Today, I’m hosting author Beth Bolden’s latest release Sweet as Pie, a m/m contemporary romance. Be sure to read my review. And don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway.
Title: Sweet as Pie
Author and Publisher: Beth Bolden
Genre: Contemporary MM romance
Tropes: Grumpy/sunshine, opposites attract, small town
Themes: Family responsibilities, necessary change, unexpected love
Release Date: April 13, 2023
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 80 000 words
Blurb: Luca Moretti is grumpy—and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wrangling six—Italian—siblings and the family’s restaurants would make anyone cranky. But when his mother requests that he save his aunt’s struggling Italian deli in charming, picturesque Indigo Bay, he has no idea that he’s about to overdose on sweetness.
Luca expected his aunt’s stubbornness—she’s a Moretti, isn’t she?—and his cousin’s resistance to actual work, but the last thing he expected is the absolute ball of sunshine known as Oliver Billings.
Oliver loves Indigo Bay. Loves owning his small artisan bakery, Sweetie Pie’s. Helps nice old ladies cross the street. Even volunteers for the local Sweethearts Festival.
Sweet isn’t really Luca’s style, or so he thinks. But when he discovers Oliver can be a little spicy too, his prickly exterior begins to crumble like a well-baked crust.
If Luca isn’t careful, he’s going to develop a taste for sweets—and a particular baker’s pie.
And one or two servings will never be enough.
Note: It is a standalone story.
Buy Links – Kindle Unlimited
Universal Link | Amazon US | Amazon UK
“Ah, they sent the fixer out.” Oliver sounded amused again. “I can see it. You’re definitely more of a fixer than a baker.”
Luca shrugged. “I run my family’s four restaurants. They do not typically need fixing.” Don’t be arrogant, don’t be arrogant. “But Nonna’s Deli here, it is . . .an investment of ours. Not directly under my control. So I’m not here to order changes but to . . .suggest them. Nicely.”
“Which is how they’ve managed to underperform all these years,” Oliver said with another of those smirks. They shouldn’t have been so frustratingly attractive. But Luca felt them deep down, stirring him up in a way he hadn’t expected.
Oliver was definitely a very attractive package, one he’d love to unwrap.
Would he be as sweet as promised? Or a little salty too? Maybe even a bit spicy?
“You could say that,” Luca said. “Part of the proposed changes are aligning the menu more directly with our other restaurants. And that includes fresh bread, daily. Nonna’s here doesn’t have the staff, the resources, or the equipment to do this, but you do.”
“I do,” Oliver conceded. “My schedule’s already pretty packed, but I suppose I could fit you in. French bread? Sourdough bread? Focaccia? Rolls? Loaves? How many dozen per day?”
Luca liked every part of Oliver he’d seen so far. He was charming and sweet and undeniably adorable. Then there was how goddamned sexy he was when he got down to business.
“I’m not sure yet,” Luca said. “In fact, they may not need any at all. Giana and Enzo have my proposed changes, but they are not required to accept all of them—or any of them, actually.”
“You must hate that, not being able to actually impose your control over them.” Oliver said it casually, like a true control-freak business owner, like he understood.
How did Oliver know how much he hated it? Was it that obvious? Was it written all over his face that he’d love nothing more than to march down the street and tell Giana and Enzo exactly what to do?
“Yes,” Luca admitted.
“Nonna’s isn’t just an Italian affectation, is it? Was there actually a Nonna?” Oliver asked.
“Ah, well, there you go.” Oliver leaned back, grinning. Luca wanted to chase him, but he stayed on his side of the table, with what he thought was pretty admirable restraint.
“So why does Enzo dislike you so much?” Luca asked.
“That’s a long story. And I’ve got to tend to these rolls. If they overproof . . .” Oliver shrugged. “I’m a perfectionist, what can I say?”
“If he supposedly turns against you every chance he gets, what’s he going to say,” Luca said, deploying the most persuasive smile in his arsenal, “when he finds out I want to hire you to bake our bread? I need the insider info. Need to be able to convince him it’s a good idea.”
“It’s not going to help you, and you’re not going to like it,” Oliver said. “Though, you sorta look like there’s plenty of things you don’t like.”
But I like you. “You’re not wrong.” It was hard to admit it, but there it was. He was particular, okay? Particular and more than a little arrogant about his particularity.
Maybe it was good Oliver knew that now, even if all they ever had was a date and a night—though even that was still up in the air.
“We dated,” Oliver said. His watch beeped, and he stood, just as he’d left Luca speechless for another long moment. “Well,” he amended, with a cute little shrug. “It was one date. But still. He wanted to continue. I did not. And that’s the story.”
“That wasn’t a very long story,” Luca managed, and was he trailing after Oliver in his own bakery like a lost puppy looking for his owner? Yes, he was, a little.
Beth Bolden’s a wonderful writer, so when this came up for review, I was in. Oliver runs a bakery in Indigo Bay, a small town on the southeast coast of the USA. There’s not much dating happening for a gay man, and one dinner with Enzo is one date too much when there’s no chemistry. Imagine Oliver’s surprise when Enzo’s cousin, Luca Moretti, makes his way into town from the west coast.
Luca has arrived to salvage what’s left of Nona’s. The restaurant is floundering and poor Nona must be rolling in her grave. Luca always follows Nona’s wise teachings and lives to make his late grandmother happy. And happy is a strange word to use with the likes of Luca, who isn’t the bright ray of sunshine that Oliver is.
When the two collide, almost literally, Luca is annoyed at the driver for daring to almost hit him, while driver Oliver is not pleased about Luca’s distraction with his cell phone and not looking for oncoming traffic. Mind you, the pedestrian always gets the right of way. No matter what. Sorry, Oliver. You were in the wrong. Hehe.
Anyhoo, even though these two get off on the wrong foot, there are sparks flying as Luca glares at Oliver through his windshield. Oliver feels the same way. The second meeting goes a bit better…when Oliver realizes the man renting a room at his mother’s bed and breakfast is none other than the grouchy man he almost hit.
I do enjoy the grumpy/sunshine trope. Although Luca isn’t a total grump, he’s a serious man who takes the restaurant business seriously, especially everything Nona has done to make her Italian place the best that it can be. Luca is determined to carry on her legacy and fix his aunt’s establishment.
The setting is wonderfully drawn. I felt as if I was in Indigo Bay, experiencing everything the cast of characters did. And there’s a great cast of secondary characters from Oliver’s matchmaking mother to Luca’s many members of his big Italian family. The chemistry was just right between the duo, making the story believable as they fell for each other. Of course, there’s tension since Luca’s only present to help his aunt get her restaurant back in the black. He’s an ambitious man, the eldest son of the family, and used to being in charge.
The dialogue is realistic and true to character. I did feel the ending could have used a bit more hesitation on Luca’s part. His character evolved at a great pace thanks to Oliver, but a man this ambitious and controlling should’ve had a wee bit more resistance.
Still, it’s a great story, one that I recommend. Do yourself a favour and get a copy.
A lifelong Pacific Northwester, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with her supportive husband. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just as weird in Raleigh.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She has published over forty novels and novellas.
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