In the Long Run by Haley Cass

In the Long Run
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Published: 11/19/21

In the Long Run by Haley Cass is simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. I could never imagine loving two of her characters more than I love Sutton and Charlotte from Those Who Wait, but then I met Brooke and Taylor.

It was only supposed to be one night, a night where Brooke Watson can forget who she is and just give in to the feelings she has always had for Taylor Vandenberg. Type A Brooke doesn’t have one night stands. It’s not on her carefully constructed life plan. But a few glasses of wine and the knowledge that she probably won’t see world traveler Taylor for another few years relaxes her enough to give in to the desire she feels and sees mirrored on Taylor’s face.

Taylor left Faircombe, Tennessee at nineteen and never looked back.  She had to get out of that suffocating little town. Taylor came out while still in high school and it wasn’t exactly easy. There was a whole world out there to be explored and she’s done so on her own ever since. Taylor spent a lot of time with Brooke and her brother Ben, even though she was a few years older. Brooke was just always there. Taylor never saw her as a little sister though. There was always just something more. After spending hours satisfying each other, Brooke freaks out and leaves Taylor asleep in her hotel room with a note thanking her and signed with regards and her full name. Oh, Brooke, you awkward, adorkable thing!

When Taylor receives a phone call from her sister asking her to come home and spend a few months to help her through her surprise pregnancy, Taylor can’t even imagine how she would stay so long in that town. But, she can’t say no to Savannah. She’s missed out on a lot and Savannah was so young when she left town. Their relationship has mostly consisted of phone calls here and there when she can manage it. She has to do this for her sister because she needs her but why does the thought of being near Brooke for so long leave her both excited and uneasy.

Brooke seriously doesn’t have time for all of the feelings having Taylor in town brings up. She has a full life with her three cats, demanding job and the asshole mayor she fights with on the daily. She can’t take Taylor’s flirting and carefree attitude. The thing is the more time she spends with Brooke, the more she wants that time to continue. They have this banter, a ton of sexual chemistry and that thing where someone really knows you, from how you take your coffee to the things that happened in your youth that shaped you into who you are today. Taylor never imagined she would develop real feelings for Brooke. Yes, she has always flirted with her and gave her her first kiss but it’s always just been fun. She has no time for feelings.

There is something seriously beautiful in the way Haley Cass writes. It’s the best way to describe her writing. Taylor and Brooke reach in and grab your heart and don’t let go. They are the perfect example of opposites attracting. Taylor with her yoga, traveling around the world, seemingly carefree attitude and Brooke with her structured, reserved, emotional awkwardness. But those are how the great love stories are made. By taking people who shouldn’t work yet they fit perfectly. I love how Taylor’s secret place in her hometown where she used to escape was this old, abandoned house. When she has an argument with her brother she goes to the house and it’s now being lived in by Brooke. Brooke is Taylor’s safe place and the home she never knew she was searching for.

I read this book in a day and a half. Not sure if I should brag about that, as it clearly means I did nothing else in my life during that time. But, whatever, one must have priorities and a new Haley Cass book fits the bill. She is able to write characters who are so developed I honestly have a hard time remembering that they aren’t real because I feel like I know them so well. This book gave me all the feels and that’s what a great book should do. It lets you escape life and feel like you’re just watching two friends find love. One of my absolute favorite books of the year.

ARC provided by the author for an honest review.

 

 

The Awkward Truth by Lee Winter

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Published: 11/24/21

The Brutal Truth is one of my absolute favorite books and Felicity Simmons one of my favorite supporting characters. In The Awkward Truth, Felicity is front and center, as she was always mean to be and I couldn’t be happier that Lee Winter has given us this gift.

Felicity is in training to take over as COO for Bartell Corp once her boss and mentor moves permanently to Sydney to helm her fashion magazine. Felicity is thrilled all of her hard work has paid off but is still clueless as to the other reason Elena is moving to Australia. Elena gives Felicity the assignment to investigate Living Ruff charity to determine how they could be in danger of closing, when the donation Elena made should have sustained them for quite some time.

