Make It Sweet
By Kristen Callihan
Release Date: February 23, 2021
Series or Standalone: Standalone (though it can be a companion to Dear Enemy)
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
Kristen Callihan baked up a treat with Make It Sweet! Make It Sweet was the perfect feel-good romance novel with complex characters, a great romantic build up and not too much drama.
This book literally had so many tropes I love in it. First off, we have Lucian who is an ex-hockey player who is also an exquisite patisserie chef – be still my heart! As soon as I learned that about him, I knew I was going to be sold on this book. He’s dealing with a lot emotionally when we first met him as he was forced to retire from the sport he loves due to concussions. He’s really lost and closed off at the start, and angry at the world given his whole life has been flipped upside down and he has no idea how to define himself without hockey. Then we have Emma. She’s also in a similar place at the start of the book as she’s been unexpectedly killed off the TV show she stars in Dark Castle (think a Game of Thrones show) and found her boyfriend banging another woman on the same day. She’s adrift and not sure who she is anymore or what she’s going to do next. She goes to stay at Rosemont, the estate run by Lucian’s grandma Amalie, in order to figure out her next steps. Naturally, the two of them clash and end up helping each other heal through out the process.
Lucian and Emma, coupled with the secondary characters, really made this book for me. The books told from alternative POVs from Emma and Lucien so we really got to get into their heads and understand what they’re feeling and how they’re responding to situations. They were also perfect for each other as they both needed time to heal and needed someone who could help them see their real potential even if they struggled to see it themselves. They both could see the real person behind the pain.
I loved watching Emma break down Lucian’s barriers, even if he didn’t want to let her in. As an actress, I was worried she could be annoying (as those types of characters can be in romances) – but I ended up loving her. She was so incredibly strong, even if she didn’t think she was. Her voice was so well-defined and established and I felt I was really able to get a read on her – something I had struggled with Callihan’s Dear Enemy which exists in the same world as this novel. Lucian was also a complex character and I loved how he showed he cared through his baking. I loved being able to be in his head, even when he was hurting as you really got to understand him and his motivation.
The chemistry between Lucian and Emma was palpable and the romance was off the charts. I loved that Callihan didn’t rush to have the two of them get together. Instead, she had a slow build and lots of scenes where they kept being drawn to each other like moths to a flame but weren’t able to take the final leap to come together. The pool scenes (there were a few!) were some of my favorites as they were so steamy and you kept thinking “this is it, this is where they get together” but that didn’t actually happen. It helped add momentum to the story where the chemistry builds and builds so when they finally get together it’s explosive and everything you wanted. There was also so much good banter as Emma knew how to get under Lucian’s skin and I love when that happens.
I also really loved that the conflict towards the end of the book wasn’t something stupid – like failure to talk to each other – but felt incredibly believable as it tied back to Lucian’s struggles with identifying who he is without hockey. I personally sided with Emma and his whole family on his decision, but understand why he made the decision he did. I was also so glad to see him come to his senses and realize hockey isn’t what makes him happy anymore, but Emma is – it made the reunion that much sweeter.
I think I’ve found a new favorite Kristen Callihan novel! I know this is a story I’ll be coming back to time and time again when I want to read a heart-achy (in the best possible way) romance with well-rounded characters that will leave me with a smile on my face.