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Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance | Friends-to-Lovers
Series: Donner Bakery #1
Pages: 363 pages, Paperback Edition
Release Day: October 8th, 2015
My Rating: 3.8 stars!
Source: SmartyPants Romance
Description: I’m Levi Buchanan, and until five years ago, I thought the legend of my family’s curse was a load of crazy, Southern nonsense.
No curse can make you fall in love at first sight. No curse can force a true, deep, passionate, all-consuming love that will haunt you all the days of your life.
Then I met Jocelyn Abernathy and I realized how completely wrong I was.
The problem is, Jocelyn guards her feelings like well-armed soldier. She’s the most beautiful, stubborn, infuriating woman I’ve ever met. Every time she talks, I want to kiss the living daylights out of her. But I can’t.
Because when we met, she didn’t need true love. She needed a best friend. And that’s what I’ve been to her…for five years.
But when Jocelyn meets a handsome stranger her first day working at Donner Bakery and she lets him buy her a dill pickle cupcake, I realize with ominous regret that I may have missed my window with my best friend. If I can’t get her to see past our friendship, my new curse may be to watch the love of my life move on with someone else.
Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but it does not influence my opinion of the book nor the contents of this review in any way.
Let me start by saying Penny Reid is one of my favorite authors. Now after reading that statement, you may be asking me, “Why the heck are you talking about the lovely and wonderful Ms. Reid when this is not her book?” To that I would say, you are correct! But you are also wrong. Ms. Reid an author and the founder of SmartyPants Romance, which is a kind of small publishing venture that she’s started up. Basically, other authors write extensions to her stories! No, that’s not right. Other authors write their own stories, just set in the Pennyverse, in the world she’s created and with character’s she’s written about as side characters. That makes more sense, right?
Ms. Reid wrote (and is still writing) the amazing Winston Brother’s series, which takes place in the Green Valley Universe, originally created by Penny Reid, and we see some of her main characters walking around in these other books. At first, I was a little iffy about how this was going to work out. I didn’t like the idea of a different author “stealing” characters from one of my favorite author’s books! But I shouldn’t have worried. It wasn’t theft, I’m sure it was Ms. Reid’s idea. And Ms. Reid’s characters were a great touch of nostalgic window dressing. They weren’t main characters or even ultra-important side characters. For instance, in Baking Me Crazy, our main character is the employee of one of Ms. Reid’s main characters.
Speaking of Baking Me Crazy, that’s what I’m supposed to be talking about! It follows Levi Buchanan, who very much doubts his family’s “curse,” where Buchanan men fall in love only once and fall hard. That is, until he meets Joss in the middle of a basketball wheelchair match. Now before you run away screaming obscenities about insta-love, hold your horses a second. Take a breath. That’s it. Take another, and just feel calm and relaxed…
This is the one instance where insta-love was not only tolerated, but thoroughly applauded. Hang with me. When Levi saw Joss, he was blown away and he just knew (hang on, I said!), but it took him two weeks to work up the courage to ask her out. Unfortunately, Joss was at a hard time in her life, still recovering from the consequences of Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation to the spinal cord that led her to lose most of the movement in both legs.
Joss was not in the mental space necessary to date someone, but she did need a friend, especially as a new resident to Green Valley. So Levi became her best friend… for five years. He never let on, never hinted, that he was completely and irrevocably in love with her the whole time. He wait five whole damn years for her to finally be ready for date-feelings… and they weren’t even for him. Oh no! Cue the intense courtship!
He’d helped me hundreds of times – more than I could count – and not once, not for even a fraction of a second had I thought about his fingers when they covered any surface of my body. If this was because of Andrew, then I was officially in a fight with him, because what I didn’t need in my life was something that made me catalog how the skin covering my bones changed when my best friend touched it.
That’s some insta-love I can get behind. Unrequited love? That wins every gosh-darned time, and you know it! Add some of that friends-to-lovers trope, one of my favorites, mind you, and we have ourselves a winner! I read this whole book with a huge smile on my face. It was so sweet, and it had a depth to it that elevated it past the typical fluffy contemporaries that I often gravitate towards.
