Friday, October 25, 2013

French Roast by Ava Miles

French Roast by Ava Miles
Aspendawn Books
Book 2 in The Dare Valley Series
Romance, New Adult
Published August 13, 2013

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchage for an honest review.

Taken from

Small-town biz wiz Jill Hale has been in love with her childhood best friend Brian McConnell for as long as she can remember. A falling out led to years of estrangement, but when Brian returns to Dare Valley after trying to make it big as a chef in New York City, Jill’s determined to make amends. She’s convinced that starting a restaurant together will be the perfect win-win situation, allowing her and Brian to work together and play together.

After a series of missteps sliced and diced Brian’s career in the Big Apple, he came home to regroup and find himself. He’s convinced that reestablishing his connection with Jill, the girl who got away, will put his life back on track. And when she approaches him with her plan for going into business together, he’s certain it’s the one way he can have it all—his dream job and his dream girl.

Jill and Brian are falling for each other all over again when Brian’s ex sashays into town, intent on sabotaging their reunion. Add in a mysterious investor who’s determined to get Jill on board with his project, and the bond between the couple is tested to the limit. Will their second chance at love implode, or will they find their own recipe for a happy ending?

What worked for me:

I picked this book up because I was intrigued by the label "An exciting new contemporary romance with a New Adult and foodie flavor." I ended up enjoying it not because of any New Adult or foodie component, but because the relationship between Jill and Brian was written with such rich layers.

These two have to overcome genuine struggles in order to explore a romantic relationship together. They have real conflicts over career goals and visions for the future, as well as lingering trust issues. I was hooked on watching them muck through their troubles while trying to cope with their new, sizzling romance.  

Then there's the waffling. Part of the tension between Jill and Brian comes from Brian's indecision regarding his career. Now, as I was reading, I completely believed his difficulty in deciding whether to pursue a restaurant in Dare or to revive his career in New York or to embrace any other option made available. His struggle with temptation was realistic, but it wasn't romantic. This was sort of saved by the way in which Miles' resolved the situation, which I won't discuss so as not to spoil for the reader. It was believable for me, and I think I would consider it a 'pro' of the book, but it didn't really contribute to the romance for me.

The main characters for the third book in the series - The Grand Opening - are introduced in this one - Peggy McBride and Mac Maven. I wanted to go a bit deeper with Peggy: her actions in this book require an explanation that is hinted at by her brother, Tanner, but I wanted more so that I could forgive her, if that makes sense. My lingering frustration with her is both a push and a pull towards reading the third book. Certainly though, my interest in Peggy and Mac's contribution to French Roast invested me even more in the story and in the series.

There's another character, Pete, who belongs to the same teenage clique as Jill and Brian, whose story I would like to read. He might take us beyond Dare Valley - perhaps an opportunity for Miles to create a second, parallel series in a different geographic location? 

What didn't work for me:

Jill's meddling family drove me to distraction. I could understand why they wanted to protect her but I didn't like that they didn't respect her privacy at all. Meredith's reactions were especially irritating - why Jill had to apologize to her for pursuing her relationship to Brian confused me. It's one of my pet peeves when family and friends don't give a character as much credit as they deserve - particularly when it comes to making their own life choices. It's one thing to offer solicited advice and express concerns, but it's another to meddle. 

Now, having complained about this, I don't think that it was necessarily a misstep on the author's part. I think this is probably more my pet peeve than something that might be a negative for someone else's reading experience.

I do question the New Adult label for this book. Jill and Brian are in their mid-twenties, both have established their careers. Jill's got a thriving coffee shop, and though Brian's reputation as a chef in New York has been damaged, he's still got that valuable work experience on top of his education.  

It seems to me that the New Adult label should really be applied to books involving characters fresh off to college or in their early twenties, at the very start of their higher education or careers. While 'finding oneself' or forging an adult identity is a clear theme for the genre, I don't think that embracing that theme really qualifies a book regardless of other elements. 

Bottom Line:

French Roast was entertaining with a complex relationship at its core.  This isn't a super sweet romance by any means - there's enough struggle with temptation, hurt feelings and trust issues to make it more nuanced than that. 

I would recommend it to fans of contemporary romance - it's got some meat to it, and it's a little non-traditional without being disappointing. In fact, I was thoroughly satisfied by the time I reached the end of the book.  

4 stars
For fans of contemporary romances, fans of complicated relationships, foodies.

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