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12 Days of Holiday Romance Reviews and Recipes, Day 3: Wrapped by Rebekah Weatherspoon

37645241 I’m sorry to say I only just discovered Rebekah Weatherspoon’s wonderful, wonderful novels. I read Fit after hearing her interview on When in Romance and LOVED IT. I was hoping this book would be such as replete with steamy sex, hot, sensitive heroes and badass heroines, and it did not disappoint.

Synopsis
Shae Kenny isn’t looking for love when she finds her old colleague Aidan on an online dating app, but that’s exactly what she gets. Aidan is sweet, sensitive, and insanely hot, and even better, he’s been crushing on Shae for years, ever since they worked together and she would bring her homemade confectionary creations into the office.

Now, Shae runs her own bakery, and Aidan starts popping in every few days after their first date. Before long, they’re in love, but Shae is terrified. How can she be with Aidan when she’s still feeling the effects of her divorce? Thankfully, Aidan’s a fighter, and he’s not willing to let the sexiest, smartest, hottest baker he’s ever met go.

Review
5 stars

This book. This book was amazing. Rebekah Weatherspoon is hands-down one of the best contemporary romance authors out there right now. I honestly wouldn’t even be upset if you stopped reading this review and just went straight to Amazon and bought her entire catalogue.

However, if you’re still reading, let me tell you why I loved this book. It’s partly because Shae is a baker, and I love baking; it’s partly because Shae has amazing friends, and I’m a sucker for a romance with strong female friendships; and it’s partly because Aidan is the OG of sensitive heroes who are also ace in the bedroom and will shout their woman’s amazingness from the rooftops.

The relationship between Shae and Aidan builds so believably and so sweetly, and you can almost feel his love for her radiating off the page. There’s also a hot bit between them with some sexy photos that is dealt with the sexiest of consensual conversations. Most importantly, however, their first date is the most perfect first date I’ve ever read. They pick out a Christmas tree, buy ornaments, then go home to order takeout and watch Netflix. IDEAL.

While Shae was a great character, Aidan was my favourite. He’s just so inherently good. He fights for Shae when she has an attack of low confidence and second-guessing herself, works with her friends to see her, and he tells her he’ll always listen to her, including when she needs to vent about her husband. Aidan is the hero we all need, and I thank Rebekah Weatherspoon from the bottom of my ginger soul for creating him and reminding me and my fellow readers that good men exist in literature and in the world.

Shae is a fantastic baker, and at once point she makes Aidan the dessert he most missed while they were apart: her caramel crunch brownies. I’ve adapted a recipe from GoodHouskeeping for the ooiest, gooiest brownies topped with caramel. They’re decadent, perfect for a holiday party or just a rainy winter afternoon.

Vegan Caramel Brownies
makes about 10 slices

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Ingredients
For the brownies
125 ml vegetable oil
200 g dairy-free dark chocolate, roughly chopped
250 ml unsweetened almond or soya milk
200 g plain flour
50 g cocoa powder
100 g dark brown muscovado sugar
75 g golden caster sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt

For the caramel
75 g dark brown muscovado sugar
125 ml coconut milk

1/2 tbsp custard powder

Brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F. Grease a 20.5cm (8 inch) round cake tin with some vegetable oil or line with parchment paper.
  2. Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl and place it over a small pan of gently simmering water. Allow to melt, then remove from the heat. Whisk in the oil and almond milk.
  3. In a large standing mixer, combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugars, baking powder and salt. Slowly whisk in the chocolate mixture until fully combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin. Bake in the oven for 20-25min until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean or with a few wet crumbs. Pour the caramel over the top and wait 20 minutes for it to set before cutting. Then, DEVOUR.

Caramel:

  1. Spread the sugar over the base of a non-stick frying pan and stir in 1 tablespoon of water. Pat the sugar and water together until the mixture covers the pan.
  2. Heat over a medium heat until melted, then mix in the coconut milk and custard powder and whisk, turning up the heat to boiling then down to simmer. Continue whisking until the caramel thickens, then take off the heat.

