Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: The Girls #2
Publisher: Lake Union Press
Source: Libby (My Library app)
Max Jennings is in a bad mood. It’s not anything you did; it’s just that secrets from her past make it her natural state of being. But she’s not going to talk about it or share her feelings, so don’t bother asking.
Max’s bad mood means that very few people actually truly understand her or know that her secret dream is to be a pastry chef. When a rare opportunity to work for world-famous Avis Phillips presents itself, Max jumps at the chance. Avis and her staff aren’t stingy with the tough love, so Max spends every spare minute practicing her craft. As she bakes brownies and custards, cookies and galettes, she builds an unlikely friendship with a man she once loathed and finds herself falling into something she’s spent the last six years avoiding. Will she let her painful past stand in the way, or will she muster the strength to forgive herself and realize her full potential?
Sweet Girl was recommended to me to fulfill the second-to-last challenge for the Romance-opoly reading challenge, a year-long challenge hosted by the lovely ladies over at Under the Covers Book Blog, as well as the amazing Jessica @ PeaceLoveBooks on BookTube! This challenge was so much fun, and made unique by the fact that these geniuses reimaged a monopoly board for the challenge! So it was kind of like a game :) The challenge was really so much fun! You can find my official 2019 tracker here, and more information on their website here.
Sweet Girl fulfilled my obligation to read a chef/foodie romance, and I went in expecting to find a fluffy romantic read. But I actually thoroughly enjoyed it! It was filled with some of my favorite tropes, the least of which was a tentative hate-to-love romance that I adored!
Max Jennings, our main heroine, starts off as being a stereotypical edgy, dark-hair, darker-nails bartender with a bad attitude. You know the type, you’ve definitely read them before. Which was a bit weird to me going in since the book was called “Sweet Girl…” but it makes sense later on. She bartends in the same hotel as the wonderful, world-famous dessert chef Avis Phillips, and nearly melted when Avis flippantly offered her a job in her kitchen. It’s Max’s dream!
But Max also has a difficult past that still troubles her, which prevents her present happiness. The job will be nearly impossible, and with no formal baking background other than as a vigilant hobby, it’s an uphill battle when she was brought in to replace the manager of the kitchen. After only 18 days of training (with Sundays off). It’s almost an impossibility since she can’t even understand the shorthand that the recipes are written in. So she spends hour after hour pouring her soul into the world of baking until it takes up her whole life.
“I know what it feels like to want to change every single thing that made you who you were as if becoming someone new might give you power over the mistakes you made.”
Max was an easy character to like, because under her tough-as-nails and uncaring, sarcastic persona, there was someone with a helluva story, and I was correct. She grew a lot during this book, and although the book is marked as women’s fiction/chick-lit, it felt like an older young adult novel with the coming-of-age story, even though she was 25. I loved this, and I adored how Hollis was able to write such a beautiful coming-of-age journey, even if the character was older. (And side note: there were no sexy-times in this novel, only cementing that feeling.)
In the beginning, Max and Bennett Taylor (always referred to by his last name) weren’t anything more than people who frequently like to snarl at each other, although they had the same friends. The banter was real, but I wouldn’t go so far to say this was a hate-to-love or enemies-to-lovers romance. They decided to be friends, and from there became really good friends who confided in each other and brought each other up when down. I absolutely loved how natural the progression of their romance felt, specifically because they spend the majority of the novel as friends. I loved how their connection and their chemistry was able to build and build over the course of the story, and I truly believed their connection. You know I love a good friends-to-lovers romance, and this was no exception.
Perhaps my favorite part about this one was the bookish aspect! It wasn’t Max, but one of her friends was someone who really loved to read, and both Graceling by Kristin Cashore and my favorite author Nalini Singh were mentioned!!! I about expired both times, because it’s always super exciting when some of my favorites get shout-outs! Another favorite part was how well fleshed out the side characters were. When Max talked about her mom sending her daily motivational Pinterest quotes over email… felt that one 😂
Overall, it was truly a very well-done read. The mental-health and anxiety were done very, very well, and I really appreciated the handling of Max’s past and her diagnosis. The book was a timeline of Max, who is not okay, and her amazing success… and eventual breakdown during it. Watching her build her friends around her through her journey was very sweet and her story is certainly worth reading 💕✨
What books have you read recently that surprised you? Do you have any foodie romances that you recommend? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!