Review: A Sweet Mess – Jayci Lee

Review: A Sweet Mess – Jayci LeeA Sweet Mess
by Jayci Lee
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Genres: Romance
Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Korean-American author Jayci Lee delights with this delicious and light-hearted romantic comedy that readers will devour and ask for more.

Bake a chance on love.

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see her gorgeous Korean unicorn again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as sharing a villa.

When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

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4 stars icon contemporary icon m/f romance icon yummy food

Content warnings: View Spoiler »

While at first glance the cover is cute (is that the chocolate bundt cake?), I’m going to point out that since this is an illustrated cover, there is zero excuse for whitewashing the two Korean main characters. I previously read Jayci Lee’s Harlequin debut, Temporary Wife Temptation, and loved it, so I was very excited for this book. It completely lived up to my enemies-to-lovers expectations!

“If I’m going to have a chat with a complete stranger, I might as well have an interesting one.” A deep blush stained her cheeks, and her lashes fluttered to hide her eyes. “Besides, you’re leaving tomorrow. I was hoping we could pack a lot into tonight.”

Aubrey’s content with her life – her bakery has a steady business of locals and tourists, so much so that she’s set to move to a larger location soon. As for a relationship, who has the time, well except for a casual one-night-stand after a hard day at the bakery (her assistant sold a 6-year-old’s chocolate-peanut butter-gummy worm monstrosity to an unsuspecting customer) with a hot stranger. Landon’s had an even worse day. Stranded by a car mishap on his way to review a restaurant, he hoped to at least enjoy a delicious snack at the local bakery, but he certainly wasn’t counting on some arrogant baker throwing gummy worms into an otherwise delicious cake – or the hot stranger sneaking out without even saying goodbye after their night together. But when he finds out after writing a scathing review that the owner of the bakery is none other than his mystery woman – and that the cake was meant for a child’s birthday party – he knows he has to make amends. What could be better than casting her for his friend’s new cooking show? Except that means they’ll have to spend three weeks together and their attraction is only getting stronger.

Is this what home feels like? His chest tightened with wonder and panic, but he allowed the warmth and tranquility to wash over him. It was a stolen moment of happiness—isolated and timeless—and it imprinted itself permanently on his mind.”

Aubrey is just lovely. Yeah, she’s got family issues (who doesn’t?) but she’s overcome them and is successfully running her own bakery – at least until Landon’s review sent her customer base running. Her bakery is more than just her business, it’s her true home, and the thought that she could lose it is devastating. Which is why, when Landon comes back with his offer, Aubrey accepts, even after he directly accuses her of possibly sleeping with him to get a good review. So you can see why, for me, Landon originally starts out in “oh hell no” territory, between the awful review and that accusation. Luckily, we also get his POV in the book, so we know that he’s sincere about fixing the harm he caused, even if he can’t quite apologize for it. Landon’s spent the past decade traveling the world, not even bothering with having a car, and he prides himself on being organized and controlled. He’s never impulsive – not anymore – so he can’t understand why being around Aubrey makes him do rash things.

“If she could forget about her infatuation with Landon, she would have an amazing time at Bosque Verde. As simple as that. Once they became friends, everything would be wonderful.”

Their immediate attraction is sizzling hot. After the review debacle, Aubrey decides they’re better off as friends, though having to share a house for three weeks may push her luck. Their chemistry is off the charts, and there’s just an absolute boatload of lust, longing and angst, which makes their inevitable connection even sweeter. Both are dealing with the fallout of family problems – specifically, lots of dad issues – so sometimes this complicates their relationship, not to mention that they both think it would be highly unprofessional to sleep together again.

“Do you love me?”
“Hell yeah. I love you like mad. Why do you ask?”
“You have to kill me. If you sense that I’m about to go to the Horny Side, you must kill me. If you love me, then you will do this for me. Sleeping with him again will be the ultimate humiliation, and it could ruin our reputations and careers. It could ruin everything forever.”

There’s so much delicious food, and I especially loved Aubrey’s relationship with her cooking, especially when she talked to her sorbets to try to get them to freeze correctly. I also loved the California wine country setting, and I’m already planning a trip to the moonstone beach whenever it’s safe again. I also loved Aubrey’s friendship with Tara, and I’m definitely hoping that we get a sequel with her. Each character’s family relationships were also explored, especially the one between Aubrey and her mother. There were a lot of complicated feelings they had to work through, and I thought it was handled well. The ending was a bit overdone for me (very soap-opera-y), though I loved the grovel.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and I was ecstatic to see that Daniel Dae Kim already picked this up to make into a movie. Jayci Lee is definitely on my authors-to-watch list, and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next!

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