 

 

 

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Baking · Blog · Book Reviews · Contemporary Romance · Recipes

12 Days of Holiday Romances and Recipes, Day 1: The Best Worst Holiday Party Ever by Olivia Waite

27503662To kick off this fest of love and good food, I chose Olivia Waite’s The Best Worst Holiday Party Ever. I initially heard about the book on Twitter and it sounded way too good to pass up, plus, Olivia Waite is a new author to me, and I wanted to sample some of her work.

Synopsis

Isobel is a passionate wine aficionado working her way toward a Sommelier qualification. Her jerky friend Owen invites her to a holiday as a guest—or so she thinks. But when Isobel shows up and Owen directs her to the kitchen, she realizes that she’s been invited not to enjoy the party splendour, but to serve the guests. Thankfully, she meets Owen, a hot accountant and amateur piano player she has a brief rendezvous in the cellar with. They bond over their shared hatred of Ernest, Isobel’s asshole friend and Owen’s boss, and by the end of the night, they’re smitten.

Review
4.5 stars

I really liked this book. Novellas that are this short often leave much to be desired in the way of plot, but this supplied enough background to get to know the characters as well as a believable progression in their relationship to where I could absolutely believe in their attraction to each other. I was left wanting more, but that happens with pretty much every novella I read. I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a short, sweet novella to get you in the holiday mood.

I also loved the little details that the author included in the book. The chapter titles were inspired by music, a nod to Owen’s piano playing, and wine knowledge was littered throughout.

Olivia Waite is a talented author, and I can’t wait to read more of her books. If she wanted to do a sequel to The Best Worst Holiday Party Ever that shows us where Isobel and Owen are now, I also wouldn’t mind.

The back of the book features a delectable mulled wine recipe, so I decided to craft some cookies to go along with it. The microwave version of the mulled wine recipe and cookie recipe are both printed below.

Swedish Pepparkakor
Makes about 20

IMG_3588

Ingredients

60g (about 1/4 cup) vegan butter
75g (about 1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tbsp black treacle
2-4 tbsp almond or soya milk
225g (1-3/4 cup) plain flour
½ tsp baking soda

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a large stand mixer. Add the spices, black treacle and orange zest and combine, then add in the soya milk.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Slowly add it to the wet mixture until mostly combined, then turn the power off and knead the mixture by hand until completely mixed, adding a dash more soya milk if needed, but be sure not to make it too sticky.
  3. Refrigerate the dough covered in plastic wrap for an hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease two cookie sheets. Roll out the dough until thin and then, using a rounded drinking glass dipped in flour, cut out circles from the dough. Bake one inch apart for 12 minutes. The cookies will harden as they cool.

 

Isobel’s Mulled Wine
Makes enough for 2 people

Ingredients
1 bottle red wine, not too fancy
1/2 lime, sliced into wedges
2 whole sticks cinnamon
splash of elderflower or other sweet liqueur
plenty of honey, nutmeg and spices to taste
anything else you think might be delicious

1. Fill two mugs two-thirds full with wine. Add other ingredients and stir until well blended. Heat on high for two minutes or until steaming. Let cool, remove lime wedges, and enjoy

 

 

Blog · Book Reviews · Contemporary Romance

Book Review: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

This book. THIS BOOK. I flew through this book earlier this week, ignoring work and staying up way too late to get through chapter after chapter, and nearly cried out “YES!!!” at the HEA. Things I love about it:

-the setting is subtle; I normally love world-building even in my contemporaries so I can really sink my teeth into the story, but this book’s lack of a clear setting makes it so much easier to focus on the relationship between the characters25883848

-Lucy is a confident, driven, badass heroine who takes no shade from her arch nemesis-turned-true-love, Josh

-Lucy’s boss, Helene, is incredibly supportive and the complete opposite of the Dragon Lady archetype I so often see in books set in/around workplaces with female bosses

-Lucy is the seducer in this book, making her feelings towards Josh clearly known, and mostly unabashedly so

-Josh is a vulnerable, shy, self-conscious supportive hero

-Josh loves Lucy’s ambition

-the sexual buildup is INSANE

-this book combines two of my favourite tropes: enemies-to-lovers and forced proximity

This is probably one of the best contemporaries I’ve ever read. I love how openly feminist it is, I love that Josh is an atypical beta hero, and I love that Lucy loves her body and eats donuts and cheese with abandon.  I can’t wait to read Sally Thorne’s other works, and I now completely get why everyone has been freaking out about this book. GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW.

