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Genres: Contemporary | Rom-Com | Foodie
Second-Chance Romance | Hate-to-Love
Series: Maple Grove #4
Rating: 4 stars!
Description: Things are about to get sticky…
I might as well permanently add the label “Ex” to my name. I’m an Ex-Mr. Universe. Ex-Mr. Olympus. An Ex-Hollywood Stuntman. But no one from my small hometown cares anything about that. They only care that I’m the ex-boyfriend to the beloved Mayor’s daughter, Elaina Dyker.
And now, ten years later, I’m back, helping my siblings run my mother’s bakery while she takes on chemo. What should have been a routine cupcake delivery turns into utter chaos when the bachelorette party thinks I’m a stripper. And what’s worse? Elaina is the maid of honor.
But the meme about us sure went viral fast. My small hometown has become positively infested with tipsy bridesmaids looking for my erotic cupcakes. Now Hollywood’s knocking again—and this time they want me and my ex, Mr. Beefcake and Ms. Prude, to star in a reality show. It could solve all my problems—except her
Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but it does not influence my opinion of the book nor this review in any way.
Ladies and gentlemen… this one was a real surprise to me. I loved it! I’d totally forgotten how many fun rom-coms are 🥰 I’ve been deep in the paranormal-shifter / urban fantasy world, which are great places to be, but it felt very refreshing to step back into my love of cozy romantic comedies!
About ten years ago, Elaina “Lainey” Dyker and Neil Evans were high school sweethearts, until he abruptly left town the night before graduation, without saying goodbye. So years later, when ex-Mr. Universe (three years in a row!) and Ex-Hollywood Stuntman (after a rotator cuff injury) moves back home to help his mother’s bakery, Lainey isn’t too happy to see him. Or to know that he’s alive, to be quite honest.
Neil’s mom has cancer and no longer able to run her cupcakery, so Neil and his brother take over. But when out delivering an order to a bachelorette party, thanks to too many devilishly-placed potholes, the cupcakes get ruined. But Neil’s brother Liam comes up with an idea – and that’s how the Beefcakes business was born. Two sexy, shirtless guys showed up to that bachelorette party, except instead of the beautifully decorated cupcakes they ordered, they got blank (amazing zero-sugar) protein cupcakes Neil’d had in his trunk and ex-Mr. Universe (plus his hot brother) to show the bachelorettes how to decorate their own cupcake. The picture of shirtless Neil balancing a cupcake on his bicep went Facebook viral, starting up a caption war – because guess who was in the background of the picture (rightfully) glaring at Neil? Lainey! Turns out, it was her sister’s bachelorette party :)
They both need money. Neil needs it to cover his mom’s medical debt and the cost of the upcoming surgery, and Lainey’s trying to make cash come out of nowhere to build a medical outreach center in the little town of Maple Grove, to avoid a Starbucks and Target coming in and taking business away from the Mom ‘n Pop stores that make Maple Grove special. I guess it’s good for them that a reality show, Bake It or Break It, offers them a spot on their show and a chance at the cash prize – a million dollars. The show puts ex’s together and has them complete baking challenges, and the Facebook caption war which had caught their attention.
“I want you, Elaina. I want what we had in high school… only better. I want it all, the good, the bad, the mundane daily tasks and the adventures.”
Neil was the star of this book for me. I was worried going in because he sounded like a meathead with his Ex-Mr. Universe and Ex-biceps that. Turns out, that was something Neil was working through, people thinking he’s dumb because he has muscles, and I felt bad for my thoughtless assumption 🥺 He quickly won my heart because he was such a genuine, warm, gentle character. He’s sexy and he flirts and coaxes Lainey from her defensive barriers, but mostly he’s just a really great guy. I’ve read a few too many books lately where Mr. Tall Dark and Sexy mind as well be a sexy cardboard cutout with outrageous dirty talk… but that wasn’t Neil. He wore his heart on his sleeve and I couldn’t help but fall for the sweet guy.
Lainey was a tougher nut to crack. She took a while to win me over, because she had such a defensive wall up after Neil’s betrayal all those years ago and fresh after a breakup with her cheating ex-boyfriend of nine years. She had some hangups and was a bit of stuck-up, judge-y hard-ass, but as Neil wore her down and helped her have fun again, she dropped those barriers and I eventually enjoyed the warm, fun woman she was behind her guard. She was never obnoxious or annoying, but just kind of hard to warm up to. I wasn’t sure she deserved my beautiful Neil, but I got there 😊
It was such an adorable read, and I really loved them as a couple in the end. They both had to work through some things before they could fully embrace a relationship with the other and watching them come together as a team and a couple was very rewarding as they learned to work together and trust again. They had lots of years of hurt to make up for, but they did it ✨ I definitely recommend this adorable small-town second-chance, hate-to-love foodie romance! Although be warned… all the yummy baking in this nearly sent me right to the store for a cupcake! Do yourself a favor, and have some based goods handy 😋
Thank you to Social Butterfly PR for the review copy 😊
Other foodie romances you may enjoy…
What are some of your favorite rom-coms? Do you have a favorite second-chance romance? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you! Always looking for good recs :)