Review: “Sweet as Pie” by Alicia Hunter Pace

Series: Good Southern Women, #1

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Steam: 🔥🔥

Release Date: August 24th, 2021

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A pro hockey player learns that home is where the heart is in the first novel of a delightful new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Alicia Hunter Pace

Evans Pemberton has always had a problem saying no. To her overbearing Mississippi Delta family, to her business mentor’s push to expand her thriving pie shop and to her lifelong crush, Jake Champagne. But Jake chose her beauty queen cousin three years ago and ghosted on their close friendship. When he comes to her small town in Alabama with a new pro hockey franchise, Evie fears she’ll lose her heart all over again. Of course, she’ll forgive him like the good Southern woman she is, but anything more than that is off the table.

So why can’t she stop baking for him?

Jake is looking forward to a new team, a new town and a clean slate in Laurel Springs. After a disastrous year, the hockey hotshot is leaving his past behind—even betting his best friend that he can stay away from women. But he’s happy to reconnect with a piece of home when he visits Evie. Between slices of Mississippi mud pie and chicken potpie, he’s starting to remember all the good times they had and the man he always intended to be. Not to mention what a fool he was to let Evie get away…

How will they find a future together when she can’t say no and he can’t say yes? The path to true love isn’t quite easy as pie, but it sure is sweet in the end.

 

This book was everything I needed to climb out of my reading slump. It was filled with delicious food, a swoony hockey playing hero and a fantastic heroine. It had all the makings of a perfect dish and I devoured it quickly and without a break, because that’s how much I enjoyed it. So, why didn’t I give it 5 stars? I expected more steam in their relationship! There was so much leading up to that point, but I felt a little cheated when we didn’t get it all the way. Then again, this is a very personal thing and I hate being the person that cuts a star for no steam. HOWEVER, this book is amazing in every other way, so don’t hold back on my feelings.

Evans Pemberton and Jake Champagne grew up together, their families are still good friends and they holiday together and everything. After the death of his favourite uncle, hockey player Jake decides that he wants to get out of his hometown of Nashville and asks his agent to trade him to any other team anywhere in the country – as long as there’s no snow or cold weather. Evans grew up making pies and loving how to bake and cook and when she realises that she could never make her style of pies in her mother’s bakery in Nashville, she moves away, settles down and opens her own pie shop in Laurel Springs, Alabama. And what do you know, that’s where her lifelong crush Jake Champagne gets traded to.

I am a big fan of childhood friends to lovers, especially when there’s some of that unrequited love thrown in there. And that’s exactly what Evans and Jake have going for them. Their relationship has never been anything more than friendship, but Evans has always wanted more from Jake, except she has never told him so. Jake also felt a certain way about Evans till her cousin – Channing – walks into his line of sight and suddenly all Jake can think about is Channing, including marrying her. And suddenly Jake and Evans’ friendship is tossed up in the air and they’ve drifted apart.

Now, years later they’re crossing paths in Laurel Springs and suddenly all those feelings come back to the surface. I loved that both of them were just fighting their feelings for each other the whole time when they could have just caved and taken the other without a second thought. But oh boy, this is a delicious slow burn and everything is so wonderful! Jake’s got a bit of a reputation as a ladies’ man, so he makes a deal with his friend on the team to abstain from sex for three months just to prove a point. Little does Jake know that he’s going to be around Evans and desperate to feel her body against his.

One of the biggest messages in the book is about saying ‘no’, instead of agreeing to everything. To stand up for yourself and fight for what you want. And as someone who can never say no, Evans is always struggling to get what she wants – at work, in life and in love. Thanks to Jake, indirectly, she finds the courage and the strength to stand up and finally say no to things that don’t sit well with her, including their relationship. I loved so much about said relationship – how their past plays a part in their present, how the little things they know about each other are still true. Jake was a swoony hero, even when he was being jealous. I really enjoyed watching him come to the realisation that his feelings for Evans are less than friendly when he starts getting itchy about her possibly being with one of his teammates. They take care of each other, they look out for each other – for Evans, it’s through Jake’s favourite food; and for Jake it’s buying things that make Evans happy.

I’m not kidding when I say this book is full of food, because Evans is a pie purist who makes her crusts and fillings from scratch and there are pages where you just get a lowdown on all the go-ons in her bakery kitchen. And given there are a whole heap of hockey players with big appetites, there’s a lot of food being consumed. Food is the way to everyone’s heart, even grumpy hockey players. Sweet As Pie is as sweet as the title suggests, because even through the rough times and the fights, the characters are madly and deeply in love with each other. And their romance is simply put, sweet.

Thanks to NetGalley, Carina Press and Alicia Hunter Pace for an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.

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