October 2012, Series Romance
Harlequin Kimani, $6.25, 224 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373862830
Chocolate is absolutely delicious. So are romances that take two great characters and a nice plot line, add some real life to the mix, and come up with a tale that is both warm and rich. That is exactly what happens with this novel and like a tasty piece of chocolate confection, it was light, fun and sweet.
Art teacher Brandi Collins has a dream: to open her own store carrying her custom handbags. That dream, along with her dream of true love, crumbled to dust when she was left at the altar by her no-good cheating fiancť. She used the money she saved to buy a storefront to pay her mom back for the wedding and the love she had accrued has turned to rage. Now all she has left is vengeance. Her sister is getting married and who should be a groomsman but the man who ditched her? She plans to look fabulous at the wedding and make him eat his heart out at the sight of the new and improved her. Thatís hard to do when all she can fantasize about is chocolate. Her dreams are so real the scent seems to surround her while she sleeps.
Amateur chef Adam Ellison loves a woman with curves. No gal who turns up her nose at a good meal will ever capture his heart. And donít even think about skipping desert! So when he finds out that his neighbor is the voluptuous lady who distracted him during an afternoon basketball game, he canít believe his luck. She is none too thrilled with him however. She has pegged his nighttime baking as the source of the delicious chocolate scents that fill her dreams and since she is trying to live without food or men, she could do without the temptation he and his pastries represent. Adam canít quit cooking however; he has won a place in the amateur division of the International Chocolate Pastry Competition and wants to come home with first prize. When he talks Brandi into taking a bite of one of his confections and her recommendations result in a perfect pastry, he knows he has found the woman for him. But how to convince his sexy neighbor she needs to drop the diet and become his partner in chocolate?
His solution is simple. He has the answer to her handbag dream: micro loans. In exchange for his aid in filling out the applications and filtering out the bad loans from the good, Brandi will be his official taster. Brandi for her part knows she is in no position to refuse. The school is looking at layoffs and chances are strong they will start in the art department. She ramps up her workouts and prepares to be lost in chocolate. What she doesnít prepare for is to be lost in love. She and Adam seem to have so much in common. But does she really want to trust a man after the last one let her down so badly?
Adam has lost at love too. His family owns a housewares company that has products which are in homes all across America. But his executive position with the company never satisfied the craving for creativity deep inside him. When his father died suddenly, Adam took a hard look at his life and found it wanting. When his fiancť heard about his decision to give up being a big shot for cooking, she dumped him. In Brandi he has found a woman who loves him for who he is. But what will happen when she learns who he was?
This terrific little tale captures what it is like to fall in love when all you have keeping you going is your dreams. Both Brandi and Adam have demanding family members who want to keep them on paths they feel are the sure, safe way to success. They give each other encouragement to step off those paths and follow their dreams. I really liked that Adam didnít just use his millions to solve Brandiís problems but found her a viable, independent solution. I also liked that Brandi worked hard at what she wanted and didnít just have it handed to her. From her weight loss to her business, she put in the time to get results. I think the reason I liked both factors so much is that they told me Brandi would be OK even if something did go wrong with the relationship. Too many times in a romance I think the heroine adheres to the old premise ďIím nothing without you.Ē Thatís not the case here.
Both characters have strong relationships outside of each other. They fall in love while leading their ďrealĒ lives, which is something I always enjoy seeing. Brandi and Adam, although they came from different backgrounds, also share the same values. They are advocates of hard work, family, friends and enjoying life when you get the chance. To me they were a perfect match in that they had unique strengths but shared a lot of core beliefs. I just absolutely believed in their romance.
Both Brandi and Adam have family issues to work out. While there is a bit of romance magic in the resolution of Adamís problems, Brandiís problems and solutions seemed very realistic to me. I loved that the relationship with her mom wasnít all fixed after their big talk. Both had reasons for wanting what they wanted and there was too much water under the bridge for them to become best buds afterward. But the resolution explained things well enough that a character who could easily have been a cardboard villain was both three dimensional and understandable.
This was a quick, easy, fun read for me. Even though it isnít a holiday story per se, the mix of chocolate and sweet romance was a perfect fit for quick reading amidst the beginning holiday craziness. If you are in the mood for light, quick and delicious I am happy to recommend this read.
-- Maggie Boyd
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