Recommended Read, Review

Review: Salt + Stilettos by Janet Walden-West (2020)

South Beach Romance, #1

Heat Factor: SPICY, SPICY, SPICY, but don’t worry because the hero is a tall drink of cold water.

Character Chemistry: These guys are opposites in a lot of ways but it’s all complimentary if you know what I mean…

Plot: A PR specialist struggling with PTSD from a stalker and kidnapping agrees to take on a very, very delicious cinnamon roll of a professional chef as he works to open his first restaurant. Sexy Chef Will creates the sexiest of safe spaces for Brett, who in turn takes a man who wants to hide and helps him shine just the way he is. (SIGH…)

Overall: This book just did something to me–it was sexy, sweet, vulnerable, funny, sassy. I felt things.


Initially, I thought this book would be an enemies to lovers trope–which is understandable, because Will and Brett do misjudge each other terribly at first. But I hesitate to apply any real trope here because it’s such a well-developed story it’s hard to reduce it to one pattern. 

Basically, I thought we’d have ourselves two bull-headed alphas getting territorial on how to best open a restaurant. It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t a book about who was tougher, it was a book about who was brave enough to be vulnerable–and the best part was that our sweet cinnamon roll Will was the one gently leading the way in that. 

Will is from American Samoa and first off–he’s basically a warm, candlelit bath in human form. He cooks all sexy, and he’s a little shy and reserved. His whole staff respects him because he’s such a good, chill person. At one point it comes out that he actually struggled with his weight. He’s just adorable–but he’s also strong and steady.

Which is exactly what Brett needs after a horribly traumatizing experience that leaves her with PTSD. Brett is actually very easy to relate to as well. She’s strong and she’s firm, but she’s fair and she’s not judgmental. When Will worries they’ll have to buy another set of clothes if he gains weight eating a pastry, Brett just calmly says they’ll buy more if that happens. What she doesn’t show is that she doesn’t leave the house at night, or give anyone her address. She ends up living totally alone because she’s so focused on protecting herself.

I think there are a lot of reasons this book struck such a chord with me–I loved seeing a hero who didn’t fit the “perfect specimen of manhood” type of role. He was so much more real, and I was rooting for him so very much. I will say that prior to his makeover I was picturing him looking kind of like Jason Momoa and then he ends up with spiky hair and a goatee and I couldn’t stop thinking that he looked like a combination of Guy Fieri and the Rock which was a little bit of a turn off…but he’s so darn sweet that I couldn’t let it slow me down.

I realized I want more books with heroes who are maybe held to a slightly more realistic standard. It’s fun to imagine sexy scenarios with perfect humans but there’s just something irresistible about a romance with two real, flawed, doing-their-best people. Especially if they make sexy food.

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.


Buy Now: Amazon


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