ARC Review: Fake it Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley

Posted June 21, 2022 by Kate

ARC Review: Fake it Till You Bake It by Jamie WesleyCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Romance, Contemporary Romance
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: From the publisher, NetGalley

A reality star and a cupcake-baking football player pretend to be a couple in order to save his bakery in this sweet and sexy romance from Jamie Wesley, Fake It Till You Bake It.
Jada Townsend-Matthews is the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego's newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.
When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada's image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.
Fake it Till You Bake It is a sweet confection of a novel, the perfect story to curl up with and enjoy with a cupcake on the side.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but it doesn’t influence my opinion of the book nor the contents of this review in any way. 

Hey there!! I received Fake it Till You Bake It as an ARC… and somehow managed to read it on time!!! Totally on accident by the way, but I’m still celebrating :) I read this specifically for my Netgalley Warriors reading initiative I’m running on my blog this year. When I requested it, and again when I was selecting something to read this week, I was pulled in by the blurb’s headline: “A reality star and a cupcake-baking football player pretend to be a couple in order to save his bakery in this sweet and sexy romance.” 

I love bakery romances!!! I really love bakery romances. But this one… I really struggled with. Despite the fact that it was set in San Diego, the city of my birth 💛 And despite the fact that it had another of my favorite tropes: forced proximity + workplace romance tropes!  That said, I was getting very similar vibes to a book I’ve read before… but cannot for the life of me remember what that book is! I’ve read a book with a reality star in it recently, but my head is completely empty. So is my list of read books, which is highly concerning. Maybe I dreamt it. Anyway…

“Jada the worker doesn’t make me nervous.
But Jada the woman does.”


Things I Liked (“however…”)

  • The premise. I love a football player who owns a cupcakery! This is so exciting to me. (But did we ever actually see him as a football player…. no. We never went with him to workout or do football player things).
  • Dyslexia representation – I love that we got a woman with learning disability who was confident about it and acknowledged it in a healthy way. However, there were those little moments around the good rep where she referred to herself as “dumb” because of it and that never got resolved. 
    • However, I had to laugh when Jada says twelve dozen cupcakes it “almost a hundred fifty,” and then goes into detail about how, while “coping with being dyslexic,” she had to do a lot of rote memorizations and “could do multiplication tables in her head like nobody’s business.” Why not just say 144 then??? 😂
  • This quote (between our football-playing hero and reality star heroine):
    • “‘You’ve got to be kidding me. People actually give a shit about what happens on reality shows?’ She shrugged. ‘I mean, sports are the biggest reality shows out there, so yeah.'” 
  • The hero and heroine RECREATED a clinch cover!!!!!! Woot- WOOT!!
  • Loved that Donovan actually read the book club book for the meeting that he attended
  • Also loved that Donovan gathered his besties and forced them to watch the reality show Jada was in, with him.
  • The trio of football playing besties that run the cupcakery. I’m assume the other two will get their books in the sequels? I love them, I wish we got more in ways that didn’t directly refer to the relationship. It felt like they were props instead of genuine friends
  • Grams! She was a real hoot

Basically I only liked a few things about this book that didn’t come with qualifiers and things that could have been better. Hence the 2-star rating. It’s also why (even though I read this book in time), I did not publish my review during release week. That would have been cruel, I’m not in the business of raining on a book launch. I’m also clearly in the minority, so far, for disliking this book so much.


Things I Didn’t Like

The characters themselves + relationship

I just struggled to believe and to care about the characters. I didn’t connect with them, I didn’t feel the chemistry, and I honestly got icked by them several times throughout the story

I just hated Jada. What do I know about her? She’s “IMPULSIVE.” My god, they told us over 25 times. I can’t tell you how much I began to hate this word. It felt like an excuse. I pegged her as a spoiled, privileged rich girl who only thought of herself. Was it really impulsive, or just selfish? I was judge-y about her, I’ll admit. I didn’t get “good times/life of the party” vibes like I was clearly supposed to.

I also don’t think I ever got a satisfactory answer as to what she did with herself if she’s almost 26 years old and never held a job or an idea about what she wants? The Jada we came to know is creative, personable and a problem-solver. I don’t see that personality doing literally nothing for years before the reality show. She wasn’t an influencer, a content creator, something with fashion, or volunteer her time somewhere? I would have liked it better if she had one little thing, even if it wasn’t something her grandma deemed “fulfilling” enough. Even if it was volunteering at the local dog shelter once a week.