Felicity isn’t thrilled to venture to the Bronx, The unsafe, unclean, not nice Bronx but when Elena speaks, Felicity jumps.  When Felicity arrives she encounters Dr. Sandy Cooper. Cooper, as she’s known, is a veterinarian who cares for the animals of the homeless. Felicity’s story is she needs to make sure the charity is above reproach because Bartell Corp is thinking of making a donation. Felicity at first thinks Cooper is a vagrant looking to steal drugs from the company van. Not the best first impression but it’s Felicity and tact has never really been her best attribute.

Once they move past the vagrant faux pas, Felicity shadows Cooper on her calls. Felicity’s interactions with the homeless at first are cringe-worthy. Even when she tries to be friendly, it backfires. Cooper really does think this woman can’t even pretend to be a real person and completely lacks empathy.  The more time they spend together, Cooper sees cracks in Felicity’s well constructed walls. She’s not the heartless woman she projects, she actually loves animals, has compassion that she has worked so hard to hide and is filled with insecurities.  And Felicity, who was attracted to the “Amazonian goddess” pretty much from the moment they met, finds herself even more drawn to Cooper for her kindness.

There is really no writer I love more than Lee Winter. She is the absolute best, not just at ice queens, but at witty banter. Felicity never means to be hilarious but when ones filter is removed you never know what will come out. Felicity so intrigued me when I read The Brutal Truth because you just know that someone with that much snark has to have some deep-seeded insecurities.  Lee Winter gives us insight into what made Felicity focus solely on career success and shut herself off from human interaction.  Her new position, this assignment and Cooper are all catalysts to the changes Felicity never knew she needed to make.

While this is definitely a romance with a mystery to solve, it’s also story of a woman finding her humanity and letting her vulnerability show. There’s nothing scarier for Felicity than to expose her feelings, whether that’s to another person or to a sweet, unassuming animal.  She’s so tightly wound but bring a woman with nice thighs and an even nicer heart around her and she’s a goner. Felicity is just a treasure and Cooper is her perfect match. A woman who works with animals and looks at the homeless and sees them, not past them, that’s a woman to fall in love with.

The conversations Felicity has with Elena are spectacular and I love seeing Elena not only mentor her professionally, but also help her to realize she needs to be more empathetic. Felicity still not clueing in to the nature of Elena’s relationship with Maddie just makes me laugh. And in the same way Maddie’s kindness helped to soften Elena, Cooper does the same for Felicity.

The Awkward Truth is fantastic but I would expect nothing less from Lee Winter. She’s brilliant, Felicity Simmons is a delight and you should read this book. We’re done!

ARC Provided by the author for an honest review.

 

 

Go Around by E.J. Noyes

Go Around
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Published: 11/16/21

A new E.J. Noyes book is always a treat. She writes characters I absolutely fall in love with; Rebecca Keane, Morgan Ashworth, Audrey Graham and now Avery Weston. This book is quintessential E.J., utilizing first person storytelling and scorching hot scenes to weave together a beautiful story.

Avery Weston spends her days flying the skies as an Air Marshall and her nights snuggling her dog Bennett, while watching her ex-girlfriend on tv’s hottest show. Fifteen months after having her heart ripped out she still loves her. When she finds herself on a flight with her ex, Emmy winning actress, Elise Hayes, she can’t believe it. Elise wants to talk to her after they land but what is there to say. She left Avery after her manager told her she would never get her big break acting if her sexuality came to light.

Their past takes a backseat when a fan grabs Elise with plans to take her off of the plan with him. Avery will not let the asshat hurt Elise and subdues him. They aren’t able to talk after the plane lands and that leaves Avery feeling unsettled. She wanted to make sure Elise was ok after such a harrowing experience. She is surprised when she arrives at home to find Elise waiting for her. She is too afraid to go home and asks Avery if she can stay with her for a while. Avery can’t very well send her away when they’ve both been through such a traumatic event and  it turns out she’s not the only one with lingering feelings.

A few days turns into a few weeks. Is this the second chance Avery never thought she would have?  Will Elise have the courage to come out or will she choose her career yet again over love? Will Elise’s crazed fan try again to make her his?  Will Bennett the dog ever catch the damn opossum that haunts him?

