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Sometimes we just need a fun book. Good news! Make It Sweet is just the book for you. There’s a great early 1990s rom com feel to some of the emotional bonding moments.

And a great introduction to Kristen Callihan. Montlake, the romance division of Amazon publishing, offers audiobooks with ebooks for most of their catalog. Yay!

Note: there may be spoilers for Make It Sweet throughout the review.

 

The Review

This was such a fun read! March has been a month of either love, hate, or indifference. Make It Sweet was a fun read. Solid relationships, believable romance, very 1990s miniseries vibes. Okay, not the melodrama, but the last 10% was totally something you’d see in a mini.

Lucian is a hockey player forced to retire. In short: he’s lost. And Emma finds herself axed on a popular series and forced to make decisions on her new future. There’s something in routine and comradery that each one misses in their Before Life.

Lucian was a great hero. Assertive and confident but vulnerable about suddenly no longer having an identity. How many athletes face that in real time? A lot, especially as concussion research shows how brutal those hits can be on developing minds. His story really broke my heart in many ways.

And Emma seemed like an actress who needed that comfort, that routine, to feel secure after growing up in a dysfunctional household. And, yes, abusive. Craving security is something I personally connect with, a lot. Security can be a driving factor anxiety attacks, personally. And Emma’s sudden change in work indicated a return to that dysfunction.

I also loved their connections on physical health. Migraines are hella complex. I’ve only had a few in my life and I don’t care to repeat it. Stress brings on Luc’s, which is a problem when fighting desire for the actress who needs time to heal from firing and a bad breakup. Emma is completely empathetic and resourceful. That matters in establishing a connection early on.

And let’s talk the romance. I actually felt the romance as it happened. Remember those 1990s references? I saw them here, too. Maybe a bit more Melrose, though, since one of the funniest book scenes involved a pool. There’s something absolutely lovely in the way each give the other a nickname (or three).

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) with an open shirted Paul Newman on a bed with an elegantly dressed Elizabeth Taylor in the background.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. Credit to FilmAffinity.com.

I loved Emma’s reference to Brick to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I don’t know if I’ve ever said it on the podcast, but I love Tennessee Williams’s plays. I don’t like a ton of plays, but there’s so many layers to what he says. And I loved how easily Emma pegged Luc’s athleticism. It’s a major part of his identity. He’s not an alphahole. Just supremely confident in his ability to play. Except he can’t.

And her little honeypie quip turned nickname made me giggle. It’s very southern and one I’ve used before. Little things in this book kept adding up to an enjoyable read. Or listen since I audiobooked majority of the book. I didn’t necessarily care for some of Jacob Morgan’s higher pitches for the women, but it’s a minor quibble. Just took me out a few times. Ava Erikson was great as Emma and Amalie, Lucian’s grandmother.

Jacob sound a bit like William LeRoy, who did Meghan Quinn’s That Second Chance. So if you liked the timbre and pacing, you’ll enjoy this audio. Ava previously worked with Jacob on Lola Leighton’s Bedfellows. I haven’t listened, but it clear they have chemistry as narrators and understand the roles they play.

The introduction of the various characters, like Sal, really made the family dynamic work. Along with the antagonistic cousin Anton. I’m really hoping there’s a story for Sal and Anton, a resolution. I don’t necessarily need an HEA. Just a sense of respect and acceptance after decades of conflict.

And Emma fit right in. Not quite on her own, she still didn’t have a family like Lucian’s. And that worked well for them. An outsider can see what you can’t. She has no problem calling out ill-advised decisions or takes. Something the family really needs. And honestly, so does she. Between a bad breakup, a loss of community after firing, she needs to feel needed.

Relatable.

Head’s up, don’t read it if you’re cooking. It’ll make you want all the pastries. All of them. Which is bad as a person living around the corner from multiple bakeries. German, though. Seriously, if you love light cakey pastries, try a bienenstich. That’s a delicious dessert (look, a picture!) and a recipe. Because I love you, dear reader.

