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This grumpy-sunshine romance where the heroine is the grump and the hero is the ray of beaming sunshine was incredibly adorable, delightful, and so full of positive and festive holiday vibes! I think this is also the first romance/book I've read that directly references the pandemic, and while it was admittedly a little jarring to see things being so 'normal' when it's still so not normal (and the pandemic so far from over) IRL, it was also nice and hopeful!
Stella is an ex-convict who has had an incredibly toxic and damaging relationship with her childhood best friend, and she's still coming to terms with this 'new life' now that she's out of prison. She's kinda prickly and stand-offish but underneath that grumpy exterior, she has a good heart, and she's determined to make a better life for herself while figuring out who she is now that she's "free", in more ways than one. I really admired her strength and the way she held her head up high when people judged her too quickly and treated her like shit because of her past, and it was heartwarming to see her pursue her passion and also succeed hard. I was a little worried that she wouldn't stand up for herself when it came to her toxic friendship but I happily cheered her on when she did it! She was such a great heroine and so easy to root for. And when she meets Aiden standing in front of the Vivant window displays, she has no idea that her life is about to change, and most definitely for the better!
Oh, Aiden! This guy was such a giant ball of sunshine and corny positivity and although I don't know how I'd react to meeting a guy like that IRL, it was hard to not feel happy whenever he appeared on the page. I absolutely adored him for it! 😍 My heart also went out to him hearing about how his family treated him and when we learn the reasons why he's always so happy-go-lucky, and why he started wearing bow ties. He's definitely quirky, which is a trait I don't read often in romance heroes, and I loved it on him! I loved his signature bow ties, his love for Christmas and all things happy, his aunt Edna stories, and his big heart.
It's rare to come across a reverse grumpy-sunshine romance but I absolutely adored Stella and Aiden's dynamic! It might've been a little insta-love, which is up there on my least favourite tropes list, but despite the intensity of their feelings escalating very quickly, their connection never felt forced or fake. I loved how he wanted to beat down for her but respected her to go at her own pace and handle her own business. Aiden was so gone for Stella and I loved that he and his big golden retriever heart were the ones to fall hard and fast first! Not to mention that he was definitely still your typical Tessa Bailey in the bedroom and the combination of "street nice" and "bedroom filthy" was woo, smoking fire! 🥵
Overall, this was a wonderful and festive holiday romance that's full of heart and hopeful new beginnings. I loved Stella and Aiden and despite the insta-love moments of their romance, I was sold on their connection and sizzling chemistry and they more than deserved their HEA!
This book has everything we love about Christmas. NYC, shop windows, witty banter, warm friendships, and spicy love!!! I adored this book! Imagine A Ted Lasso in the streets and a Roy Kent in the sheet! Yummy!
“Sometimes people just aren’t in a place to receive happiness, you know? And it’s nothing you’re doing wrong. It’s just that they don’t want to feel it. Or they don’t recognize happiness when it’s handed to them, so they take a foreign feeling and turn it into something that makes them comfortable. They wouldn’t know themselves if they stopped obsessing over their own shortcomings or their past mistakes…and just let you in. They don’t know how. But it can’t be your job to teach them, okay? You get to take advantage of your own happiness. You’re allowed to keep it if they don’t want it.”
Damn it, Tessa, you aren't supposed to make someone cry when they are reading on their lunch break! And yet here I am with a sneaky tear on my cheek because I am head over heels for Aiden and Stella and their perfect holiday romance. Stella, freshly out of a four year sentence at a correctional facility, doesn't believe she deserves a fresh start, until Aiden Cook, owner of high-class department store Vivant and debonair bow-tie wearer, offers her a second chance at the life she put on hold, if she's brave enough to reach out and take it with both hands...and her heart.
Swoon. Total swoon. I love Christmas romances and the department store setting for this one gave me all the cosy holiday shopping vibes that I enjoy in my real life (I was an oddball who actually enjoyed my retail job more at Christmas time). Stella is a vulnerable woman who has made her share of bad choices formerly, but a completely sympathetic character because you can understand why she made those choices. Aiden is the perfect combination of goofy Christmas-loving sweet cinnamon roll and dirty-talking perfection. This one is STEAMY folks, so don't read it if you aren't here for open-door scenes. The love story between these two characters is perfection. They both help each other to grow and overcome the false beliefs that are holding them back from living whole-heartedly, which is what the best romances do. Tessa Bailey is a goddess of her craft. I can't wait to re-read this one closer to Christmas with a mug of hot chocolate and Josh Groban's NOEL album playing in the background.
This books was absolutely perfect. I bought it whatever day it came out last year, and I’ve read it again at least 5 times since. Maybe more. It’s ridiculous really. I should be able to find authors I like just as well as Tessa, and with equally good banter and wit and yet- no. Nope. I’m rereading this gem because it’s the actual best.
Grumpy female with a bit to prove? Check Precious joy of a sunshine man in the streets and freak in the sheets? Check Puns and jokes and respect and just the best freaking side characters? Check check check check. So, readers considering this book, buy it. And also check out Ted Lasso if you haven’t yet.
Now Tessa, I need a Book about Roy. You might be tempted to recall any of your other grumpy gentleman, Duke or Derek or Greer and decide you’ve already written something too similar. But no. Nope, you’ve never written a guy who does yoga with old ladies, I’ve checked. This Christmas, I am asking for a Roy Kent inspired book. #prettyplease #dontyoudaresettleforfine