Donovan wasn’t much better. He was basically there to support Jada. He’s a “logical, numbers” guy who occasionally had a sincere, soft side to reassure her, or to compliment her. His whole personality was made to be a worrier, sappy in love and uninformed about social media/reality TV. His sudden morph into a possessive man who growls at other men who talk to Jada? Full Stop. It’s ugly. He was a cardboard character, too perfect and #bookboyfriend-esque.

It felt less like a sexy dislike-to-lust forced proximity romance and more like two employees who were uncomfortably horny in the workplace all the time. Blech.


very tell-not-show

This brings me to my biggest grip with this book: it was so 2-dimensional. We only knew things that both characters were aware of. So if Donovan has something in his life causing him stress, we find out about it when he tells Jada (and vice versa). These characters only existed with each other, and we never saw them outside of the workplace and/or together. As soon as Jada was placed in a uniform, her love and adoration of fashion evaporated and we didn’t see that back until the last couple chapters.

This whole book is very tell not show. The number of times we were told Donovan was a logical, numbers guy, and Jada was impulsive got to be a bit much. Also apparently Donovan’s other passion is surfing?? Which he just threw out there at the end?? Seems fake. Can we get surfing scenes, please? That would have been hot.

Continuing, I have genuinely no idea what these characters look like. I didn’t have hair color or eye color for most of the book, I just knew that Donovan was large and Jada was stunning. Imagine my surprise at 75% of the book when I was told basically everyone in this book was Black. When writing my review, this was confirmed when I saw the cover for the first time. I had to go back and delete all my notes about Jada being a stereotypical privileged, spoiler white girl rich-bitch. This, of course, also speaks to the subtle racism in this statement and in society, where when race is not provided, I assume white (and I recognize that). I love that this book has a mostly-Black cast, written by a Black author. I just had no idea, because there were never any character descriptions.


Morally, it was wrong

The entire fake-dating premise started in front of a crowd, filming, when Jada calls Donovan her boyfriend and kisses him in front of them. Literally hours into the job, she had no idea if he had a significant other, and basically did so knowing it was going to be published on social media, blowing his life up to scrutiny. It felt like a huge line was crossed in terms of consent. You can’t just drag people into the limelight with you because YOU can’t cope with it, or because YOU need someone to back up your lies. Making out with someone when you’re not aware of their relationship status is bad enough, but especially when you may be landing him in hot water as your boss.

Jada went through all this because she denied a marriage proposal from Dr. John on live television and the public basically turned on her. And then when Dr. John came sauntering in, she was like “damn, did I make the right decision?” and then a few minutes later went to Donovan and told him not to worry about Dr. John, because “The whole time he was talking to me, I couldn’t stop thinking about you.” That’s… a lie. We were in her head while she was chatting with Dr. John, and that’s not what she was thinking. It felt like the author kept trying to throw twists our way and they were so fake and transparent, please just don’t bother.


The friends were all props

Donovan owns the cupcakery with his two other football besties. But do they ever actually hang out? the only time we see them is so they can make digs about how Donovan is “so in love” or in some way to move the relationship forward. We never saw Jada with her bestie, either.


the conflict was 👏🏻 so 👏🏻 fake 👏🏻

The whole book Donovan is worried about the cupcakery’s sales, and Jada makes a sarcastic comment when they first meet, criticizing the store. He continues to worry all through the book… and then the conclusion at the end is basically him listening to the very first thing she said to him months ago, and it solves all their problems. Whoopty-do. He’d been focusing on other things instead of the real, valid criticism one of his customers offered.

There was another moment that escalated to three sentences of trauma explained to Jada… that had been building up the whole book. Clearly this was supposed to be a huge twist, but it just fizzled out as I laughed at that was what all the secret calls were built up to be. Pshaw. If you’re going to do shock and awe, do shock and awe. Otherwise, it was just a pathetic attempt at a “twist.” Know your books identity. This is a lighthearted romance where the progression was so linear it was boring. It could have worked and been so sweet, if only the characters had been interesting.

And the big conflict at the end? Literally shut up. That was so forced and out of character for both of them, especially at that point in time.


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