And for once my love of the pastry is relevant. Because Luc calls Emma honeybee. It’s cute and adorable how they use nicknames. Okay, fine. I love nicknames. Give me all the nicknames in every romance. I adored Tessa Dare’s Emma in The Duchess Deal because of her many, many nicknames for Ash. Cute, light, frothy but with a world of meaning between a couple. That’s exactly what Callihan’s Emma and Luc do with honey pie and honeybee. Establish a connection and I’m there.

Create a deep friendship circle with characters and I’ll never leave. Seriously. Friendship circles and support networks are what make me appreciate the hero and heroine. It doesn’t need to be a deep one. Even the one between Luc and Delilah, Emma’s friend. Delilah seems to be the heroine in the first of the series, Dear Enemy, who knows what she wants as a profession and moving forward in that direction.

I really liked how Delilah isn’t afraid to be bold in asking Luc what his plans are in the near future. She’s willing to trust him in a new role based on his skills as a baker. Not only is his background absolutely stellar, being taught by a master, but he understands the creativity in trying new flavors and creations. His love of food, of creating meals to make others feel warm and comfortable, is absolutely something that hits home for me.

Growing up in the south, food was a sign of love. You cook when celebrating, grieving, angry, or feeling creative. It’s a huge part of the culture. While Make It Sweet is set in California with deep roots in France, there’s a sort of bonding there. The author did a fantastic job. Ever seen that really cheesy Sarah Michelle Gellar movie Simply Irresistible? I love how when she cooks, there’s magic in the air.

Food is an expression of the soul. Luc expresses to friends, family, and love interests by caring enough to offer delicious treats. There’s something beautiful in the vulnerability, don’t you think? Because they could reject the offer or criticize. But what he does perfectly fits.

And the I Love You scene was perfection. I so want to show, but I can’t. It would spoil too much. So good, though. I seriously adore the moments where both characters are willing to talk out issues. To be open. Easy sell for Jessica.

I didn’t really have a lot negative comments about the book, to be honest. It was delightful, had a good balance of romance and character development. Even when I frustrated with Luc, I understood his mindset. It’s a mindfuck, no other word, for having your entire life destroyed in a few moments. For something outside your control. That’s so relatable as someone with a chronic illness. You want to do more, but you can’t. There are limitations and side effects.

 

The Rating

The question now is how does all that information break down on a scale? I use the CAWPILE method with a bonus of a ‘romance’ section. Seemed rather wise to add a section for the area this podcast talks about.

CAWPILER

  • Characters: 9/10
  • Atmosphere: 9.5/10
  • Writing Style: 9.25/10
  • Plot: 9.0/10
  • Intrigue: 7.25
  • Logic (Relationships): 8.5/10
  • Enjoyment: 10/10
  • Romance: 9.25/10
  • Total Rating: 9.0/10

9.0 is a full 5 stars. I seriously loved this book with very few complaints.

I really enjoyed the general plot as well as the romance. Lucian and Emma were complex characters who had similar issues yet different responses. Make It Sweet was a positive rec I saw on Instagram. And the audiobook was enjoyable. Even the distracting choices for some voices.

Spoiler Alert by Olivia DadeEmma was such a great match for Lucian. While the romance was sped up, timeline wise, it seemed like the overall storyline was consistent. And that matters to me. Note, this is the first 5 star posted as yet. That’s significant.

Do I recommend the book? Yes! If you liked Olivia Dade’s Spoiler Alert, you’ll love Make It Sweet. If you love Doug Dorsey (or The Cutting Edge in any way possible), you’ll love Lucian. There’s a lot of beats that come out well together.

Give it a chance. It’s worth it.

Will I read another book by Kristen Callihan? Yes! I’m going to check out Dear Enemy, the first in the series, as soon as this review goes up. I was completely into the writing style. I’m starting to really enjoy Montlake authors because Amazon puts the money into strong audiobooks.

Make It Sweet is available to Kindle  Unlimited members. Paperbacks and ebooks available at most retailers.

Jessica

Owner of Deconstructing Damsels.

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