At the beginning of the story, I wasn't sure where it was going. Was this an older (admittedly charming) guy on the make, cruising for young women? Maybe Jack is simply trying his wings out, now that's he's retired from a successful career as a consultant. His light-hearted overtures to a rather young lady are tempered by his refreshing sincerity. He is truly interested in who his new young friend is as a person, and what she thinks. I found her easy way of offering a kiss did not ring true. Most young women prefer guys their own age, or at the most 10-15 years older--and I began to suspect that she was looking for someone to bankroll her. As the plot develops, he does in fact bankroll her--sort of. But all this is done with a twist not often see in today's writing (at least not without it being heavily done): he brings church--religion--into the mix. This threw me for a while--and I'm a certified church-goer. However, my surprise may speak more of my outlook than the author's.
Things get interesting, and more realistic, once he arrives in Paris and eventually meets an American woman whom he grows to love.(But again-why must he get involved with a woman still much younger than himself? Paris is renown for it's striking, well-put-together older women who deftly defy all the stereotypes and play the love game better than their younger counterparts.) However, his new love is at least with striking distance of his age and I found the sensuous dances she does for him quite touching, maybe the highlight of the book.
Some of the best writing occurs when he is writing about the university students, and through one of them, his involvement the African refugee community. The character of each student is conveyed with such clarify that they stand as distinct personalities. The author skillfully develops the changes that take place in each one as they flourish under his thoughtful and caring mentoring.
This being said, I have to harp a bit and say that I would have enjoyed a character or two in the book who is of an age with Jack. He is not the only young-at-heart, mature man or woman roaming the streets of Paris and I'm sure he would have been equally attractive to them.
The recipes, and the scenes of the group working together in the kitchen, are another big plus for this book. Being a Southerner, I found it a fresh touch that he threw in a few old-time Southern recipes.
As the book drew to a close, I found that I wanted more out of this author--either a cookbook, or a further narrative to see how Jack and his new lady friend fare in their future together. I have a feeling that the writer will be at his best in the new plot that unfolds for them.