A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee

Summary:
Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.
When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.
When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

A Sweet Mess

Review:
A Sweet Mess is a book that I picked up completely randomly at Barnes and Noble because it talks about baking (and I have a blog feature where I bake things I read about in books). So, I thought this would be a fun one to try and see if I could find something in it for Books & Baking (which I did and will eventually attempt).
This story was an interesting one. I’ve never really read a book with some of the tropes that were in here. One of which (the pregnancy trope) is one that I often hear negative things about, but I didn’t hate it. I actually really liked it. I’m not sure if that’s because of my personal experiences or if it’s because it was well done within the story. I enjoyed all the talk of the baked goods and the food. This book certainly made me hungry, but in a good way.
So, we follow Aubrey Choi who owns and runs her own bakery in a small town. I loved seeing Aubrey, in the beginning, just love what she’s doing. By chance, Landon Kim’s borrowed car breaks down in this small town. He is mistakenly given a bizarre cake that was specially made for a child’s birthday party instead of the special of the day, which looks the same on the outside. Later that day, Landon and Aubrey meet in the bar next door to the bakery (which is owned and run by Aubrey’s best friend). They end up having a one-night stand. The two don’t interact again until after Landon’s scathing review is published. Aubrey didn’t know that it was Landon that had been given the incorrect cake until his review. After the small town comes together to try to get Landon to rewrite to retract his review, Landon comes back to Aubrey’s bakery to see if she’s interested in an opportunity to show how great of a baker she really is. This starts Aubrey’s and Landon’s struggle to stay away from one another while prepping and filming a cooking show.
I really liked Aubrey. She was a great problem solver and when things were falling apart, she didn’t just give up. She made a plan to try to make things better. She did her best to keep her head up and push through. She was smart and creative. I just genuinely liked her.
Landon was an interesting love interest. His backstory showed why he was the way he was. I liked that we learned the reasoning behind his actions. I also liked that Landon thought things through. He knew that if he retracted or rewrote his review for Aubrey’s bakery, someone might find out that they slept together, which could damage both their reputations. So, he came up with another creative solution.
The chemistry between these two was the best part of the story. The tension we got to see between them while they’re trying to stay away from one another was so excellent. I think they were a really great couple. I was invested in their romance, even as I understood why they were trying to stay away from one another.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. I think A Sweet Mess was a delightfully sweet story filled with diverse and successful characters. I liked the plot and the twists. I will definitely be recommending this one in the future.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

GoodReads Summary:
Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.
There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.
The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…
When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?
First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)Review:
I was so excited to receive this eARC from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I loved the first two books in this series and was beyond excited to read Jia’s book. I’m happy to say that I loved this one just as much.
Jia is a beauty influencer. She is feeling like her content is stale and she wants something new. Her dream is to have her own make up line, so that is what she’s working toward. I thought it was really interesting to read about someone that was an influencer. I loved it. I loved how it was shown how hard Jia works, and how much work it really is. But despite all the work she does, her family still doesn’t get it and Jia feels the need to prove herself. I love Jia. I can’t speak to the Muslim representation but I love that this book exists for others to see themselves in. So, Jia has been talking online to Dev Dixit for a while. She manages to get invited to a part that he’s going to be at, so they can finally meet. Except, he has no clue who Jia is.
Dev was a great love interest. He is the guardian of his niece since his brother died and he is trying to cultivate an acting career in America. Dev is just all around a nice guy that is trying to do the right thing for the people in his life. I loved how sweet and thoughtful he was. So, when he learns of what has happened with Jia, he wants to meet with her and make amends. It also helps that he can’t stop thinking about her. (The fact that he watched all of her YouTube videos makes my heart melt.)
I loved their romance. The fake dating trope is such an excellent one. I also thought the book overall did a great job talking about religion and grief, class differences and family differences. I think there were so many good things about this book, but the slow burn, emotional development of Jia and Dev’s relationship was absolutely the best part. While I love a steamy romance, I really loved seeing these two fall in love without any of the usual physical intimacies. They don’t even kiss until after they’re married.
Overall, I cannot get enough of Rai’s books. She made me fall in love with both Jia and Dev (and also all of their family members) while they were falling in love with one another. I adored all the family dynamics, with Jia’s big family and Dev’s grandmother, uncle, and niece. I would love to see the next romance in this series to be one of Jia’s sisters. I think the romance was wonderful and at the same time, it did a great job talking about tough topics like grief. I absolutely recommend this book.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