How awesome is to to legit love every single book an author has written?  There aren’t too many authors I can say that about, however, E.J. is definitely one of them. Avery is an absolute dream and having the story told from her perspective worked perfectly. E.J. beautifully conveyed Avery’s broken state even after having fifteen months to deal with the breakup. I felt her sorrow as she watched the love of her life starring on a hit tv show. Elise appears to have it all while Avery can’t really move on because her heart can’t let go.

Even though the story is told from Avery’s perspective, I still feel like we get to know Elise well and can feel the pain she carries from the decision she made to end the relationship. Her professional dreams may have come true but losing Avery haunts her every day. Even though she realized early one her mistake, fear of rejection kept her from reaching out to Avery. Sometimes the scariest events we experience, lead us to the best possible outcome.

The only one in this story who isn’t in pain is Bennett, the dog, who is just thrilled to have his second mom back home so he can sleep on the couch again. Bennett is the best dog and I want him to get all of the treats and to have his moms reunite so his doggie dreams come true.

Go Around checks a lot of my favorite things off. It has the previously mentioned second chance at love,  a Hollywood actress, a bit of suspense, a lot of sex, cute dog, adorable co-worker (Nicola, who is so cute, all gushing about Elise to Avery, completely clueless)  and most importantly, it’s written by E.J. Noyes. She just keeps solidifying her place as one of the best writers in the genre. She has such a beautiful way with words. I highly recommend you read this book.

ARC received from Bella Books for an honest review.

 

Love, Accidentally by Jamie Clevenger & Aurora Rey

Love, Accidentally is a part of the Mile High City Romance series.  A collaboration between Jamie Clevenger and Aurora Rey. The main characters in this one, Finn and Amelia are featured in a much lesser capacity in A Convenient Arrangement, which is the story of Jess and Cody.

Amelia Stone is moving in with her girlfriend, Veronica, after only six weeks of dating. On move in day Veronica is in New York because it’s more important to network with Amelia’s mother than to help her girlfriend move. While driving the UHaul, Amelia is hit by a dump truck. Paramedic Finn Douglas arrives on the scene and gets Amelia and her cat out safely.

Finn finds Amelia adorable as she’s telling her how cute she is and how if she didn’t have Veronica she would totally date her.  Finn visits her in the hospital where she encounters Amelia’s Nana. Nana promptly invites Finn to dinner as a thank you for caring for her granddaughter and taking the cat to the vet. Nana is not on team Veronica but instantly like Finn and recognizes the mutual attraction between her daughter and the kind paramedic.

Amelia definitely should not be thinking about Finn but after she gives her a ride home from the hospital and shares dinner with her and her Nana, it’s impossible for her not to have thoughts. She begins to see how much different Finn is from Veronica. Where Veronica is pretentious and self absorbed, Finn is thoughtful and generous. She visits hospice patients on her off days and Nana decides she’s going to make pot brownies for the patients that Finn can deliver. It’s not just to be nice, it’s Nana’s way to keep Finn coming back so that Amelia will eventually realize who she should be dating.

I really love these two characters. Finn is pretty much perfect. She’s there for Amelia more than her girlfriend, even when they don’t know each other. She is weary of relationships because she was cheated on by her girlfriend, who she thought she would marry.  She may not be looking for a relationship but she wants Amelia, she just doesn’t want to be her rebound. Finn also adores Edith, Amelia’s Nana, almost as much as she adores Amelia and that alone does it for me. It doesn’t hurt that Finn is also a hot butch with a great bod and an absolute heart of gold. So, yeah, I’m in love with Finn!

When we first meet Amelia she has some issues she needs to address. Like why she’s moving in with a woman she hardly knows who is a lot like her self absorbed mother. Amelia’s mom is a former soap star turned roundtable women’s talk show host. She’s never been there for Amelia. Her Nana has been the constant source of love in her life. Nana is quick to point out that Amelia is rushing into moving in with Veronica but Amelia isn’t having any of it. Luckily, a dump truck, dumps her plans of a future that would have ended in heartbreak and is responsible for delivering a yummy paramedic to her rescue. It takes Amelia a while to get out of her own way but she gets there eventually.

