Review: Kissing Lessons – Stephanie London
by Stefanie London
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Publication Date: November 9, 2020
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Welcome to Kissing Creek, where everything has a romance-themed pun for a name and love is lurking around every corner...
Audrey Miller doesn’t believe in happily-ever-after, so she is definitely living in the wrong town. But she’s never getting out of Kissing Creek, because playing pseudo-mom for her younger siblings doesn’t leave time for much else. She’ll do anything to make sure they don’t end up stuck like she is, working as a barista in a college town, serving Pink Passion mochas with Chocolate Smooch donuts.
Then Ronan Walsh, a new young professor and walking cliché, right down to the elbow patches on his blazer, steps in for a coffee and into her life. She knows his type—intelligent and charming, yet sweet as a cinnamon roll, the sort of man she’s inevitably attracted to but is always out of her league. So why does someone like him have any interest in a worker bee with no future?
Her bland-as-oatmeal existence has nothing to offer, but Ronan’s temporary teaching position is only a stepping stone on his way to somewhere else. He isn’t here to put down roots, Audrey’s roots are firmly planted—neither of them is looking for love. And maybe that’s just perfect.
But in a small town called Kissing Creek, sometimes love can be impossible to avoid...
Content warnings: View Spoiler »fatphobia (mostly in the past and addressed), child abuse (verbal and some physical), parental neglect (in the past) « Hide Spoiler
I’m always on the lookout for curvy heroines, and seeing one on the cover of the book really caught my eye. Even better, this book leans hard into some rom-com tropes and it was such a satisfying read because of it.
“But, in Audrey’s opinion, the little moments mattered in life, too.
And that’s what she did—she gave people little moments of joy.”
Ronan studies motivation and mental fortitude. He’s spent most of his time focused on his career with the end goal of getting tenure at an Ivy league college. That’s carried him through Harvard and Cambridge, but after his beloved grandma started having health problems, he accepted a visiting professor position in Kissing Creek in order to be closer to Boston and his family. Audrey has lived in Kissing Creek all her life and has no plans to go anyone else. After her mom died in childbirth 14 years ago, Audrey dropped out of high school and dedicated her life to helping her younger siblings, working two jobs. With one off at college, two getting ready to graduate high school, and one starting high school, the end is in sight. Her lone concessions to her intellectual curiosity are one college night course a semester and researching daily trivia facts for her siblings. She’s really looking forward to the positivity class she’s taking this semester – until she has an embarrassing run-in with the new and extremely hot professor at the coffee shop she works at. They’ve got serious sparks, however, and in such a small town, they can’t help but keep running into each other. One thing leads to another, and soon they’re unable to deny their connection any longer. But with Ronan on the way off to bigger and better things, and Audrey firmly planted in her home, what chance does their relationship have?
“Aren’t dreams a bit…” Audrey lifted one shoulder into a shrug. “Self-indulgent? That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to be. Maybe I mean more that dreams are for people who’ve got survival sorted out.”
Audrey was such a fun and positive character. She tried so hard to do the best for he siblings while not completely short-changed herself. I loved the trivia facts as something that she used to both connect with her siblings and satisfy her intellectual curiosity. I have a thing for Cinderella retellings, and in some ways, Audrey’s life has a very Cinderella vibe. Audrey is very, very clear, however, that she can rescue herself, thank you very much. She’s almost to the opposite extreme – she refuses to accept help, even well-intentioned help. If someone puts a toe over one of her boundaries, she’s done. Ronan’s deliberately not made time for anything except work, and his feelings for Audrey, and the changes in his life, are strange and unsettling. They bond, though, over their shared love of learning. While they do spend some time as professor and student, their relationship only really starts to progress once that’s no longer true.
“You’re a mystery reader?” Audrey asked, peering around his arm.
“My grandmother is. She’s got quite the collection, so I always keep a lookout for anything special when I find a new bookstore.”
“You’re looking for books for your grandmother’s collection?” Audrey shook her head. “Could you be any more of a cinnamon roll?”
Both of their families play a big part in the book. Audrey’s siblings, of course, are her life, and the amount of love they had for each other was delightful. Ronan’s relationship with his cantankerous grandma and sister was sweet, as well. A lot of Ronan’s qualities, for better or worse, came from his grandma, and he truly appreciates her for that. Both also have negative family relationships, as Ronan has a strained relationship with his estranged mom, and Audrey’s dad is, well, awful.
“Aren’t llamas supposed to be all fuzzy and cute?”
Audrey made a scoffing noise. “No. You’re thinking about alpacas, which are sweet-natured little bundles of fleece and eyelashes. They wouldn’t hurt a fly. I love alpacas. But llamas… They’ll cut you.”
One of the things I loved about the book was that it’s very wink-wink-nudge-nudge about its rom-com status. With a name like Kissing Creek, most of the small businesses try to capitalize on it with silly romance-themed puns. At one point, Ronan sarcastically asks if he’s in a rom-com and should be on the lookout for any princesses-in-hiding, and Audrey calls him a cinnamon roll at one point (he is, he really is). There’s also some traditionally silly small town hijinx, like the local llama escaping the farm and cornering the two of them in a book store. Given the title of my blog, I was 100% here for the cantankerous llama-inspired rom-commery.
Given that the heroine on the cover is noticeably curvy, I figure I should also address that. There’s some minor fatphobia, but mostly in terms of how she was bullied in school for her weight and how she’s happy with her size now. There’s a couple of mentions of food not being good for her, etc, but it wasn’t overpowering. And while Ronan appreciates her curves, it didn’t feel to me like it was fetishizing. Her weight doesn’t really play a part – negative or positive – in her relationship.
Overall, this was the perfect book for a stressful week, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for something lighthearted, especially if they love llamas!