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GoodReads Summary:
Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.
When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?
Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.
Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?
Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2)Review:
Take a Hint, Dani Brown was exactly what I wanted it to be. I loved Chloe’s story so I was very excited to read this one. In this book, Dani, a black, bisexual woman, asks the universe (I don’t know how else to put it, but it involves some witchy things that I enjoyed) for the perfect friends with benefits. Enter Zafir. He’s a security guard in the building she teaches in. They flirt constantly and I adored their banter. When her building has an evacuation drill (she didn’t catch the email saying it was a drill) she gets stuck in an elevator and mildly panics. Zafir, outside and making sure the drill is going as it should, realizes that Dani hasn’t come out of the building yet. He goes back in for her. He comes out of the building carrying her and a student gets a video and they go viral.
Zafir (with a suggestion from his niece) realizes that this could be an opportunity to raise awareness about something he does. He coaches a rugby team of teens and while he teaches them rugby, he also teaches them how to manage their emotions. I loved this aspect of the book. Zafir deals with anxiety (which is a prominent topic in the book) and it’s wonderful to see him talk about his experiences in therapy and managing his own anxiety. So, he asks Dani to be his fake girlfriend.
Dani, on the other hand, sees this as the universe granting her which for the perfect friends with benefits candidate. They have incredible chemistry and when he asks her to fake date him, she thinks it won’t be too hard to get it to go a bit further.
I loved everything about this book. Dani is working toward her Ph.D. and also working on getting ready to go speak at an event alongside one of her idols. She has a tendency to let herself be consumed by her work. This has negatively impacted a relationship in the past, so she has all these ideas of why she can’t be in a relationship. But the progress that she and Zafir make together was so heartwarming. Zafir shows her what a healthy relationship is supposed to be like and Dani gives Zafir the happily ever after that he loves to read about. I totally loved that he was a man who loves to read romance. There’s so much hate on romance as a genre that it was so nice to see this in a book. I cannot wait for the third book and I will recommend this series forever and ever.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

GoodReads Summary:
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?
• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.
But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.
Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.
But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…
Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)Review:
Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a book that I’ve seen all over twitter being raved about. So, when I saw it sitting on the new releases shelf, I had to pick it up. I’m glad that I did because shortly after I grabbed it the whole world closed down. I’ve been on a romance binge since all of the virus stuff started. I just want to read happy books. This book was perfect for that. As with most romance, there was conflict and unhappy parts, but I just enjoyed this story so damn much.
We follow Chloe Brown who has a chronic illness. I thought it was wonderful to have that representation because it’s not something I see very often. I mostly liked Chloe. She didn’t want to need help from anyone. She was strong despite the pain she felt every day. I also totally adored her sisters. I loved that they were included in this because sibling relationships are totally my jam. Chloe was stubborn but sensitive. Not that she ever let people see that sensitive side.
Enter the love interest, Red. I loved him too. He’s struggling to heal after a damaging relationship. He’s trying to get back into painting. But he keeps thinking that he needs to become who he was before his terrible relationship rather than letting himself become someone new. This was an interesting battle because everyone goes through periods of growth so I thought it was interesting that he didn’t see it that way and instead tried to find his old self.
These two were so good for one another. They pushed the boundaries of the other, they made each other better (even if the characters didn’t realize that’s what was going on.) I thought their conflicts were natural and well done as well as their resolutions.
Overall, I totally adored this book and I’m beyond excited for the next one in the series that will be coming out later this year. If you’re a romance lover, this is definitely a book you should pick up. You will not be disappointed.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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GoodReads Summary:
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.
It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…
Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…
The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1)Review:
I have nothing but good things to say about The Kiss Quotient. I don’t know why I waited so long to pick this one up but I’m so glad that I did. It was sweet. It was funny. It was sexy. It was all of the things that I wanted from a romance novel and I’m so glad I finally picked it up.
I really loved Stella. She was so sure of herself and nothing but heart. I loved how thoughtful she was and I just thought she was wonderful. I loved having this story be focused on her. The fake dating trope is one of my favorites and it was so well done in this book.
Michael was a little annoying in the sense that there were things he wasn’t sharing. I understand why he didn’t, but it comes to a certain point where you just have to spill your secrets for the sake of your relationship. Other than that though, I really loved him. He adored his family and was endlessly patient with Stella.
I just really loved this book. It was sexy and sweet at the same time. I will definitely be reading more from this author and I cannot wait to get into her next novel. This is one I will be recommending for sure.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.