I hope we get more collaborations from Aurora Rey and Jamie Clevenger. The characters were charming, Nana was an absolute rock star and made me think of my own Gram, who always thought I could do no wrong, even when presented with evidence to the contrary. This is a light-hearted read that I highly recommend. It will bring a smile to your face.

ARC received from Bella Books via NetGalley for an honest review

 

 

Marry Me by Melissa Brayden

Marry Me
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Published: 11/16/21

When I really started getting into lesbian romance, Melissa Brayden was one of the first authors I latched onto. Her Soho and Seven Shores series are still two of my favorites. This wasn’t a bad read but it didn’t fully capture my interest.

Allison Hale has accepted her boyfriend, Brent’s marriage proposal, although she isn’t over the moon happy about it. Brent’s from a very wealthy family and Allison’s sister is thrilled that she’s going to marry into it and their parents have a deal to have their healthy bar put into Brent’s family’s grocery store chain. Allison is an elementary school teacher who is happy with Brent but there’s a spark missing that she hasn’t experienced with anyone.

Megan Kinkaid is the top wedding planner in Dallas and knows she will get the Carmichael wedding. But her excitement over securing the wedding of the year is halted by her immediate attraction to the sweet, unassuming bride. Allison is drawn to the confident wedding planner as well and it isn’t long before the wedding is on hold and Allison and Megan start exploring their feelings for each other. Will the connection be enough for Allison to put herself first or will she cave to pressure from her sister and Brent to marry into the Carmichael clan?

This isn’t really an insta-love book but it’s pretty darn close. Allison is a total sweetheart but she feels just another incarnation of Brooklyn Campbell or Hannah Shephard.  While I appreciated that she didn’t freak out when she realized her attraction for another woman, I would have liked for her to stay strong throughout the book and not have been so easily influenced by Brent. Allison wasn’t the only one to make some questionable decisions. Megan also did some things that caused me some irritation. There are some good supporting characters like Allison’s parents and her work lesbian guru. If you’re a Melissa Brayden fan you will probably enjoy this one. However, it wasn’t her best but did have some good moments.

ARC received from Bold Stroke Books via NetGalley for an honest review

Silent Night by Lily Seabrooke

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Published: 11/14/21

Silent Night by Lily Seabrooke is what I wish Hallmark movies were like. But they aren’t anywhere near as charming or inclusive. Lily Seabrooke has brought us a Christmas novella we should strive to read each year. I know I will make it a holiday tradition and will look forward to spending time with these wonderful characters like I do visiting family and friends I don’t get to see very often.

Music star Brooke Carston returns to her hometown on Mountain Crossing to spend the month of December with her large family. Brooke just wants some peace and quiet and to escape the pressures of her career for a while. She doesn’t count on running in to her childhood best friend, Nicole Livingston and having her life disrupted by an undeniable chemistry.

For Nicole it’s not easy being the only lesbian in her small town. She owns the local bakery and the moment Brooke comes back it feels like her world is just as it should be. She doesn’t want to fall for her because she’s going to leave. Just because Brooke is openly bisexual and the whole town wants them to get together it doesn’t mean it’s meant to be but it certainly feels like there’s a Christmas miracle happening.

Nicole and Brooke are wonderful characters. Both strong in their own rights but better together. Nicole has had a few girlfriends but they all leave and she knows getting attached to Brooke will only bring her heartbreak. Brooke has an auditory processing disorder and really loves the quiet that she finds in Mountain Crossing. She also feels like reconnecting with Nicole, her heart has truly come home as Nicole was always that person who she could just be herself with.

I’m a big Lily Seabrooke fan and this is another perfect example why. She writes with such heart and brings us characters that have such charm and humor. I love how the entire town is invested and meddles in Brooke and Nicole’s blossoming romance, how Nicole’s brother Daniel makes insightful comments with food analogies and how Brooke and Nicole really are each other’s missing piece. This is a delightful Christmas novella that I highly recommend.

