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THE BIRCHES
By Xavier Axelson
Publisher: Seventh Window Publications
Release Date: Oct 2011
Length: 24,000 words

Perfection isn’t everything, although it’s everything Leo wants. His desire to become the perfect chef may keep him at the top of his class, but it drives his friends and family crazy while keeping love and passion on the back burner.That is until he meets Dock, owner and chef of the new and popular restaurant, The Birches. Although Dock isn’t a trained chef, Leo finds the food he cooks delectable and the man behind the food irresistible. The lessons taught at the hands of an untrained cook may be just what this uptight chef needs to let go.

As a serious foodie and lover of the M/M genre I was really excited to read to book! I have never read anything by this author before and I will certainly be checking out some of his other titles!

Leo learned his love of cooking from his late mother and is now enrolled in cooking school to learn how to be the perfect chef. Unfortunately, he is so determined to achieve perfection that he is alienating his friends and family. When his friend Ollie decides to take him out to a small local restaurant called The Birches for lunch, Leo doesn’t expect to find anything on the menu worthy of his attention. He soon realizes that although the food may be ‘simple’ it is about as close to perfection as he has ever tasted. He is drawn back to The Birches time and time again and is even more drawn to Dock, the cook responsible for The Birches success. The attraction between Dock and Leo is intense and the kitchen lessons quickly turn into a blend of cooking and sex.

I will say that I did not particularly like Leo’s character through most of this book. Not that he was not well written…he was! You could really get a sense of his relationship with his father and his friend Ollie and their frustration with Leo’s need to be perfect. I almost cringed every time Leo started talking about his goal of perfection in the kitchen. I felt the need to smack him every time he opened his mouth! On the other hand, I really liked Dock’s character. Although not professionally trained as a ‘chef’ you could really feel his love of all things food! His desire to harvest and prepare and really just get messy and involved with his preparations. This is the sort of guy that doesn’t follow a recipe, he just creates perfection without even trying!

These two characters are very far apart on their attitude in the kitchen. Leo seems to be much younger than Dock and in a totally different place in life. I’m not sure an actual relationship between the two would ever work but Leo is determined to have Dock teach him how to cook. The lessons on forgetting perfection and really getting a feel for your food turn into some extremely intense kitchen sex scenes. Dock teaches Leo to let loose a little and really start to use all 5 senses…during sex AND cooking!

I loved the characters in this book and the foodie in me just relished the vivid descriptions of the meals and ingredients. I felt like I could smell things cooking and hear the clanging of dishes and see the condensation on the glasses. There was a small part of me that was getting a little grossed out at the concept of so many health code violations in a restaurant kitchen! But, as long as my local chefs aren’t going on like Leo and Dock in their own kitchens, I am quite okay with it!

Reviewed By: Artemis

Find on Goodreads: The Birches