How Sweet It Is by Melissa BraydenHow Sweet It Is by Melissa Brayden is a small-town romance with a sweet take on life. This novel puts family first, and reminds us that it’s okay to move on after a tragedy.

Four years ago, Molly O’Brien’s life shattered when Cassie’s plane crashed. Since then, Molly has thrown herself into her bakery in Applewood, Illinois and steered away from romance. After all, there wasn’t much point dating when she had already found (and lost) her soulmate. After four years, it’s time to get back into the dating scene; she know she’ll never find another Cassie, but maybe she can find someone to share her life with.

Jordan Tuscana hasn’t been back to Applewood, Illinois since her sister Cassie’s funeral. Everything in Applewood reminds her a little too much of what, or more accurately who, is missing from her life. She’s the black sheep of the family having skipped medical school in favor of producing movies, a fact her family still hasn’t forgotten. After an ill-fated incident with a handsy actor on her movie set, she needed to get away from the movie world for a while.

Molly’s bakeshop is losing business to the new Starbucks and she has no idea how long she’ll be able to keep it afloat. Her charming old house has turned into a fixer upper. The dates her friends are finding her are disastrous. The only sweetness in her life is Jordan. But Jordan is busy dealing with her own issues. Just what is she going to do about the ban from the studio? Why is she so attracted to Molly all of a sudden? And how can she get Molly to see her as Jordan Tuscana not Cassie’s rebellious kid sister?

Molly had never spent much time thinking about Jordan Tuscana beyond the fact that she was Cassie’s little sister, but with Jordan back in Applewood she starts to question whether Jordan might just be the peanut butter to her chocolate. Can these two move past the memory of Cassie and find love together?

The Characters

I was prepared to hate this pairing when I read the blurb. How was I supposed to root for Molly starting a relationship with her sister-in-law? That went against everything I knew about romantic conventions. Here’s the thing, it just works. The two of them are sweet and salty in every way. Where Jordan is a little wild and impulsive, Molly is logical and quiet. Put them together and they are the perfect blend.

Thankfully, I have never been through the kind of loss that Molly and Jordan have experienced, but I have lost people I was close to and this book took me right back to those feelings. In particular, that dull ache that settles after some time has passed. Watching both Molly and Jordan try to find a way to move forward with their lives struck me in such a raw way. The grief is real and accurate, but so is the love between them.

Brayden did a great job of staying true to both of these characters throughout. Both of these characters are very simple in terms of their personalities. Molly bakes and she’d do anything for the people she cares about. She’s happy with the small-town life. Jordan has been living in her sister’s shadow for her entire life and she’s always wanted to touch people through film. She is more than happy to help out her family and friends too. However, their grief makes these characters complex. It would have been very easy to do a poor job here, but Brayden was able to weave their grief into their lives without making the book all about their sadness. Grief, like every other emotion is just a part of life.

The Writing Style

I’ve read plenty of Brayden’s books and her style never disappoints. There are plenty of laughs as Molly heads out on some disastrous dates and there are cry your eyes out scenes as Molly and Jordan come to terms with Cassie’s death. If you’re searching for something a little bit hot, you’ll find that too.

Like many romances, Brayden has used third person limited and switches between Molly and Jordan throughout the novel. I was never confused about whose head I was in, and it always felt like the right fit for the scene.

I breezed through this in a single day. I had to know what was going to happen next. For me, that’s the hallmark of great style.

The Pros

Molly and Jordan have some of the best banter I’ve read in a long time. As soon as the two of them were in the scene it was like the dial turned up to 11. Even the most mundane interaction felt like there were fireworks. While this is just medium heat in terms of actual sexual scenes, it has the simmering build up that keeps me turning page after page.

If you love a good flirtation, then this is a great choice. Plus, if you’re anything like me, I’m always up for a good foodie read.

The Cons

There wasn’t anything I disliked about this book, but I’ll admit it could be a tough read for someone going through the stages of grief. It may help you to heal, or it could rip open an already raw round.

That being said, the way grief was handled here was superb in my opinion and really explored a few different reactions to the death of a loved one.

The Conclusion

This one is the real deal. If you’re like me and think the pairing seems a little odd, you might find you’re pleasantly surprised by how well they fit together. I made the mistake of reading this while on a long-haul flight sans wife. I simultaneously couldn’t put the book down and couldn’t stop thinking about how my wife would cope if she ended up alone like Molly. As always, Brayden is able to weave the emotional threads of a simple but highly emotional story. A must-read for any romance reader, but you’ll be especially hooked if you’re into foodie or small-town romances.

Excerpt from How Sweet It Is by Melissa Brayden

“How’s the new house working out?”

“Well, it’s not exactly new, which is kind of the problem. Turns out ‘charming older house’ is actually code for ‘hope you like home repairs.’ The newest casualties are the shutters. It’s quite tragic.”

Jordan quirked an eyebrow. “I had a jumper.”

“No.”

“Yes, and don’t look so horrified. Don’t think I don’t know when you’re making fun of me. I think I taught you how.”

Jordan laughed. “I forgot that part.” A pause. “I could fix it for you, you know, if I thought you’d be eternally grateful. Maybe we could negotiate a back alley cinnamon roll agreement of sorts.”

Molly studied her curiously. “Back alley cinnamon rolls I can do, but since when do you know anything about home repair?”

Jordan raised her shoulder and let it drop. “You can learn a lot on a movie set. One of the perks.”

“Apparently. But I don’t want to pull you from your much-needed R and R. I thought that was kind of the point of your whole sabbatical back here.”

“Yeah, among other things. But it’s either help you with your tragic shutters or shuffle papers for the dueling doctors at the clinic. I need to stay busy, and I’m thinking the shutter thing sounds pretty good. Plus, I enjoy the sun time. I look good in a tan.”

“Done. Hired. In return, all the baked goods you can eat.”

“So incredibly dangerous.”

“My middle name.” They shook on it and Molly stood.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781602829589
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Melissa Brayden Online  

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Caitlin Ryan on FacebookCaitlin Ryan on Twitter
Caitlin lives in Australia, she hates the sun but loves the beach. With two dogs, three cats, and a wife, there is always someone to snuggle with while reading a great book. There aren't many genres Caitlin doesn't read, though she's usually happiest with a lesbian romance. She spends her days editing fiction and might as well live and breathe words. Any spare time she isn't reading is spent playing tabletop games or catching up on her favorite fandoms.