I have ten tattoos scattered across various parts of my body, and I’m a ginger, and I love Christmas, so there was very little chance I was not going to love a book between a ginger tattoo artist whose studio resembles Santa’s grotto and a hardworking psychology student who becomes his employee during the Christmas season. And because probability is math and therefore usually right, I freaking loved this book. It’s one of the best I’ve read this year.
Cash Evans has been frequenting the coffee shop where Bailey Cooper worked for a few weeks when he gets embroiled in a dramatic evening that ends with Bailey losing her job and Cash helping her friend John find temporary housing to help him off the streets. Cash feels bad that Bailey’s been fired, so he gruffly offers her a job at his tattoo shop. Bailey ends up loving the new job, and she and Cash grow closer, but he won’t let himself fall for her. He can’t, or else he’ll become just like the man he always hated: his father, and he can’t do that to the one woman he truly loves. When Bailey and Cash end up at Cash’s mom’s for Christmas, Cash has to decide if he’s ready to fight his demons to win back Bailey’s heart. HEA ensues and I’m here for it.
Hot hero, curvy heroine, tattoo shop, Christmas decorations galore, great sex… this book had it all and then some. Bailey and Cash are good people to their core. Cash helps John find safety and a job that ends up changing the course of his life forever, and gives Bailey the job she needs to cover her bills after she gets fired from her job at the coffee shop. Bailey is a friend to John and Gem and is emotionally intelligent and self-assured. When Cash is a fuckboy, she lets him know, but she also lets him know when he’s being awesome, which is most of the time. My favourite scene between the two of them is during Bailey’s tattoo consultation with Cash, right before one of their hot, steamy kisses.
“Bailey,” he said again. “Sometimes…sometimes you look at me like…”
“Like what?” she asked when his voice trailed off.
“I don’t know,” he said finally. “I don’t know how to describe it. But it makes me wish I was a better person.”
She frowned up at him. “Why would you say that? You’re already the best man I know.”
Their conversations are so real and deep and they made me feel exactly what I imagined the characters would be feeling in each moment. This whole book had me tearing up and feeling like my heart was going to bounce out of my chest with both joy and sadness at Cash and Bailey’s difficult backstory and their ability to rise above their respective instances of adversity. I wanted only good things for them.
My second favourite scene is really just the last quarter of the book, when Bailey goes with Cash to his mom’s house for Christmas. The scene is so warm, inviting and familiar, with food and family contrasting with awkwardness and emotion, and it was just so well done. I think what really makes this book stand out amongst so many of the others I’ve read this year is that I could really and clearly picture every scene in my mind, every emotion, every kiss and laugh. It’s a triumph. Read it, please. You won’t be sorry.
The recipe to go along with this book was inspired by Cash’s mom, who reminded me a bit of my mom, in that she was extremely kind and friendly. The first thing I learned how to bake were chocolate chip cookies, and I have a vivid memory of being three years old, looking up at my mom as she used an electric hand mixer to cream together the butter and sugar for the cookies. Now, whenever I eat a chocolate chip cookie, I think of love, warmth, and happiness, and that’s how this book made me feel. So, here are some cookies. Eat them and let life be good to you.
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the recipe for Vegan Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies in Vegan Junk Food
Makes 20 cookies
2 flax eggs
1 cup vegan butter
1 cup sugar (I used golden caster but I’ve also used granulated in this recipe and it works great)
1 cup dark brown muscovado sugar (I’ve also used light brown sugar in this recipe and it’s slightly less caramel-y when baked, but still delicious)
2 1/2 cups bread flour (all-purpose will work here but the cookies won’t be as chewy)
11/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips (I’ve subbed in chopped dark chocolate before and it works great, though the chocolate will melt while cooking, so you’ll get nice little pools of chocolate, rather than intact chips)
2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
- Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a large stand mixer, cream the vegan butter and sugars until fluffy, then add the flax eggs and mix.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt, then add to the butter mixture and mix until combined. Add in the soya milk if the dough is dry (mine was).
- Take the bowl off the stand and mix in the chocolate chips.
- Scoop the dough by heaping tablespoonfuls, roll into balls and place 1.5-2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown. As the cookies cool, they’ll set and develop delicious little cracks in them. Eat!