Salvage by Con Riley ” Meaty” Vegan Chili and a delish Argentinian Malbec.

18345321 Con Riley has been a steady auto-buy author for me since I read her first novel After Ben which to me is one of the best stories on grief, loss and moving on I’ve ever read, M/M genre notwithstanding. Salvage the first stand-alone novel from Ms. Riley was a for sure read on my list. This book certainly lived up to the kind of writing I expect from this writer, it is a story about loyalty, love, home, mostly though it’s about forgiveness…Many kinds, forgiving yourself, family, friends, circumstances…Even the place you grew up in.

Forgiveness and going home. Claiming your home, the place and the people that make it real for you and how to make them  yours. I liked this read a lot and felt comforted by it. By the setting, and the easy way the author portrayed that sometimes just letting go is what makes you the most grounded.

For such a warm book, set in a cold cold place I had to make something that says COMFORT, what is better than a hearty stew with a robust red wine to round things off?  This time I made a delicious and seriously hearty “put meat on YOUR bones without having to actually eat any vegan chili”, for the wine I chose an Argentinian 2011 Malbec from Colores del Sol Winery. This Malbec is very robust, but, not at all tannic and just leaves a lot of room to enjoy the savory flavors of the chili. It goes well with the richness of the beans and tomatoes, it is a fabulous food-pairing wine. At $8.99 a bottle it’s a great deal.

malbec-2009Now back to the story…

Gabriel Cooper left his home in Minnesota after an accidental fall almost paralized his twin sister and made things in his family feel broken. His home had always been a source of safety for Gabe, but things changed and he felt that it was best to move away. He left for college to San Diego with his best friend Jamie and tried as much as he could to stay away.

Five years later when he finally was forced to come back to care for his father, Gabriel is torn between being lulled back to a home and a life that he yearned for and his misguided sense of obligation to his best friend Jamie. Gabe’s ties to his best friend are based on guilt and remorse…He has so many of the good things in him that he learned from his father, but after feeling like he had failed his dad and sister he latched on to the one relationship in his life that would never fail to make him feel needed.   He’s conflicted and that inner struggle won’t allow himself to admit that he has missed his home, his father’s grumpiness is not helping matters either. Then there’s his sister, whose future was totally altered by the crippling injuries from the fall yet she is happy and hopeful for the future, glad to be alive. He loves the work in his dad’s architecural salvage yard…He’s not sure if he still has a place there, but the ease of it is hard to ignore. It’s becoming glaringly obvious that Gabe has a lot to think about when it comes to the place where he really belongs?

And then in comes Scott Stark…The man comes into the yard on a stormy day with a little boy on his hip, desperately looking for his little niece and his instinct to lend a hand pretty much SEALED HIS FATE. Scott was barely hanging on, he’s come back to an old family lake house to escape from serious family problems, and to protect his niece and nephew from the  fallout. He had no one, but Gabe, his dad Coop, and sister Ariel, like they always did were ready to lend a hand. Slowly they earn Scott’s and the children’s trust, they are taken into the warmth and steadiness of their family and in the process for the first time, really, Gabe is starting to see himself as someone who could be an equal partner and lover to someone who can have his back as much as he would have theirs.

Good for what ails you...

Good for what ails you…

This book like everything I’ve read from Con Riley had a slow burn, they are sedate stories with powerful themes threaded through them. There are six very strong relationships that go  through transformations in the story. Gabe and Jamie. Gabe and his father. Gabe and his sister. Gabe and Scott. Gabe and his hometown. San Diego Gabe and Minnesota Gabe. Gabe was a young man when tragedy struck his life and the hurt it cause made everything that he knew for sure change. His dad’s love and his place in his family. Once Gabe understood where he stood and what was important things became clearer.

One of the toughest things in this book for me was Jamie’s character. He annoyed me, and Gabe’s response to him annoyed me more…But there was point to the whole mess that made complete sense in the end. All in all this book was as solid as anything I’ve read from this author and the erotica was PRIMO. Very sexy…VERY VERY.

Recommend for sure.

Salvage is for sale at Dreamspinner Press.


“Meaty” Vegan Chiili

1 Poblano Pepper (Chopped)

1 Large Onion (Chopped)

2 teaspoons of tomato paste

1 Garlic clove minced

2 15.5oz cans of black beans drained and rinsed

1 15.5oz can of pinto beans drained and rinsed

2 15.5oz cans of diced tomatoes (preferably the kind for chili)

1 packet of vegetarial chili seasoning (I used Simply Organic)

1/2 tablespoon of ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon of chili powder

1/2 teaspoon of oregano

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup of frozen corn

4 tablespoons of bulgur wheat

1/2 tablespoon of sugar

1 cup of water

Directions: In an skillet heat one tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot sautee the onions, peppers and garlic with tomato paste  with half of chili seasoning packet until fragant (about two minutes). Take the mixture and put it in your slow cooker. To the mixture add the rest of the ingredients, cover the pot and cook on low heat for 8 hours. Every two hours stir and add more water if the stew is too thick. Serve with sliced avocados and any other preferred chili toppings.

I hope you like this recipe. it’s a fabulous cold weather dish, and with the Colores del Sol Malbec it’s a lovely meal to have while reading about two dear men finding love and home in the Minnesota winter.

Cheers and Happy Reading!


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