book, to being bored and putting it on hold, to loving it in the end. I'm going to go into it in this review, so stay put for the long haul!
I was hesitant about reading this book at first for a few reasons. For one, I'm sort of acquaintance-y with the author, and I've had people get REALLY mad at me in the past for not liking their books. Over the years, people I considered "friends" have stopped talking to me after I gave their book a low rating, or worse, trash-talked me online, and it has made me really disconnect from authors in a personal way over the years.
Also, despite loving all genres of food in a deep and passionate way, I have a terrible track record with chef romances. It sounds silly, but I don't think I've ever given a romance book with a chef MC above 3-stars, which I know is a weird thing to have as a trend. I think I get focused on the food and analyzing it and I don't get as much of a romance from the story.
For those reasons, I turned down the ARC of this book when it came up to review, and I decided to purchase the book myself and read it when the hype for the story has died down. However, I truly believe we need to read and support authors of color who write characters of color (I'm 10000% over the white jock dude-bro falling for a I've never done this white jock dude-bro at this point in my reading career), so I bumped this up on my list.
I started off the book enjoying it, but being slightly underwhelmed. Just as I had feared, a LOT of chef-y food talk that made me hungry (damn, that food all sounds insanely delicious) but I got fixated on the food parts and the rest of the story felt like it took a backseat. Plus, the story was very quick on the couple getting together, at least in a physical way, and I typically prefer a very slow burn (excruciatingly slow!) and delayed gratification. However, the Latinx characters really popped and spoke to me, and I loved how the author used Spanish and didn't translate each sentence afterwards (that always annoys me). Truthfully, I speak passable Spanish, so I was able to read those parts as well, but it always feels more real when the character doesn't speak and then say the same thing again in English.
The middle of the story was hard for me. As anyone who has read M/M romance over a long period of time will know, there is the dreaded trope of the "evil woman" who used to make regular appearances in M/M romances to try to sabotage the happiness of the MCs. I'm totally over that plot device, and though I don't doubt that there are racist, horrible women who would do exactly what the woman in this book did, it felt like it was detracting from couple themselves. I was worried that the plot would revolve around that woman for the whole rest of the story. I also thought the plot dragged at this point and kind of stalled, which concerned me. I actually put the book down for a day to read something else because I was worried I wouldn't enjoy the rest of the story.
However, the story got way better in the final third. I felt like some real, meaty storylines came into play, and I got to see some stressors to their relationship that felt true and organic. I loved how those were handled and how the MCs had to work out their issues. Jude's family dynamic was very interesting and emotional to read, and Nesto's work-life balance gave the story a lot of depth. I thought that these two really shined as a couple and individuals in the last part of the story, and I was rooting so hard for their HEA.
An impressive debut with a compelling romance, a proud Dominican-American main character, and lots of yummy food that will make your mouth water- I need recipes. Despite a few flaws and some minor issues, I think this author has a winner on her hands.
Enjoy, my friends!