Review: The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster

It can take losing everything to realize what you had all along.

Up-and-coming London chef Marcus Vine is poised on the edge of success, but the only men courting him are investors. That leaves Marcus with some free time—which is fortunate, because his godchildren need him.

A year ago, a horrible accident killed Marcus’s best friend, Raine, leaving her children without a mother and her husband, Tom, without a partner. Consumed by grief, Tom has been going it alone, refusing help, but when Marcus sees him out with the children, it’s obvious that Tom and his two daughters need someone. His persistent caring finally wears Tom down, allowing him to accept the comfort Marcus offers. Soon Marcus is up to his elbows in homework, home-cooked meals, and after-school activities. Over time he helps them rebuild their world, until soon their lives are approaching normal.

Then the unexpected happens: Tom confesses he has romantic feelings for Marcus, and nothing can ever be the same.

There are books that you read that give you a sense of hope and this book did just that. With an organic friends to lovers’ romance that isn’t typical, Brian Lancaster has written a wonderful romance that makes this reader believe in the power of love more than ever.

Told from the POV of famous chef Marcus Vine we quickly learn that Marcus is all about the work and not so much about a relationship. He has the normal hookups to scratch the sexual frustration itch but remains unattached. While out with his friend and manager Tina, he sees Tom Bradford the widower of his best friend Raine out with his daughters. You see, Marcus is the girls’ godfather, but after a sharp and unfair plea from Tom at Raine’s funeral, Marcus has left the Bradford family alone. But seeing how ragged Tom looks, he knows he has to do something. Taking a stand and calling Tom’s mom, Marcus heads over to Tom’s to declare his intentions of being part of the family once again and helping Tom out with the girls.

I call this story organic because that’s how it felt. From the moment Tom and Marcus have a chat about Marcus wanting to help Tom to seeing how their friendship once was with playful banter, it was easy to get lost in the story. Of course it helped to know Marcus always fancied Tom, but with Tom being straight and married to his best friend, there was never a chance to act because Marcus isn’t like that.

So anyway.

Tom accepts Marcus’ help to shuffle the girls to and from school and activities and help out with meals, being a chef and all. He and Tom reconnect as friends and begin to deepen this new relationship they gave as co-caretakers of Charlie and Katie. The foursome go about on outings and are seen as a happy family with two dads a few times which tickles Marcus, but confuses Tom. When Marcus has to go away for a month to open a new restaurant in New York and comes back to a different attitude from Tom, we get to the bottom of what’s going on.

I loved the journey we get with Tom and his sexuality. Tom has always considered himself straight and never looked at a man the way he does now with Marcus. I have always believed that sexuality is fluid and we don’t fall in love with a gender but a person. It made sense for Tom to develop feelings for Marcus and not just because he’s eye candy. Tom and Marcus have a close friendship and taking care of Tom’s girls creates a domesticity that both men crave. The feelings Tom has make him see Marcus in a new light. Plus, his whole speech was amazing. Not as amazing as his moment at the end of the book, but I loved his rambling at how he sees Marcus now and that he needs Marcus to back off so Marcus doesn’t find him repulsive. Ugh. Tom, you are so lovely to read and all I wanted was for you and your girls to be happy and have Marcus in your life.

Marcus, goodness but I adored you. You are smart and cunning in business but so very loyal to your friends. You get to see so much of Tom and even help him to the mystery of where his wife was going the day she was killed in a car accident. You will do anything for Tom including denying your feelings and wants when it comes to Tom, letting him call all the shots. But you sir, are not a doormat and when it comes to being hidden away like a dirty little secret, you stand up for yourself even though you broke your own heart. You are a lovely and forgiving man who knows his own heart even if you are so confused by Tom in that epilogue, I loved being witness to everything you do in this book.

I really loved this book. It had everything that I needed to watch Marcus and Tom fall in love and be a family. The girls were delightful and even Tom’s parents and Jeanette were great additions to the story. I rooted for Marcus and Tom from the beginning, wish I could have seen Marcus in those trunks, would have teased Tom about that tux color and I still go a bit numb thinking of the incident with Katie.

I just adored this slow burn friends to lovers story with a bit of twist. That end, that very last bit was beautiful with what is symbolized.

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