It is quite rare I read a story that features 1) a whole lot of food discussions that made me very hungry and 2) a soft and sensitive male main protagonist that was so loveable that he made me question why there aren’t more characters like him in the Young Adult Romance book world.
This author does romance pretty well, because she understands that it’s not realistic to make her lovey-dovey characters spend all of their energy either thinking about each other or being with each other. Both Penelope (Pen) and Xander have stuff going on in their lives: Pen is trying to make it on her own in the adult world, without the financial support of her family, and Xander is trying to find his father who left him when he was a kid without having his grandfather know about it.
But of course, the closer these sweethearts get, the more involved they are in each other’s lives, and the more they help each other with their respective goals and support one another. Props to the author for managing to make Penelope both soft and hard, lost and determined, loving and guarded. And props for normalizing having the girl make the first move, asking the guy out and encouraging him to get closer to her. It was quite empowering to read those scenes.
Where this story fell short for me was when it came to Pen’s father. He was far more one-dimensional than three-dimensional. Even though I kept hearing from so many characters that he’s an incredible man, with a big heart, and all, what I cared about was how he treated Pen and his treatment of her did not seem quite fair, so my feelings are rather mixed when it comes to him. The other thing is the neighbourhood’s ‘‘villain,’’ who just took advantage of a lot of people in the neighbourhood and was after Pen’s family’s restaurant itself. Here once again there is a one-dimensional character. It’s okay in the sense that not all villains need to be understood by the reader, but it did add a significant cliché aspect to the story.
Overall, though, it is a story with main characters worth getting to know and a lovely, evocative writing.
Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the book in exchange for a review.