Author: Erin McLellan
What I’m Talking About:
Benji Holiday is sick and tired of trying to be someone he’s not in exchange for crumbs of affection from boyfriends who end up leaving him anyway. A weekend of dedicated self-care with some of his favorite accessories or a no-strings fling with a friendly stranger might be just the thing he needs. The only relationship William O’Dare has had since college has been with the businesses he’s painstakingly nurtured to success. With a stringent list of desirable attributes to guide him, he may finally be able to devote himself to finding a love of his own. Lucky for them both, Cupid has something else in store.
I think there’s always a risk when picking up a new series without having read the first story, but Candy Hearts, by new-to-me author Erin McLellan was a nice surprise. While I wouldn’t mind additional background on the main characters, I don’t believe the lack affected the narrative aversely. And though there is some overlap among the group, the author handily maintains the boundaries around Benji and William’s journey, leaving the reader free to experience each scene solely within the context of this novella.
On the whole, I thought the premise of Candy Hearts was cute: a celebration of friendship and love on Valentine’s Day, away from the constraints of everyday life, with a dash of hope to soothe a broken heart. I admit that Benji was, without question, my favorite of the two main characters, and I caught myself reading this story with Benji-biased glasses fairly often (and absent of regret). I never did fully understand why the initial and ill-fated need for secrecy was so important, but it wasn’t enough to permanently affect my enjoyment of the novella.
Candy Hearts is strictly a romance, so the focus on William and Benji’s interactions is as sensible as the scenes are enjoyable. These two share a sweet compatibility, rather than complimenting one another, and I appreciated the fragile determination that grows as they stop pretending. This is also a very sex-positive story, and I was really happy that Benji (most especially) was able to play and explore with someone who doesn’t judge him. I did have a trouble once or twice when the line between sincerity and heat rating became a little fuzzy, the result being that those moments seemed to lose some of their charm.
One of the more enjoyable Valentine’s Day stories I’ve had the opportunity to read in a while, Candy Hearts was an unexpected bit of happiness in a genre that can sometimes feel overmined. Not too syrupy—which is funny given the quantity of sugar is ingested throughout the novella—it is a heartfelt look at just how magical a near miss between the right characters can be. Though there were a couple of things that kept pulling me out of the story, Candy Hearts was a solid introduction to this author, and I’d welcome the chance to read additional titles in this series in the future.
My Rating: B, Liked It
About the Book:
Mechanic Benji Holiday is so over Valentine’s Day and men who don’t get him. A weekend getaway with friends to escape the holiday hubbub is exactly what he needs. But William O’Dare—a stern and silent nightclub owner with “Be My Valentine” practically stamped on his forehead—throws a wrench into Benji’s plans.
William has spent years focused on his career, and it has cost him friendships and love. Inexperienced in the business of romance, he’s on the hunt for the perfect partner, and he’s armed with specific criteria to guide him. But William didn’t expect a hunky mechanic wrapped in satin and lace to show up on his doorstep.
Unable to resist their attraction, Benji and William agree to be secret fake valentines for the weekend, but secrets have a way of getting out. William gets struck by Cupid’s arrow, and as the weekend winds down, he doesn’t want fake or secret. He wants Benji to be his valentine for real and for keeps.
Release Date: February 3, 2020
Publisher: Erin McLellan
Series: So Over the Holidays #2
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance, LGBTQ, m/m
Book Source: A Novel Take PR
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