Title : Syrah
Author : Nessa L. Warin
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 200 pages (e-book)
Published : August 7, 2013
Rating : ★★★★
All Shawn Neale is looking for when he stumbles into All Corked Up on Christmas Eve is some wine recommendations. What he finds is an instant attraction to Royce Wilkinson, the shop’s owner. After a few weeks of flirting during shopping and some semi-dates at Royce’s wine tastings, they decide on a real date. It goes well, but life isn’t that simple.
Shawn wants to buy Delicto, the local pub he manages. He’s been planning his life around this for years, but when the owner, who believes being gay is an illness, discovers Shawn went out with Royce, he gives Shawn an ultimatum: stop dating guys or he won’t get to buy Delicto. It’s a heartbreaking quandary: Can Royce and Shawn be happy with a secret relationship until Shawn buys Delicto or is Shawn going to have to choose between his dream job and his dream guy?
Royce Wilkinson is contemplating closing his wine shop, All Corked Up, early. Most of the shops have already closed for the evening. There is an unusually heavy amount of snow falling, it is Christmas eve and he has had no customers in hours, then in walks Shawn Neale. Shawn has been given the task of bringing wine to the family dinner that evening. Shawn admits he enjoys wine but really does not know enough to make a decision on what to buy. There is a subtle but instant attraction between the men but Royce is a business man and decides he would rather keep Shawn coming back as a customer than possibly scare him away with flirting. Royce helps Shawn find the perfect wines and in the process Shawn is the one who initiates the flirting.
One week later Shawn decides to return to All Corked Up hoping to see Royce again but instead is greeted by an employee named Clint, who tells Shawn that Royce is unavailable but he can help him with whatever he needs. Clint seems intent on flirting with Shawn until Shawn mentions his name and Clint immediately realizes this is “The” Shawn that his boss and best friend Royce told him about. Clint abruptly leaves to go tell Royce there is someone there he will want to see. When Royce opens his door a streak of flying fur named Kirra dashes out and into the store. After some kitty hijinks, Royce helps Shawn select wine for the New Years Eve celebration Shawn’s family is having. Shawn continues to come into All Corked up and finally after some less than subtle encouragement from Clint, asks Royce out to dinner.
Things are going well until Shawn shows up to work the next day to find his boss, Henry, waiting for him outside the restaurant and pub, Delicto. It is usually a bad sign when Henry shows up early and this is no exception. Somehow Henry has found out that Shawn was on a date – with a man. Henry is eighty three years old and considers Shawn being gay a disease, one that can be cured if Shawn will just stay away from men and find the right woman. Shawn is the manager and plans to buy Delicto when Henry retires. Henry has said he would sell it to Shawn as long as his he did not “flaunt his unnatural activities”. Henry gives Shawn an ultimatum either quit dating men or he will not sell him the pub. Shawn has been saving for the down payment for years, this is his dream and he is conflicted as to what he should do.
Enter Shawn’s best friend, Anastasia, home from the Navy and wondering what has been happening with her best friend since he suddenly has not been behaving like himself. Stasia is just the person to help Shawn evaluate his life and options. Shawn not only has aspirations as a restaurant owner, he is also an artist. Although he is a talented artist who paints in the fantasy genre he doesn’t consider it a career alternative if the pub deal falls through. He wants painting to be something he loves to do, not a job. His artistic abilities are mentioned several times in the book but were not developed in the storyline; although I could see several instances where they could have come into play.
I loved Clint and Anastasia as the two meddling best friends of Royce and Shawn. They are entertaining and really cared about seeing their friends happy. At first I was upset that Shawn would even consider putting his life on hold because of Henry’s demands but I could see how much he had planned his life around the eventual owning of Delicto’s. Once Anastasia points out that Henry may never sell the pub to him anyway, Shawn realizes he may actually lose something more important, his chance at happiness.
All Corked up is a lovely story. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the wine and food pairings. I liked Royce and Shawn’s characters individually and as a couple. I thought the romance moved at a realistic pace and the fact that the characters were taking it slow was nice. These were two men that were at different points in their life but both wanting to achieve the same thing. Royce had achieved his goal with opening All Corked Up, Shawn was working toward his with his dream of buying Delicto. They are not young twenty somethings and there are serious considerations being made in the story about achieving ones long term goals. This does not overshadow the story at all but adds depth. I suspected where the story was leading but even so, I had fun getting there. This is the first book in the All Corked Up series and I enjoyed it very much. I am looking forward to the next book, maybe one about Clint?
Rated 4 stars by Deb