Saturday, June 25, 2022

Review: Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley

Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Fake It Till You Bake It cover
ISBN: 9781250801852
Release Date: June 21, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Jada Townsend-Matthews is the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego's newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.

When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada's image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.

A fake romance between a football player/cupcake shop owner and a woman at a crossroads in her life turns real in Fake It Till You Bake It. It’s a romance with a lot of potential, but I struggled with rating this book because I wanted to like it a lot more than I did.

Donovan likes order and Jada’s arrival upends his carefully structured life. She’s the most reviled woman on social media after turning down a marriage proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes into his shop and insults his cupcakes, Donovan is irritated – but also incredibly attracted. Then her grandmother – the owner of the football team Donovan plays for – asks Donovan to give Jada a job and things only get more confusing. Cue a mixture of kitchen mishaps, fake dating, image rehabilitation, and finding love where you least expect it and you have a recipe for a delightful book. Jada is prickly at first, but a lot of that is armor against the censure of the world and those who should love her but have beaten down her self-esteem. Jada intrigued me because her attitude masks vulnerability and a fear of messing up and being judged. She comes into her own over the course of the story and I liked seeing her find her way planning events and becoming a part of Sugar Blitz. Her personal journey was the strongest plotline of this book and I was cheering for her to believe in herself and her abilities, to carve her own path and be able to overcome the haters and the parents who criticize her for being dyslexic and not following in their prestigious footsteps.

Where I struggled with Fake It Till You Bake It was the writing. Jamie Wesley had all the elements of an engaging story but as much as I wanted to fall into it I never did. Jada and Donovan are characters ripe with potential and though there’s a lot I enjoyed about Jada’s personal journey, Donovan’s kind of fell flat (also, he and his partners are professional football players and none of the work or training that goes into that is ever shown). The romance was also flat, lacking any zip or zing that would have kept me from putting down the book as often as I did. That being said, I really liked that Donovan supported and believed in Jada. They fit well; I just wanted some more sparks. The book isn’t bad, but it's slow-paced and never came alive. Add in a last-minute series of obstacles that felt more manufactured than organic and I finished the story feeling just OK about the read overall.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Review: The Friendship Pact by Jill Shalvis

The Friendship Pact by Jill Shalvis
Series: Sunrise Cove, Book 2
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
The Friendship Pact cover
ISBN: 9780063095465
Release Date: June 14, 2022
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Alone in the world, Tae Holmes and her mother April pretty much raised each other, but as Tae starts asking questions about the father she’s never met, April, for the first time in her life, goes silent. To make matters worse, Tae is dangerously close to broke and just manages to avoid financial meltdown when she lands a shiny new contract with an adventure company for athletes with disabilities and wounded warriors.

Her first big fundraiser event falls flat, but what starts out as a terrible, horrible, no-good night turns into something else entirely when Tae finds herself face-to-face with Riggs Copeland. She hasn’t seen the former Marine since their brief fling in high school, and while still intensely drawn to him, she likes her past burned and buried, thank you very much. Hence their friendship pact.

But when April oddly refuses to help Tae track down her father, it’s Riggs who unexpectedly comes to her aid. On a hunt to unlock the past, the two of them find themselves on a wild ride and learn a shocking truth, while also reluctantly bonding in a way neither had seen coming. Now Tae must decide whether she’s going to choose love … or walk away from her own happiness.

The Friendship Pact is a sweet story about love, both romantic and familial. Jill Shalvis’s second Sunrise Cove novel takes readers back to the Tahoe area and introduces us to characters whose pasts aren’t as far behind them as they may think.

All her life, it’s been Tae and her mother, April, raising each other. The two of them have an admittedly codependent relationship but there’s real love and support there that made me smile. Tae’s event company is taking off but the night of her first big fundraiser she has a run in with a man who knew her father. Tae has questions about the man she never met, but she doesn’t want to hurt April by pushing for information. That same night Tae also runs into Riggs, her high school fling. Riggs is back in Sunrise Cove for a few months to help out with Adrenaline HQ, his brother’s company and Tae’s client. The attraction between the two is instantaneous but Riggs only wants to be friends because he’s leaving for a job in Washington, D.C. soon.

Tae and Riggs are classic Jill Shalvis protagonists: likeable, slightly quirky characters who are a bit messy. There’s humor and heart all over The Friendship Pact, which is also typical of a Shalvis novel. Tae has trouble trusting and Riggs has trouble communicating but even so, the two of them just click. It’s easy to fall into their story and their romance is sweet with a bit of spice. Tae’s relationship with her mother and Riggs’s relationship with his brother is just as important to the story as the romance. April was fifteen when she had Tae and she did what she could for her daughter but wishes she could do more and make up for past hardships. April is coming into her own in this book and she was so interesting I wish we’d explored her character more. And Jake, Riggs’s brother is a veteran who runs an adventuring company for other wounded warriors and (at Tae’s suggestion) for at-risk youths. Jake has a solid sense of self, but he and his brother have some issues from their upbringing they must work out. I liked seeing he and Riggs work through their relationship and come out stronger.

The Friendship Pact is all about love, family, and trust. Shalvis blends heavier issues with her signature humor and it works well, resulting in a satisfying read. All in all, Riggs and Tae’s story is a great summer read, whether you’re on the lakeside or just wish you were.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.