Thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the review copy
Baked goods and reading are two of my favorite things, and with A Sweet Mess Jayci Lee, those two loves collide. A Sweet Mess is an adorable love story between a self-made baker and a food critic whose harsh review nearly ended her career – a true recipe (pun intended) for chemistry and drama. This book was light and airy and was almost great – with the exception of its ending and lack of resolution.
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 possible…by 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.
On the plot
The overall pacing and plotting in this book was pretty solid, until the last couple of chapters. For the majority of the book, the author strategically used time jumps to push the plot forward – which definitely helped trim the plot and kept it moving. She also used multiple points of view to add depth to the story – having both Aubrey and Landon’s points of view definitely helped justify their actions and democratize the story. The biggest example of this was getting to see why Landon left the bad review of Aubrey’s restaurant – without his POV, he would have been a much less likable character.
On the issues with the ending (spoilers)
There is one trope in romances that I really don’t enjoy (because most of the time it’s used as a quick way to create drama in the third act). This is your official spoiler warning: if you don’t want to be spoiled for the third act of this book, skip the rest of this paragraph. Ok, spoilers ahoy. In this book, the two main characters have a big blow up and end up breaking up and walking away from each other. Honestly, they broke up because they both were being emotionally immature and weren’t communicating with each other. They are eventually brought back together by Landon finding out about her being pregnant – and though he said he wasn’t with her just for their baby, it certainly felt that way. The reason it felt that way was because the book doesn’t give proper resolution to their fight and communication issues. The fact that Aubrey is pregnant is the magic pill that fixed their relationship. Because of this, her pregnancy felt like a cheap, cop out ending that undermined any character growth they actually had.
Aubrey was a sassy, independent woman. She walked away from her selfish family and was making her own way in the world. Aubrey was also a very hot and cold character – in a good way. Throughout this book, we as readers, watch her head and her heart fight it out when it comes to Landon. I think this on and off dynamic she had with her feelings towards Landon really raised the emotional stakes in their relationship. The best part about Aubrey was how much she valued and loved her best friend – I love when women support women in romance books. The one hitch in her journey, was the fact that instead of learning to open up and communicate more, she ended up reversing most of her character growth / development at the end of the book. If she hadn’t reverted like that, she would have been a near perfect character – though I did enjoy reading about her for the majority of the book. Her and Landon had a ton of chemistry and it was easy to see why they fell for each other to begin with.
Overall, this was a book with a whole lot of chemistry and cute moments – it was easy to get invested in Aubrey and Landon’s story, even from the first time they met. Jayci Lee has a real talent for creating good, chemistry driven relationships. However, the reason I can’t give this book five stars is because of how the book ended, and the lack of resolution of the conflict between the two characters. However, I do want Aubrey’s recipes – the ice cream sandwiches she had with wine sorbet sound amazing. Looking for other similar romance? Check out The Bride Test and The Friend Zone. 3/5