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Oct 06

Falling Sweetly by Aidan Willow Review

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3.5 Smooches

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Synopsis

ANNIKA
My life has been odd lately.
I’ve been looking for love.
I’m not sure what it’s supposed to look like, but I’ve been looking for it.
Date after date with awful losers has not left me with much hope.
Also, Jacob Jameson, the man I’ve had a stupid crush on, asked me to help him with his restaurant.
I foolishly said yes.
Let the months of awkwardness commence.

JACOB
The girl I like keeps avoiding me.
My restaurant has been sabotaged.
The reputation that I’ve worked so hard to achieve is in ruins.
So overall, my life is not great right now.
I’m pretty sure Annika Abbott, object of my affections, is the key to reviving my business.
I’m done patiently waiting for her to come around to the idea of us being together.
Now I just have to figure out how to make her fall for me…

Annika Abbott is socially awkward, shy, kind and looking for love. She’s not embarrassed to admit it. She is, however, rather embarrassed by the freak show parade her latest set of dates have been. Annika has often been told she’s too nice for her own good, which is probably how she’s ended up agreeing to work on Jacob’s restaurant with him, after stealthily avoiding her (supposedly) unrequited crush for months.

Jacob Jameson is pretty sure he’s met the girl of his dreams. The only problem is she keeps evading him. Casual stalking seemed to help his brother land his fiancé, however, Jacob is a busy guy and stalking is a hard thing to work into a daily schedule. It’s a good thing he’s efficient. Killing two birds with one stone seems like a solid plan; get Annika to help him create a winning menu at his restaurant and persuade her to give him a chance.

Now, if only he knew how to go about winning the woman’s affections.

Authors Note: 18+ For mature readers only. Book contains graphic language, scenes of a very sexual nature, an extremely passionate but clueless chef, a self-conscious but gifted heroine, an intrusive but loving family, an insane, musical loving best friend, a c*ck-blocking cat and a goldfish who’s a really good listener…

REVIEW

 

Falling Sweetly is the second book in Aidan Willows’ Starling Falls series. I really loved the first book, Falling Completely, as it laid the groundwork for a promising series based on one of my favorite tropes: the small town romance. A big family, lots of side characters, an interesting little town and the potential for many romances. Oh yeah, this series is totally up my alley, and I was very much looking forward to this installment. Falling Sweetly focuses on the romance between Annika, or Niki, the sister of Liya from Falling Completely, and Jacob, one of the brothers of Caleb, the hero in that book.

Pastry chef Niki is socially awkward, lacking in confidence and plagued with low self-esteem. Considering that she somehow mustered up the courage to relocate to another country to not only care for an aunt she barely knew but to also run that aunt’s bakery, this kind of surprised me. There really was no explanation for this or flashback to incidences in her history to explain these deep-seeded issues (besides the loss of her parents at 14), so I don’t fully understand where they came from. Considering the sizable role these issues played in this character’s overall development, I think that specific piece of her background should have been fully fleshed out for the reader. In doing so, readers, and this reader in particular, would have had a better understanding of and for this character. Unfortunately, between the way the character was written and the lack of this critical information, I found myself feeling more frustrated by Niki’s behavior than sympathetic to it. I did not connect with her on any level, and at times, I found myself even a bit annoyed by her.

Chef Jake, who is dealing with some professional challenges, really likes Niki and is getting frustrated because she’s been actively avoiding him for months following an incident on New Year’s Eve that, as it turns out, Niki doesn’t even remember. So not only is the restaurant that he’s running for his retired mentor failing, but also his reputation has been tarnished, and the girl he likes is ignoring him. Learning that she’s out there, going on dates, is what spurs him to make a move. Jake is a straight talker and, once he decides to pursue Niki in earnest, he makes his intentions very clear. The thing is that it takes quite a while for the reader to get to this point. But, even after they’ve come together as a couple, the focus is primarily on Jake’s new business venture; fortunately, he’s drawn Niki into it to help him so there is a lot of interaction between them, but it’s not all romantic.

I found the development of their relationship to be very slow moving. As I said, the focus is really on Jake’s new business, and while Niki has a role in getting it off the ground, it’s hardly romantic. Because there is such an emphasis on the business side of their relationship, I really had a hard time connecting with Niki and Jake as a young couple falling in love—a couple of friends, sure, but the romance between them was underwhelming and I missed it. I totally got that Niki is awkward and that aspect of her personality was played up – sometimes fantastically – but on every single one of their dates, they faced some sort of calamity that rendered the date wholly unromantic. Further, a lot of their non-professional interactions and conversations felt this way, too, and it just became too much, too overplayed with the awkward, uncomfortableness. The few times that they were in sync, though, they were cute together, but I wouldn’t say their sexual chemistry was hot. In fact, when they did actually get down to it, it was sexy, but Niki’s character had been so vividly portrayed as self-conscious and uncomfortable in her own skin, that it colored the way I saw her, and I had trouble feeling any sizzle between them.

I still like this series, I like the other characters in the Jameson family, and I want to read their stories. I think that for me, though, particularly in terms of the romance portion of this book, Falling Sweetly fell a bit short. My issues stem from Niki’s character and how the author portrayed her; I couldn’t see past her awkwardness, her discomfort in social situations and her odd behavior to connect with this character. These traits were so overwhelming that they colored her every action, and, in some scenes, it would have played out much more fulfillingly for me if she didn’t have such a heavy cloud of self-consciousness hanging over her. I did, however, enjoy the abundance of humor in this book – lots of bantering between the characters, a few slap-sticky moments and some truly original and well executed comedic scenes. Falling Sweetly was billed as a romance, though, and that was the part of this story that I struggled the most with, so for that reason, I’m giving it 3.5 smooches.

~ Danielle Palumbo

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