ARC received from the author via Booksprout for an honest review.

Read Between the Lines by Rachel Lacey

Read Between the Lines
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Published: 12/1/2021

Read Between the Lines is the first book in Rachel Lacey’s Ms. Right series. It’s a charming book with sweet characters who will warm your heart. Rachel keeps churning out the lady lovin hits!

Rosie Taft owns her own bookstore, Between the Pages and runs it with her best friend Lia. Her mother opened the store thirty years ago and Rosie absolutely loves it and can’t imagine her life without it. Books are in her soul, romance books, specifically. She develops a crush on her favorite writer, Brie, after they start chatting on Twitter. She hasn’t dated in a while but it’s because she doesn’t want to waste her time with someone who will be wrong for her not because of her crush on Brie, or so she keeps telling herself. Her life is turned upside down when she receives a letter from the company who owns her building telling her the lease will be terminated at the end of the year.

Jane Breslin is a property manager for her family company, Breslin Property Development. On a day out with her nine-year-old niece, Alyssa, they come upon Between the Pages. Jane is shocked to see her latest book, On the Flip Side on display. Jane writes as Brie but only her sister Amy is aware of her other life.  Jane can’t stop thinking about Rosie after being in her bookstore knowing she’s the one who mailed her the letter telling her lease wouldn’t be renewed and Rosie can’t stop thinking of the hot woman in the power suit because power suits are so darn sexy.

Rosie sends an email to Jane inviting her to an event at the bookstore hoping she can convince her to extend the lease. Jane shows up introducing herself properly, which bursts Rosie’s bubble because she had crushed on her when she showed up with Alyssa. Jane can’t do anything to stop it as the building is set for demolition so that condos can be built.

The two continue chatting to each other online unaware of the others true identity and decide to meet. Both are feeling the pull of attraction until Jane see Rosie and puts it together that Rosie is Aurelia. Rosie stays unaware and thinks Brie has stood her up and Jane being at the bar is a coincidence.  A few days later after a heart to heart with Amy when Jane reveals how much she likes Rosie (Aurelia) she ventures to the bookstore and reveals her pen name. After Rosie’s shock wears off, they have an honest discussion and share a steamy kiss. Rosie can see the good in Jane despite the inner turmoil she still feels regarding Jane’s job. Obstacles will need to be overcome and understanding achieved before the girls find their happy ending.

I adore Rachel Lacey’s Midnight in Manhattan series and this one is just as good. Her characters are well developed and relatable.  Rosie is the perfect girl next door who just wants her storybook romance.  She is someone who brings a smile to everyone’s face with her kind heart and charm.  Her bookstore is a connection to her mom that she can’t bear to lose. It would be like losing her mother all over again.

Jane is Rosie’s opposite. She is an introvert who avoids conflict. It’s why she is working at her family company instead of writing full time. She doesn’t have close friends and prefers to spend her free time with her sister, brother-in-law and niece. Jane is awkward in social situations and thinks she is much better writing romance than living her own. But her heart has other ideas when Rosie comes along. Jane has hidden her writing from her family and hasn’t allowed herself to be proud of being a published author. Rosie not only opens Jane’s heart to love but also to allow herself to be proud of her accomplishments. She allows Jane to truly be herself and loves her for the wonderful person she is.

You can’t have a book like this without supportive friends for the protagonists to confide in. Rosie’s best friend Lia and Jane’s sister Amy provide laughs and encouragement to help the two accept that they have found their lobster. Lia manages the bookstore for Rosie and helps her make it a success while being the best friend every woman needs. Amy encourages Jane to strive to be a full-time writer and leave the family business because she knows it will make her happy. They are both wonderful supporting characters.

Rachel Lacey has written a charming lesbian “You’ve Got Mail” that will you all the feels. It’s what I have come to expect from her books and I look forward to the next book in the series!

ARC received from the author via Net Galley in exchange for honest review.

