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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Review: Delicious Temptation

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Readers Are Nuts.  Case in point, despite Sabrina Sol being a local author and despite picking up this book during a 99 cent promotional sale, I let Delicious Temptation languish in my TBR because, to be honest, it features a theme I'm generally not wild about: Best Friend's Little Sister.  The big brother always thunders around like a jackass and there's a paternalistic vibe to the theme that tends to bother me.  So why, when Sol's take on this theme features some of the same stuff that has annoyed me in other books, did I inhale this story in a matter of hours?  Let's see if I can talk my way through the conundrum.

Amara Robles had just accepted a job as a pastry chef at a Chicago area resort when her parents summoned her home.  Her father has injured his back and they need Amara to run the family bakery.  Being the quintessential good Mexican-American daughter, Amara comes home to East LA.  The problem is bigger than her father's bad back however - the bakery is in trouble.  Sales are slumping, customers are few, and her parents are resistant to all of Amara's suggestions to turn the bakery around.  Why?  Because a few years ago they loaned her money to start her own business in downtown L.A. flopped.

Eric Valencia was her brother's BFF in high school and the local bad boy.  The kind of boy mothers told their daughters to stay away from, the kind of boy always pulling her brother into scrapes much to her mother's horror.  After leaving town 12 years ago without a word, he's back to help his mother take care of his ailing grandmother.  A recovering alcoholic, he's also taking the opportunity to work on Step 8 ("making amends") and shows up at the Robles' bakery with a letter for Miguel.  Who he sees instead is Amara who va-va-va-voom is all grown up now.  But she's too good for the likes of him, and worse still?  Everybody knows it.  Well, except for Amara, who is beyond frustrated with her parents and feeling trapped by her good girl reputation.

With older books like this one that I'm just now getting around to reading, I'll go back and read other reviews from readers who aren't horrible procrastinators.  The general consensus by some is that the characters read like teenagers, not grown adults in their mid-to-late 20s.  I can "see" where they're coming from even though I think they missed the point entirely.  What small town contemporary fans sometimes fail to acknowledge is that you can create that "community" vibe in urban settings.  That's what Sol has done here - setting her romance in East LA, where a lot of the story takes place in a bakery that's been part of the community for generations.  Yes, it's a city - but it's a neighborhood where everybody knows everybody.  They support each other, attend church together, their kids all go to the same schools - it's exactly like a small town where once you get pigeon-holed it's next to impossible to break free.  Everybody expects you to play your role until the day you die - so once a good girl and bad boy, always a good girl and a bad boy.

This story is about two people bristling at the bonds and expectations others have placed on them, and yet they're both still too scared and vulnerable to tell everybody to go pound sand. Nice girls like Amara don't tell their parents to get bent.  When your best friend tells you not to mess around with his "nice girl" sister?  You listen.  Well, you try to listen but dang, the insta-lust is so intense and she's more than willing - I mean, a guy can only resist so much.

I woke up early on a Sunday morning, started this book, and finished it by lunch time. It all spins out the way you'd expect, with the characters keeping the relationship on the down-low and telling each other it's "just sex" until pesky feelings end up getting in the way.  Then they both have to admit to themselves, and to each other, how they really feel.  It makes for some good tension and very well done "fight scenes."

Sol does a very good job hitting her emotional beats, and for category romance fans I'd probably put this one in the same universe as a Harlequin Blaze.  There's plenty of spicy love scenes to warm you up on a cold winter's night.  But what really worked for me in this romance was the well-drawn setting, the community feel, and one of my favorite themes ever - that is characters who are stuck in their pasts, desperately trying to break free.  That's what Eric and Amara are trying to do at the start of this story, and they end up getting there, together, by the end.

Final Grade = B+


azteclady said...

This sounds delightful--I love the idea of community within a big city--los vecindarios are very much that.

I notice you don't tells whether Miguel sticks to the paternalistic older brother rĂ´le or not, but even with that, the pros obviously outweighed the cons for you.

Wendy said...

AL: Sol wisely keeps Miguel's interference to a minimum. There's the obligatory scene where he reconnects with Eric, Eric mentions Amara in a casual way, and Miguel warns him off. But after that he's largely off page because Sol keeps him busy with a pregnant wife on the cusp of giving birth.

The bigger obstacle in this story is DEFINITELY Amara's parents - specifically her mother. Hooking up with Eric is almost as much about her hormones and attraction, as it is thumbing her nose at parental authority. She's desperately tired of being the good girl and feels like her life is passing her by - and to make matters worse she comes home to help out her parents like the "good girl" and yet they don't trust her enough to make the changes necessary to save the family business.

There were niggles (of course) but the pros definitely outweighed any cons for me.

azteclady said...

The niggles feel very realistic, though; I was trapped on my parents' image of who I was years after I married, moved to another country, and had two kids. It is very hard to tell one's parents to get bent, no matter how old one gets.

Wendy said...

AL: That's it EXACTLY! That's the character baggage and I bought it hook, line and sinker.