ARC Review: No Whisk, No Reward by Ellie Kay

Posted November 15, 2019 by Kate

ARC Review: No Whisk, No Reward by Ellie KayCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: Donner Bakery #3
Publisher: SmartyPants Romance
Source: Social Butterfly PR

How do you know if a risk is worth taking? If you knew, there wouldn’t be any risk.
Following a disastrous appearance on a televised baking show, Sophie Copeland is certain things can’t get any worse. Several calamities later, Sophie finds herself in Green Valley, Tennessee with no plan, no place to stay, and no prospects. But at least she has a temporary seasonal arrangement with the famed Donner Bakery. And that's something, right?
It's not permanent, and it's not a home, but it's still something.
Enter Joel Barnes, a Green Valley mystery, wrapped in rumors, and a whispered connection to the local notorious biker gang. Joel’s got a name for being bad news, but he also has an apartment for rent.
Intrigued by the dichotomy of Joel’s reputation and sexy southern pull, Sophie can’t help but be tempted, even though she knows—given her (bad) luck—she should stay far, far away. . .
Yet as everyone knows, without risk, there’s no reward.
'No Whisk, No Reward' is a full-length contemporary romantic comedy, can be read as a standalone, and is book #3 in the Donner Bakery series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

DisclaimerI received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but it does not influence my opinion of the book nor the contents of this review in any way.

Let me start by saying Penny Reid is one of my favorite authors. Now after reading that statement, you may be asking me, “Why the heck are you talking about the lovely and wonderful Ms. Reid when this is not her book?” To that I would say, you are correct! But you are also wrong. Ms. Reid an author and the founder of SmartyPants Romance, which is a kind of small publishing venture that she’s started up. Basically, other authors write extensions to her stories! No, that’s not right. Other authors write their own stories, just set in the Pennyverse, in the world she’s created and with characters she’s written about as side characters. That makes more sense, right? 

In the other SmartyPants Romance booksMs. Reid’s characters are a great touch of nostalgic window dressing. They weren’t main characters or even ultra-important side characters. For instance, in No Whisk, No Reward, Jennifer Donner-Winston, and Cletus Winston, characters of Ms. Reid’s, played huge side-character and mentorship roles for Ms. Kay’s book! 

No Whisk, No Reward follows Sophie Copeland, a pastry chef one a nation-wide baking tour as she’s making her way from the West Coast to Boston to help her best friend open her bakery. When her car runs into trouble in Green Valley, she decides to put down some temporary roots for a few months, and work at the local (but nationally recognized) Donner Bakery during the holiday season, and get into Boston in the New Year, just in time for her friend’s bakery opening. In doing this, she temporarily rents an apartment from hot-guy Joel, who is also her neighbor

My good sense will not be thwarted by your blue-green eyes and frowny brows, you magnificent biker beast. 

I can say this with confidence now: No Whisk, No Reward was the Green Valley book that comes closest to matching Ms. Reid’s mastery. The characters were so bubbly and full of exuberance and personality, and I loved the community aspect that this book offered, which is huge in all of Ms. Reid’s books. It takes place in a small town, yes, but also the story was never felt to be Joel&Sophie, against the world. We saw Sophie’s life outside of the flourishing relationship, got to know her co-workers and friends and honestly, it gave the story a surprising depth that let us really get to know the characters and understand their lives.

The characters in this one were really so much fun. Her co-workers, Tempest (the main character in book two, Stud Muffin) and Joy were a bag of giggles and good times. They had totally distinct personalities, but each owned the page in their own way. And Sophie’s best friend Anna, the friend she’s moving towards to help open a bakery, was a quirky, fun personality of her own that struck hard, and we only got to know her through phone calls, as they were many states apart for the events of the book. But she had her own kind of strong presence for the events of the book. 

Sophie her self was a very strong character. She sassed the shit out of people when she got scared, was *mildly* spastic, but was quite casual about it. She owns her own quirks and her confidence in herself is also very casually attractive, and honestly kind of refreshing. I was getting tired of my heroines smoothing their bouncy, shiny curls in the mirror, and eyeing their amazing curls and sighing that they weren’t enough. Like… representation I guess, but it’s just a smidge unreliable. Sophie was a stimulating character because she had her lapses, personal quirks, and her own anxiety, yes, but she also owned everything she was and didn’t take a whole lot of crap when it was getting shoveled her way. But she also wasn’t a hard-ass, which is a fine line that Ms. Kay walks very well. 

“Let’s see how long your patience lasts with my lack of aptitude in […] cooking.”
“You’re not getting out of this by pretending you’re too stupid to stir food in a couple of pots. Even the terminally incompetent can handle this recipe,” I assured him. “Now grab me a frying pan and a small saucepan.”
“Ooh, I like it when you’re bossy,” Joel drawled suggestively which both aroused and annoyed me because I knew he was trying to distract me.
“The novelty will wear off if you don’t follow my instructions.” 

Joel himself was a treat. Speaking of representation, holy shy men!! Joel was a bit of a forced loner, and he really is awfully shy and I loved it. Sophie complimented him and he looked at his shoes, no longer able to hold that amazing eye contact. He was just trying his best and yeah, he was a man who would go to war for his woman, but he had some trouble getting there for himself. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and kinda broke me each time Sophie got a crack in his exterior wall and we got to see what a big ole softie he is. 

Another thing that sets this one apart from several of the Kindle Unlimited reads I’ve read, as well as some of the other SmartyPants Romance, this book actually had a climax at the end. While I’ve been reading a lot of books lately where there’s a smidgeon of trite unrest at the end of the book, it gets quickly resolved and the book ends with a tidy little bow. But No Whisk, No Reward actually lets the problem play out and gain momentum until even the reader gets a bit panicky… the way it should be. 

Overall, this was a great read. Really. Ms. Kay may have just made my list of authors to look out for, and I’m quite excited to see what else she has for me to explore in the future!! Read my review for (Book 1 | Book 2)

Thank you SmartyPants Romance for the title, of course, and to Social Butterfly PR for the work you do ?

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Have you read any SmartyPants Romance books? What are some of your favorite friends-to-lovers romances? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you! 

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