Layla Reyne’s latest novel, Dine With Me, follows two heroes who are learning how to manage the expectations they have for themselves, each other, and their futures while on a culinary road trip. Here Reyne offers readers a glimpse into the lives of Miller and Clancy, and shares how learning to reimagine and let go of expectations shapes their journeys .
In Dine With Me, Michelin-starred chef, Miller Sykes, and unabashed foodie, Clancy Rhodes, set out on a cross-country culinary tour that, unbeknownst to Clancy, is a last tour of favorite meals for Miller, who has recently been diagnosed with life- and career-threatening cancer. While the food, Miller’s struggle with his diagnosis, and his budding romance with Clancy are the stars of the show, another underlying theme of Dine With Me is expectations: How they shift, swerve, dip, and soar as the characters grow and rediscover themselves over the course of the tour.
Both Miller and Clancy feel the burden of career expectations they didn’t exactly sign up for. Miller, a self-taught chef, rose quickly through the culinary ranks. His first solo venture was a fine dining concept, because that was what was expected of him, and it ultimately failed. Not for lack of talent, but because his heart wasn’t in it. Clancy is finishing his residency in plastic surgery and is supposed to join his father’s booming private practice, even though his heart lies in oncology. He’s running himself ragged as he finishes his education while still volunteering in the oncology ward and organizing a cancer benefit. Clancy loves the medical profession, but like Miller, he didn’t exactly choose it or plastics. His parents dressed him in kid-sized scrubs from UCLA Med, his dad’s alma mater, for third grade picture day and that was that—he was going to be a doctor and work with his dad when he grew up.
Living up to those expectations isn’t easy for either man, especially as they aren’t expectations they set for themselves. Things get even tougher when life throws them curveballs. For Miller, it’s his cancer diagnosis. For Clancy, it’s meeting Miller. For both of them, it’s a road trip that leads to unexpected love. Shift, swerve, dip. But they each have to go through these experiences to find their way to a future together. They have to decide whether to risk it all to shatter expectations.
Both struggle with whether to take that risk—Miller struggles with whether to undergo treatment that could compromise his taste buds, Clancy with whether to change fields and potentially disappoint his parents, both with whether to trust this fledgling love to withstand the hard times ahead. But their love and admiration for each other, and their intimate understanding of the pressures the other faces, sees them through to the future that’s right for them. To a place where they soar and exceed their own expectations and everyone else’s, too.
RITA Finalist Layla Reyne is the author of the Agents Irish and Whiskey, Fog City, and Changing Lanes series. A Carolina Tar Heel who now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home, Layla enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart-pounding romance. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and its Kiss of Death and Rainbow Romance Writers chapters. Layla is a RWA® RITA® Finalist in Contemporary Romance (Mid-Length) and Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.