Carmen Lyttleton’s career is going great, but her love life isn’t. She’s been dating the same guy for two years and the best I can say about him is that he’s convenient. Their relationship isn’t going anywhere and Carmen couldn’t care less.
Carmen tags along when her best friend gets a tattoo and is impressed by the tattooer, Ash. Carmen is pleasantly surprised when she runs into Ash soon after and the two enjoy a cup of coffee and some custard tarts together. Warning: these tarts come up a lot, so you might want to have some baked goods on hand when you read this book.
Ash gave up the investment banking life to set up her own tattoo studio and she couldn’t be happier. If only her love life was going as well as her career. Ash has one rule when it comes to who she dates: avoid straight women at all costs. She learned that one the hard way and she’s wary of being hurt again.
Despite Ash’s rule and Carmen never considering she could be anything but straight, the spark between them is undeniable. Can they both take a chance on something real?
Does the name Carmen sound familiar? That’s because she’s a side character from Write Your Own Script. I so enjoyed seeing Carmen grapple with her attraction to Ash and what it means. Even though it’s not always easy for her, I’m glad that it didn’t cause a massive amount of angst. Carmen doesn’t seem to settle on a label in the end, although she does consider “bisexual” at one point, and that felt authentic. Labels can be tricky and it can take a while to find one that fits just right.
Ash has some baggage to work through, since she’s so against dating someone who is just figuring out that they’re not straight. Unfortunately, that leads her to be an ass at a couple of points. I was happy to see how she makes up for it, giving them an excellent happily ever after.
There are a bunch of side characters in this book. Most notable are Tamsyn and Maggie from Write Your Own Script (I loved seeing what their HEA looked like!), and Ash’s sister Courtney and niece Sophie. Sophie comes out as gay near the beginning of the book, offering a secondary storyline that contrasts Carmen’s coming out experience.
The Writing Style
When I picked this up, I wanted a comfort read and I was delighted that Dare to Love so perfectly delivered! I especially fell for these characters and their stories. I blew through the book in two days and was sad when it was over.
This is one of the best slow burns I’ve ever read. It takes a while for Ash and Carmen to get together and much longer for them to get into bed. It was a nice change of pace to see them take their time and make sure they’re ready, and it felt true to these characters.
This is a minor thing, but I wondered how one person could sustain a tattoo shop in London, all by herself. Especially since Ash doesn’t seem to be a top tier tattooer, even if she’s talented.
I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved it! It gave me a perfect escape from the world and I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a gentle romance that’s like a warm hug, make sure to pick this one up.
Excerpt from Dare to Love by A.L. Brooks
Alma’s was located a few blocks away, tucked down a side street. The walk lifted Carmen’s spirits; the streets weren’t too busy in the middle of a Monday morning, and the air was, for once in the centre of London , fresh and easy on the nose. She smiled to herself— she actually walked with a spring in her step. Who’d have thought, given how bleak she’d felt all weekend?
The café wasn’t very busy when she arrived . An older couple sat at one table indoors, and outside two of the four smaller tables were occupied. She was about to step through the open front door when her eye was caught by the person at the table nearest the door. Was that…?
“Ash?” she tentatively asked.
The woman looked up, and a broad smile split her face. “Hey! Carmen, isn’t it?”
“It is. Nice to see you again.” Carmen didn’t know why Ash was here, but it was rather lovely to see a vaguely familiar face out and about on her escape from the office. “You live around here?”
Ash laughed. “I wish ! No, I heard this place had the best Portuguese custard tarts in town, and I made a long diversion on my way to work to find out if it was true.” She pointed at a plate that looked as if it might have actually been licked clean. “It seems it is.”
Carmen chuckled. “It really is. I haven’t been here in a while, but I’ll be leaving with a box of five.”
Ash’s eyebrows shot up.
“Not all for me!” Carmen hastily added. “Tempting as that might be.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 978-3963243615
- Publisher: Ylva Publishing
- A.L. Brooks Online
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