 

Blog · Book Reviews · Contemporary Romance

Book Review: Remedial Rocket Science by Susannah Nix

After reading Intermediate Thermodynamics and absolutely loving it, I was excited to read more of Nix’s awesome contemporary romance. But while I loved the characters in Intermediate Thermodynamics, I didn’t think there was enough detail on their backstories, which were integral to their love story.

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After Melody and Jeremy’s initial meeting, they both go through huge life changes that affect the way they view the people and the world around them. These changes are part of what eventually allows them to get together, but while they seemed to play big roles when Melody and Jeremy first see each other again, these life- changing events are abruptly forgotten about soon after.

I’m a stickler for character development— I want to see how the hero and heroine change throughout a novel, and what causes them to do so. I also think backstories are hugely important, so not getting to learn more about

[SPOILER ALERT]

how Melody’s boyfriend’s suicide changed the way she viewed relationships was frustrating, especially because the Melody we first meet in the book is less inhibited than the one we meet three years later, and the author alludes that this is because of her boyfriend’s death, but never explains why.

I also wanted to know more about what happened to Jeremy while he and Melody were apart. Nix doesn’t go into the specifics of just how his father’s death has changed him. Yes, he’s less of a playboy and more responsible, but we never find out if working at Sauer Hewson was the career he was searching for, and we also never find out how his father’s death might have affected his relationships with Lacey, his mother, or his sister.

I love Nix’s writing because it’s captivating, full of assertive, smart female heroines, and builds amazing sexual tension between the hero and heroine, making the moment when they finally get together all the more satisfying. I just wished the book told me a little more about the hero and heroine, so I knew exactly how life had changed them and made them even more suited for each other.

Blog · Book Reviews · Contemporary Romance

Book Review: Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

Dating You/Hating You might be the best contemporary romance I’ve EVER. READ. The reasons?

-The hero not only has feelings, but analyzes them, sits with them, and openly shares them

-The hero is not intimidated by the heroine’s success

-The hero’s best friend also has feelings and isn’t intimidated by his wife’s success

-The heroine is successful, and that isn’t described as her somehow trying to compensate for something lacking in her life

-The book weaves in an amazing conversation about toxic masculinity and harassment in the workplace

-The heroine has a solid #girlgang full of other successful women

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SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com

It’s only this year that I’ve really started to get into contemporary romances, and there were a few points where I nearly gave up. After spending so long in the historical romance sphere, it can be a bit strange to suddenly transport yourself to a world where anything goes, but the guys are still totally domineering even though it’s the 21st century (looking at you, Jack from Smooth Talking Stranger).

I also have a problem with some of the language in contemporaries. While I’m all for four-letter words in books, if I read one more romance novel where the world “damn” is used as an adjective every time a guy tries to describe 1. his thoughts 2. the girl he likes 3. his life, I WILL SCREAM.

Dating You/Hating You, however, was perfect in language, plot, character development, and setting.  I loved that the book kept me guessing. A third of the way into this book, everything is going so well between Carter and Evie that I was a bit confused as to how this story was going to stay interesting for another 70% of the book, but oh man, was the conflict good. Not only was it well thought out, but the conflict made for some crazy-hot sexual tension.

You can bet I’ve already downloaded another one of Christina Lauren’s books, and I’m eternally grateful to Sarah MacLean and her article “Best Romance Novels of 2017” where I first read about this book.

Wishing you happy reading and more books on your #favourites shelf.