Make “Sweet Caroline” Yours This Valentine’s

5/5 stars

If you’re a fan of baking shows or culinary-based cozy mysteries (and don’t mind reading cozy sans dead body), you’ll love Sweet Caroline, one of the six novellas in “Cupcakes and Cupid.” I was gifted with an ARC copy of “Sweet Caroline,” by the author, and I am delighted to have had the chance to read it.

Caroline Emory, the owner of Sweet Caroline Confectionary, is doing great, for now. Unfortunately, the new year brings New Year’s Resolutions, and people have been swearing off her sweets. After Caroline’s sister signs her up for a TV baking contest, Caroline is afraid, especially when faced with her grouchy, fancy-pants competition. But, will they bake up more than sweets in the kitchen?

From the start, the characters felt familiar, like I was sliding into one of my favorite culinary cozies, but without the mystery. Since I also enjoy a good cozy romance, If you love the Hannah Swensen books by Joanne Fluke, this reminded me of those a little, and I’m here for it. Considering this is an entire book featuring cozy, baking-themed romances, it must be a genre I haven’t explored yet, and I’m certainly glad to have been turned on to it. Sometimes you want your baking and romance with a side of murder, and sometimes you don’t.

Caroline’s World

Ms. Lucy-Shanley has crafted believable, charming characters, who torture you just enough to doubt they’ll ever get to their promised happily ever after. The twists and turns they take along the way are just the right mix of surprising and predictable to be exciting, but still comforting. The author built delicious tension from the moment our hero and heroine laid eyes on each other and following it through to the end was an enjoyable journey.

Seeing into multiple aspects of Caroline’s life, her volunteer work, the bakery, her family, was a delightful surprise – not something one always sees in a novella, when authors frequently get focused on the plot and forget other elements. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, seeing subplots, and seeing more of her life. And the author managed to tie everything together in the end, giving every character a meaningful impact. We learn so much about the main characters, as well as some of the side characters, in such a short time, which is a testament to the author’s character building abilities.

The Competition

Having never been involved in a television production, and especially not a baking competition, I can’t know how realistic the portrayal of that was. However, to my untrained eye, the author seemed to have researched the competition well, as it seemed well planned and thought out. It offered a great backdrop for the action and plot of the story. The high intensity of the competition allowed space for the characters to become vulnerable and open up to one another in a way that near strangers are not usually capable of doing.

Overall, the story was well written, and adorable. It would make a fantastic option for Hallmark, or this holiday season, it seemed like even some of the cooking channels got in on the action of making movies. Maybe we’ll see this – or some of the other stories from this book – on our television screens soon enough.

I haven’t read any other stories by the author, but they’ll be added to my ever-lengthening to-be-read list. I also look forward to reading the rest of the novellas in this book. If they’re as well-written, and half as adorable as “Sweet Caroline,” I’ll eat it up in no time.

The author gave me a free ARC copy of “Sweet Caroline,” but that has not affected my review given freely here.

About the Author

Crazy cat lady. Fan of the Oxford comma. Author.

With degrees in education and psychology, Anne Lucy-Shanley is a novelist based in the American Midwest. An enthusiast of all things written, Anne dabbles in dystopian, young adult, and non-fiction writing. As a believer in happily-ever-afters, contemporary romance remains her favorite genre.

Some of Anne’s pastimes include drinking whiskey, sharing dirty memes, and coming up with captivating storylines while soaking in the tub. When not embracing the quiet life with a book and a cat on her lap, she occasionally travels with her husband of twenty years.

Anne loves connecting with her readers! Join the fun at her author and reader Facebook group, the Saucy Society, or sign up for Anne’s monthly newsletter, The Saucy Gossip, for updates on her books, giveaways, and reading recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

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