Sunday, March 20, 2016

Thoughts: The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap

The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap -- anthology

Authors include: Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, and Kimberly Kincaid

~ Goodreads ~

Average Rating: 3.5 Stars
-- Personal Rating: 3.5 Stars

First of all, thanks to everyone who voted in my very first My TBR List. I'd been looking forward to reading The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap even if it wasn't the book I had personally put a vote in for. Nonetheless, despite it being two months past Christmastime, it still doesn't hurt to read a holiday-themed romance collection--especially one that has to do with cookies!

Even though I was less enamoured with Kate Angell's The Gingerbread Man, it was still entertaining to a point. And so, overall, I DID enjoy this anthology a lot and am ecstatic that I discovered one new author I'd be interested in pursuing: Donna Kauffman's Where There's Smoke... was immensely enjoyable.

Now onto the stories:

The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap collection features three best friends during the holiday times and their respective love stories. We first meet them during a community center cookie charity auction and the three of them talk about their holiday plans and whatnot.

• Where There's Smoke... by Donna Kauffman -- 4.0 Stars

Very enjoyable and fun! I'm glad to have found another new author to enjoy.

Clara is an accident-prone, bumbling news journalist with ambitious goals of writing human drama stories about the people of her town around Pine Mountain. Having just been "dumped" by a man she'd thought she'd been starting a romantic relationship with, this particular incident is witnessed by her boss--because Clara is currently the writer for the relationship columns at the paper, of course, this very public display in which she is "dumped" is not good for business.

However, pleading with her boss to give her a second chance, she lands an opportunity writing several features for a cookie baking column... the only problem is, Clara doesn't know the first thing about baking. In fact, any kind of incident involving the kitchen tends to lead to getting the fire department on speed dial for damage control before she burns down her house. Fortunately for her, an old best friend has just set foot back into her life and he just happens to be a fire fighter.

Where There's Smoke... was enjoyable the whole time through, making use great use of a dorky girl and her old college best friend as a great romantic synopsis. And while I'm typically not much for the "bumbling idiot girl = cuteness" device, Clara actually came off quite endearing. But probably because she wasn't entirely helpless in a kitchen given the right amount of schooling and help.

Will Mason isn't entirely unique as a main romance male character, but given his back history, he's given more personality--and that is what I loved about this couple. Despite being a muscular, sexy-as-sin fire fighter in the present, Will is described as having been cute, but adorkably lanky, having not quite grown into his own skin yet when he and Clara first met years prior to this story.

The relationship presented between the two was cute and sweet, and given that they were both best friends first before a brief separation and now a heart-warming reunion, I really, honestly DID enjoy watching them fall in love.

• The Gingerbread Man by Kate Angell -- 2.5 Stars

Potential that just missed the mark.

Abby has a secret side business that no one but her best friends know about--she makes and sells erotic-themed baked goods on the internet. For now, she mostly does business with women wanting party favors for bachelorette parties and the like. But Abby is determined to bring her secret business into the public. During the community center cookie charity auction, she has entered her anatomically correct gingerbread men as part of the cookie swap.

Somehow, the little tin of erotic cookies ends up in the hands of a passing stranger who is merely looking for directions to Philadelphia. And because of these cookies, our handsome stranger, Landon, gets distracted while driving in the stormy, snowy weather and ends up in a ditch. This is where Abby finds him on her way home and being that the snow storm was only going to bet worse as the night went on, she makes the decision to bring him back to her home until the roads are clear and safe again.

To be honest, this story had a lot of potential, what with a romance taking place where a couple is stranded in a fairly isolated cabin, buried in winter weather and snow. On top of that, there are anatomically correct gingerbread men to contend with. I was looking for something fun and quirky and cute.

Instead, while the story wasn't really all that bad, it was also kind of boring. The writing style was also awkward--sometimes a little too wordy, and sometimes a little too dramatic. And, of course, both Abby and Landon were the stock-standard romance novel hero and heroine as well--perfect for each other, perfect as individuals... just absolutely flawless people who end up having great sex and falling in love for no reason other than because the author dictates.

Nonetheless, this was enjoyable in it's own way. Just not my favorite of the three stories.

• Sugar and Spice by Kimberly Kincaid -- 4.0 Stars

Cute, inspirational, humorous, and everything I typically expect from Kimberly Kincaid!

Lily is married to her baking and has time for nothing else. Her cooking process is just as meticulous as her ideals in life--straight-laced, unwavering, planned and strategic to a T. While she has her own cake business, her tiny kitchen is just not big enough if she wants to expand her clientele and so she knows that her next step is a storefront with a larger kitchen. Participating in the Pine Mountain Resort Christmas cookie baking contest seems just the means to get where she needs to go, with a monetary reward enough to start up a decent sized bakery.

But Lily finds herself going head-to-head against a charming, suave, and sexy chef with ambitions of his own--to leave his current position and make a name for himself, good enough to become the next chef of an upscale restaurant in the city. Pete's cooking style is professional and skilled, but at the same time, grand and risky and too spontaneous for Lily to handle. When the two of them meet in the kitchen, it's quite the showdown, even as a simmering attraction begins to build.

Kimberly Kincaid has a writing style I enjoy--relaxed, humorous, fun. So even if I haven't entirely enjoyed all of her works, I still pay attention to anything with her name on it. Sugar and Spice certainly did not disappoint, with a short, to-the-point love story with a cute build-up, great characters, and a lovely Happily Ever After™. Lily and Pete clashed with each other so badly, both in personality and as chefs that it was extremely entertaining and fun to read, proving the whole opposites attract theory in some form.

Perhaps because this was a tried-and-true romance formula written well with likable characters. Perhaps because I wasn't expecting more from this story (or this entire anthology) than sweet little love stories. I ended up immensely enjoying this little story of a couple falling in love through competition.

In a word: It was fun!

Final Thoughts:
Short and sweet little romance anthologies are always lovely, and being a hopeless romantic for fictional romances, I don't turn them down. The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap, though actually a holiday-themed collection, still makes for an enjoyable read during the February Valentine season.

Sometimes these little gems just hit the right spot, because they're exactly what you're looking for, and don't usually pretend to be anything more.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge - New-to-me Author #5 & #6
-- February My TBR List meme
Mount TBR Challenge

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2016.

A First Impression (Originally posted on February 13, 2016)
"Oh no, you did not smuggle your X-rated gingerbread men into the community center.  The community center filled with families.  With children."


"Yes, Lily," Clara said, "Abby put gingerbread men with peppermint-stick peni--"

"Shh!" Lily whispered, so severely heads turned once again.  "Don't you dare say that out loud."

I'm not gonna lie.  The anatomically correct gingerbread men description was already given in the summary blurb, but I didn't expect it to show up so soon in the first chapter of the first story.  And my curiosity is quite piqued.

What do anatomically correct gingerbread men look like?

(Hint:  I did a Google search.  It gave me interesting things.  In the interest of keeping this community kid-friendly, however, I won't post any pictures.  But feel free to follow my lead and do some googling of your own.  Also, I got a bit more curious and also googled erotic gingerbread men.  THAT was an interesting search as well.  Did anyone else know that there's a published book called The Cookie Sutra?)


Hopefully more than just mentions of erotic cookies will catch my attention--I swear, I am totally NOT a perv... most days.  Donna Kauffman's story Where There's Smoke... is the first in line with the first protagonist Clara Parker.  And so far, the little novella is turning out quite enjoyable.

I'm eager to see where the rest of this leads, because there's also mention of a firefighter somewhere in the summary blurb, and I love me some firefighters.  XD

This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2016.

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