Rant, Review

Review: A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee (2020)

Heat Factor: They have a one night stand and then several weeks of the most severely comical sex interruptions.

Character Chemistry: Instalust. 

Plot: It’s a lot. 

Overall: More like: A Hot Mess.


Here’s how my emotions progressed as I read this book:

  1. I am so excited about this book! The last book I read by Jayci Lee was so fun and tropey, but also tightly written and fresh. Plus, she writes Korean-American characters with just enough detail to highlight their identity, but not enough to bash the reader over the head with it. Let’s do this! 
  2. Ok, I’m not quite connecting to the characters and I’m not sure why, but Aubrey has great banter with her BFF, so I’ll stick with it. 
  3. I am sort of irritated because this book is having an identity crisis. Is it angsty? Is it a comedy? Are we going with this trope or nah? Can these characters make up their minds about anything? No? 
  4. RAGE. 

Because the rage part developed towards the end of the book, and stems partly from some unexpected developments, many spoilers follow. 

Consider yourself warned.

Let’s start with a little more plot info. Aubrey runs a bakery in a small town. Landon is a famous food critic who, while passing through, gluttonously orders an entire cake to eat by himself – and is accidentally given a special order cake for a child’s birthday party. He almost chokes on a gummy worm and writes a scathing review. But also that night, he and Aubrey meet at a bar and have a mind-blowing one-night stand. When Landon discovers that his review has basically destroyed Aubrey’s business, he feels bad, but refuses to write a new review, because he NEVER gives a place a second chance, even if HE WAS WRONG. Because people might find out they slept together – or assume they slept together – and then both Aubrey and Landon would lose their reputations. 

Still with me? There’s more! (I told you there was a lot of plot.) 

The brilliant solution that Landon dreams up is to get Aubrey to appear as a guest on a cooking show that he is executive producing. That way, she can get some positive press, and also get paid. Never mind that him plucking an obscure but hot baker out of nowheresville after he slammed her bakery would raise WAY more eyebrows than him being like, actually, the last review I wrote was not up to my usual standards of reportage. Especially since doing the show means that they’ll be living in a fancy-ass villa in wine country together for three weeks. Nothing to see here, folks. 

So here begins my irritation. The set up was way too convoluted. I get it, Lee wanted to get her protagonists into a forced proximity sort of situation, but yeesh. 

Unfortunately, my irritation ramped up considerably once Aubrey and Landon started cohabitating in said fancy-ass villa, mainly because I was so irritated with Aubrey and Landon and there weren’t other characters around to give me a break from them. Looking back through my notes, I was primarily irritated by their radical ups and downs. One minute, Aubrey will be thinking that she and Landon have to be having an adult conversation, and the next minute she will be calling him juvenile names and blowing raspberries. I get it, people are messy, but this was just extreme. 

Also, Aubrey tells Landon that to get back at her dad, she “borrowed” and crashed his Lamborghini when she was 15, and he’s all like, “good girl,” because apparently that is acceptable revenge for your dad cheating on your mom, and I’m all like WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, YOU COULD HAVE KILLED SOMEONE. 

And then, cue the RAGE (spoilers after the separator):


Turns out Aubrey got pregnant during their one night stand. It’s definitely hinted at earlier – she has an extreme reaction to going wine tasting, and I wondered if she were pregnant, but ruled it out as bad storytelling. Except I was wrong, and the pregnancy is confirmed about ⅔ through the book. (Looking back, I guess all of Aubrey’s crazy mood swings and irrational behavior were probably other indicators of pregnancy, and all I have to say about that is that perpetuating such stereotypes are incredibly damaging to pregnant women who are struggling with huge changes in their bodies and get dismissed as “hormonal”.)

Look, I don’t dig the accidental pregnancy trope to begin with, and having it sneakily foisted on me was not appreciated. 

Furthermore, the fact that Aubrey got pregnant ruined the reconciliation for me. Obviously, they have a huge fight at the end of their stay together, hinging on whether they will keep seeing each other, and if they do, whether that relationship will be a secret or not. Aubrey leaves without telling Landon she’s pregnant. Landon finds out several months later, abruptly quits his job and buys a house, and sets out to win her back. And after one apology, she’s like, yup, we’re good, let’s definitely raise this kid together. 

To recap, here’s the timeline of their relationship:

  • One night stand
  • Six weeks of separation 
  • Three weeks of forced proximity, at least half of which involves them avoiding each other to resist the sexytimes
  • Three months of separation 
  • Cohabitation, true lurve, baby

Sorry, but three weeks of sharing a villa, during which time you don’t communicate openly and honestly, does not a strong foundation make. And if the set up of a romance novel is “realistic”, then for me to buy the HEA and get the emotional release (ie, the whole point of reading romance), then I need to believe that the characters have a chance. 

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 | Bookshop


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4 thoughts on “Review: A Sweet Mess by Jayci Lee (2020)”

  1. Yeah I definitely don’t go in for pregnancy plots, but this one sounds extra annoying. They definitely don’t seem to have a solid or deep relationship and I wouldn’t find it romantic that basically strangers would decide to raise a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for putting my long-winded rant succinctly! It was extremely annoying. And as a parent of small children – raising a kid, even with someone you have a solid relationship with, is no joke. Maybe that’s why accidental pregnancy books are extra terrible for me: I still remember the first months, and they are miserable.

      (Interestingly, a lot of love that I’ve seen for this book on the Gram is from people who are halfway through reading it – I am sorta curious if all those glowing recommendations will stay glowing one they finish the book.)

      Like

    1. Same.

      I was extra disappointed because I really liked the other book of Lee’s I read (it leaned into the ridiculous tropeyness better than this one did, IMO).

      Like

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