Heat Factor: It’s not a long story, but there’s plenty of time for some smokin’ sexytimes
Character Chemistry: They’ve got the hots for each other
Plot: All the drama of a baking competition
Overall: Fun holiday novella
While I do not watch much (any) reality TV, I do love the Great British Baking Show (Great British Bake Off to those across the pond). Baking is fun, and the creations people can make with food are incredible. Ergo, when Adriana Herrera first advertised this holiday novella, it instantly went on my TBR.
Then, when I was privileged to receive an ARC, Holly tried to steal it from me. Because, let’s be honest, a holiday F/F romance set at a baking competition in Scotland sounds awesome, right? NICE TRY, HOLLY.
Kiskeya left the Dominican Republic because her family didn’t accept that she was a lesbian–or a baker. She’s been studying and working in L.A., trying to get her foot in the door so she can be a professional pastry chef. She needs this baking competition so she can realize her dreams, so this is a high-stakes competition for her. Loss carries real consequences.
Sully’s family owns a bodega in New York City, and she’s been caring for her mother after a serious injury. Her family signed her up for the baking competition, so she’s not desperate for a win at all costs, but she has plans for the prize money that include setting up her own baking business. In New York.
Kiskeya and Sully are immediately attracted to each other (in that, “holy wow look at that hottie”, bite your lip, kind of way), but their reactions to the attraction are wildly different. Kiskeya is freaked out because she doesn’t want distractions to derail her and prevent a win. She therefore decides to be rude in an attempt to hold Sully at arms length. After refusing to be cowed by Kiskeya’s coldness and poking and poking, finally the rudeness gets to Sully, and she is not amused. Doesn’t bode well for their teamwork during the competition.
But when there’s a mutual attraction and no significant reason that consenting adults can’t act on it, plus only one bed, sparks fly. Interestingly, it’s Sully who is then distracted during the competition because she’s stewing about making this thing they have last after they leave Scotland. They stay in the competition, but it’s not all smooth sailing.
In addition to being hot for each other and dealing with the stress of the competition, they’re getting to know each other. From a bird’s-eye view, they should have a lot in common. They’re both Dominican women and also lesbian. The thing is, I don’t know if you noticed but different people have different life experiences. Different experiences mean different baggage. Sully comes from a lively, supportive family and embraces her heritage. As I mentioned, Kiskeya does not come from a supportive family. She’s also been advised to tone down her culture in her baking in the past, so she’s not excited about including island flavors in their bakes, whereas Sully wants to go all in on mangos and coconut (and a number of other flavors that frankly sound amazing).
There were so many fun aspects of this book. The sex was hot, of course, but beyond that Herrera did a wonderful job of exploring how superficially similar people have widely divergent personalities and life experiences. Kiskeya is a bit grumpy, driven, buffeted by the adverse winds of her life. Sully is a glass-half-full sort of person who also hasn’t had a life that’s necessarily coming up roses but who’s willing to see the positives around her. It’s a novella, so there’s not a lot of time to dig super deep into personal dynamic conflicts, and Herrera keeps it pretty tight on that distraction/culture/long-term-relationship conflict thread.
The bulk of the story takes place during the week of the baking competition, so we’re not looking at a long timeframe. I sometimes struggle with insta-love, and while Kiskeya and Sully don’t necessarily figure out all their business in a week, the foundation for relationship building is solid, so I could totally get on board with having both characters consider just what it was they wanted to pursue in their lives. They can’t help getting in their own way, so there’s a little bit of relationship immaturity–as I would expect from a pair of horny 20-somethings who’ve known each other for a week. When they finally figured out what they wanted and pursued it, I was happy to cheer them on.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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