And The Truth Is by Jamey Moody

And The Truth Is
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Published: 10/25/21

And The Truth is by Jamey Moody is the third book in the Lovers Landing Series. It’s nearly impossible to be sad reading a Jamey Moody book. Her books allow you to truly escape for a while and just embrace love.

We have gotten to know Tara Holloway and Lauren Nichol’s in the first two books in the series. There has always been this pull between the two and I’m not surprised that we now getting their story. Tara is a successful actress disenchanted with the fakeness of Hollywood, who shows up to check out a house her friend Lauren thinks will be perfect for her. She wants to find a vacation home or maybe something more permanent so she is closer to her friends Krista, Melanie, Julia, her family but most of all Lauren. She’s also ready to settle down and have a loving relationship.

Lauren has been divorced from her high school sweetheart for several years. She has raised her two children and is now ready to explore her sexuality. She may be new to the lesbian party but that doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to jump into the pool. The two women confess their feelings for each other after Lauren finds her the perfect house. Lauren helps Tara decorate and the house truly becomes theirs.

The path to happily ever after isn’t usually too stressful in a Jamey Moody book. There is a bit of strife with Lauren’s grown children but is easily overcome when they see the happiness radiating from their mother. It’s lovely to see women over 50 as romantic leads. The characters are charming and I’m happy to finally see Lauren find happiness. The questions she posed to Krista in the two previous books were so clearly pointing to her being open to loving a woman and ready to take that leap. This was a very satisfying conclusion to the Lovers Landing Series. I look forward to Jamey Moody’s next book. I’m sure it will be a heartwarming book filled with friendship, love and laughter.

ARC provided by the author for an honest review.

Welcome to Paradise by Lise Gold

Welcome to Paradise
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Published: 10/30/21

Reading a book by Lise Gold is like going on a vacation. After the last year and a half, I think that’s something we all could use. Welcome to Paradise is the first book in her new resort series, which I’m sure will be another excellent series for her.

Lisa Walker arrives in Benidorm, Spain after losing her job during the pandemic. That also lead to losing her flat and her girlfriend. Things couldn’t suck more, until she checks into the Paradise Hotel, which couldn’t be further from an accurate name. It’s rundown and rather pathetic with even the food tasting like disappointment. But, it’s all inclusive and she can afford it while she searches for jobs back in London. Lisa isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy with the staff because she just wants to be left alone to wallow in her sadness.

Stella Castillo is the poolside manager at Paradise and is thrilled to be back at work after the lockdown. A night out at a co-worker’s brothers restaurant leads her to talking to Lisa, after her overhears the nickname the staff has for her. Miss Grumpy is certainly that after hearing how the staff feel about her. Stella can’t help but want to make Lisa smile as she can see the sadness on her face.  The two women strike up a friendship and Lisa feels good having someone to talk to again. Lockdown has made her retreat inside herself but the charming pool manager brings her back to life.

As Lisa and Stella spend more time together Lisa develops a desire to know more about Spain and the beautiful poolside manager. When Stella sees the state of Lisa’s room at Paradise, she insists she come and stay at her place, in the guest room, of course. That doesn’t last long as the chemistry between the two is intense. Will Lisa return to London leaving Stella with a broken heart or will Lisa take a chance on love?

What I love most about a Lise Gold book is how I can truly envision the beautiful locales she writes about. It’s almost like being there and walking around the quaint Spanish villages. In the last year and a half I have traveled to Las Vegas for three days and driven to Texas to take my mother in law home. I’m clearly in need of an escape and I can always do that while I read one of her books. This year alone I have visited Rome, Switzerland, Norway, Bangkok and now Spain. I actually googled some of the places in Spain that are in this book and put them on my list of places I would like to visit while I was reading.

As well as she portrays the locales, her characters are just as memorable. She writes strong women who may not be at their best in the beginning but through their willingness to open their hearts, they find that missing piece that completes them. Lisa is someone trying to piece her life back together after losing everything and although she is down she doesn’t give up. Her inner strength keeps her from completely losing herself and Stella is the perfect woman to help her through tough times. Stella is a bit of a player but is at a place where she’s tired of clubbing is drawn to Lisa immediately. She just wants to bring a smile to her face. I loved the visit with Stella’s family as well as it gave us even more of a glimpse into what makes Stella so lovely.