Joss was a great heroine. She was a Strong Independent Woman who really didn’t think she needed a man, until she faced the thought of no longer having Levi in her life. Joss was dealt some hard cards in life, but her determination really shone through in this, and I absolutely loved her and the look we got at her journey. Joss was strong, and Ms. Sorensen didn’t have to tell us once. We were shown over and over again. I didn’t realize how much space was given to Joss’s journey in the book and I started writing this review, and I loved the way Ms. Sorensen wrote about everything with Joss’s disability, not glossing over things or leaving anything out.
Levi, however, completely stole the show for me. It’s easy for contemporary romances to go for a strong, developed woman and have a Tall, Dark, Mysterious Hero sweep her away, but to not so much depth for hero beyond his muscles, a strong jaw and whether or not he has a nice V.
But that’s wasn’t Levi. Well… yes, it was. BUT. Levi was actually my favorite in this book, which is fairly unusual in a romance, as the hero, as I said, tends to lack depth. But he was so sweet, so attentive, passionate and he cared for Joss so, so much. It was evident from Day 1, the first page. The reader knew where Levi was at and there was no guessing after that. He was a very well-developed character (and I mean that both ways *waggles eyebrows*).
“I hate you right now,” I whispered unevenly, tears burning hot in my throat, nose and eyes.
“You don’t hate me.” He matched my tone. “You may not like me right now, but you don’t hate me, Jocelyn Abernathy. It scares the hell out of you that your wheelchair doesn’t bother me, that I don’t care that you’re the prickliest woman I’ve ever met in my life, and that I’m not running off because your legs don’t work the way you want them to.”
The sense of community, too, was super fun in this. Which is one of my favorite parts of Ms. Reid’s books! Karla Sorensen did a great job mimicking Ms. Reid’s flair for fun side characters and full, enjoyable cast of characters. The Donner Bakery is full of fun personalities, and I absolutely adored Levi’s family. The Buchanan’s were a riot, and I do hope we get to see more of them in the future.
I’ve sang this book’s praises, but I do have to say that I really had to think hard about the rating for this one. My average rating for books, especially romances, is a 3.5 star rating. I was tempted to give this a 4 star rating, if only because I just had a great time reading this, and I was so invested I did it in one sitting. However, if you know me here on this platform, you know that I am very strict with my stars and I don’t give them out lightly.
There wasn’t anything I disliked about this book, per say, but I didn’t particularly care for the fact that there was no real conflict. The issues were smoothed over rather quickly, which fit the tone of the book, I guess, but I was looking for a little bit more. I couldn’t help but think “That’s it?” I don’t know what could have been added in there to really spice things up and give me the troubles I was looking for, but I did feel that the end was wrapped up just a bit too tightly a bit too quickly for me. But there was also plenty of suspension throughout the novel about Levi’s feelings and Joss (supposedly) not returning them, which was done very well. Which is why I had such a hard time with the rating for this.
In the end, it was a highly enjoyable read. I was grinning the whole time, and it really had everything I love in a friends-to-lovers romance, especially with best friends like Levi and Joss. Their interplay was a world of fun, especially when Joss developed feelings for someone that wasn’t him, and Levi had to suddenly kick his actions into overdrive. Read my review for (Book 2 | Book 3)
Baking Me Crazy released October 8, 2019. Click the link to purchase. Thank you SmartyPants Romance for the title, of course, and to Social Butterfly PR for the work you do 😄
This book is part of the Kindle Unlimited program, a reading service that I am dedicated myself to for the month of November. In short, almost all of the reviews during the month of November will be Kindle Unlimited books. Click this link to view other books I’ve reviewed that are available under the Kindle Unlimited Reading service.
For more information, please visit my announcement post here.
* Note, these posts are not sponsored by Amazon in any way, other than I use Amazon Affiliate links, whereby I get a kickback of any book purchases any links of mine you click, at no extra cost to you.
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Have you read any of Penny Reid books? What are some of your favorite friends-to-lover romances? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!