I haven’t read a Lise Gold book yet that I haven’t loved. I’m glad to see it continue with this one. I can’t wait see what the second book in the series has in store.

ARC received from author for an honest review.

Chef’s Kiss by Stephanie Shea

Chef's Kiss
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Published: 7/2/21

There are times when I question what I was thinking. Why did I wear blue eyeshadow well into the 90’s? Why did I think I was straight when my basketball apparel was way too extensive for a straight girl?  Why has it taken me so long to read a Stephanie Shea book? I have now read Chef’s Kiss and will be reading everything else she writes as soon as possible. I absolutely love this book!

Valentina Rosa De Leon (Val) has just earned a stage job at San Francisco’s trendy restaurant, Gia, after graduating from the culinary institute.  It’s Val’s dream job and the reason she moved from New York to San Fran, for the opportunity to learn from famed chef Jenn Coleman. Val lives with her roommate and best friend Zoe. She is determined to use this opportunity as a springboard to a head chef position in a few years. But she is unprepared for how her heart skips a beat at the sight of her enigmatic new boss.

Jenn Coleman owns two Michelin starred restaurants. She’s a workaholic and a control freak. She has a thirteen year old son, Tommy, with her ex Rachel, who she is still friendly with. Jenn was always a workaholic. Being a woman of color in an industry dominated by white men precipitated some of her workaholic tendencies. After her mother’s death from breast cancer, she further threw herself into her work to keep from dealing with the pain of the loss. Those who work for her call her Chef OCD behind her back and don’t feel like they have a clue who she is because she keeps everyone at arms length. Only her right hand woman, Avery, and head chef Mel are somewhat privy to what lies behind the mask.

Val begins settling into her new position but wants to improve further. She asks Jenn if she can come in early to train even more. Jenn agrees to meet her a few hours early to help her. These meetings allows them a chance to get to know each other better to Jenn’s dismay. She doesn’t want to like the younger woman and she certainly doesn’t want to be attracted to her. Val begins seeing a different side to her boss. Her sharp sense of humor and charming personality while chatting with Val’s parents on the phone and most surprising of all, her vulnerability, when Val happens upon her having a near panic attack in her car after a concerning doctor appointment. Both know that it’s a bad idea but attraction isn’t so easily ignored.

Where to start with my feelings on this book!  It’s safe to say, I’m a bit in love with Jenn. I love a woman who overcomes personal tragedy to not only success in a male dominated industry, but maintains her morals. While many around her see Jenn as an ice queen she’s really put herself in a position where her career defines who she is. She is a control freak, absolutely, but not to the point that she disregards others feelings. Jenn is just a strong woman who runs a tight ship. If she were a man she would be applauded for her strength and leadership. But so many women who demonstrate the same strength are looked down upon. Like pretty much any woman in American politics who runs for any elected position. We can’t appear weak but can’t appear too strong either.

Jenn is wonderful and it takes someone with Val’s sweetness and persistence to break down some of her well cultivated walls. Val has a lot of hero worship in the beginning. Like if I suddenly started working with Cate Blanchett. I would be lead by the pedestal I have her on as a brilliant actress until I kissed her and we moved things into a more equal setting!  😉  It doesn’t take long for Val to see the woman that Jenn really is and have her admiration turn into attraction and then more.

The supporting characters are all fantastic. Avery, who sees what’s happening before anyone else at the restaurant and gives Jenn some unwanted, yet necessary advice. Tommy, Rachel and Zoe and even Val’s parents on video call add so much to the story with their love and insight into these characters.

I love it when I discover an author whose writing seems like she’s written twenty books instead of a few novels and novellas. Stephanie Shea writes like someone who is simply made to write.  Her writing flows beautifully and she paints a picture that I can visualize perfectly in my mind. My only complaint is that I wish Chef’s Kiss for longer because I wanted to spend more time with my girls Jenn and Val. I adore this book and I adore Stephanie Shea as an author. She is one to watch!