This post includes reviews of the currently available books in the Kiss Me series:
- Strawberry Kisses (#1)
- Summer Kisses (#2)
- Spiced Kisses (#3)
Strawberry Kisses (Kiss Me #1)
This story is the perfect read if you’re looking for a balance of sweetness, steam, and feels. Patrick and Connor have been best friends for years and are secretly in love. Except Patrick has been in the closet, and Connor is convinced he’s “too much” for a real relationship. Novak invokes one of my favorite tropes, the fake relationship, to finally bring these two cinnamon rolls together. When Patrick comes out to his family, they immediately insist he bring home his boyfriend for a large anniversary party because obviously he’s been dating the guy he’s talking about for years. Right?
This scenario could have been a recipe (pun intended) for disaster, but both men embrace (pun also intended) the opportunity to live their fantasy for a few days. The way they come together is a dream come true for both of them, especially when factoring in how Novak subverts a few expected tropes based on the characters she has created. Cue the panic on both sides that this can’t possibly work out—luckily, Novak also does an excellent job of fleshing out her secondary characters, so both men have supportive friends able to help them through the minor angst.
Between the baking and the romance, this book could have been teeth-rotting levels of sweetness. Instead, Novak delivers a delicate blend of comfort and escapism necessary for the best love stories. But be careful, because you will absolutely crave cake once you reach the happily ever after.
Summer Kisses (Kiss Me #2)
This book can be read as a stand-alone story, but I loved how it overlapped with the previous book in the series. It was fairly obvious from Strawberry Kisses that Josh and Aaron would end up in an enemies-to-lovers sort of romance, but I never expected the depth of their shared history. Novak teases us with a surprise current encounter before dropping us in the past and teasing out the origins of the dynamic between these characters. However, this isn’t a story where the characters meet nearly a decade later and attempt a second chance. Aaron and Josh have worked together for years, and it was only a matter of time before they either ended up back together or murdered each other. (Since this is a romance, we know which way it will go, but the ride is still so much fun.)
Part of what I love about the enemies-to-lovers trope is that characters have seen each other at their worst but still manage to love each other anyway. The chemistry that these two heroes exude, both sexual and emotional, never fades across every relationship dynamic they experience in this story. And even as they grow and change, Novak maintains the elements that I adore about them and kept me completely invested in their relationship arc.
The content warning on the cover mentions drug use and alcoholism. I think it’s important to note in a review for concerned readers that these elements exist in the story, but the story is not specifically about the recovery process (though facets of it and how it is a continual process are mentioned). The two “dark moments” in the book are very much rooted in the issues of the relationship between Josh and Aaron. I cheered for both men at the end as they found their happily ever after together, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series for continued glimpses of these amazing characters.
Spiced Kisses (Kiss Me #3)
Disclaimer: I received an electronic ARC of this novel from the author.
People who have found love frequently want the same for their closest friends, and while Patrick (of Strawberry Kisses) is too polite, Aaron (of Summer Kisses) has absolutely zero chill where his best friend is concerned. Luckily, Aaron’s heart is in the right place concerning Ben’s workaholic tendencies, and Ben has already done half the work of befriending Ianto outside of their insular restaurant world. This book would have been significantly different had Aaron started from scratch by orchestrating a brand-new connection. Instead, this book is a lovely friends-to-lovers, slow-burn romance with a dash of forced proximity. All the elements that make for a perfect holiday love story.
Seriously, this book contains a lot of tropes, but Novak balances them with a deft storytelling ability so that they never feel contrived or forced. Instead, the friendship between Ianto and Ben flows naturally into something so much more, even if both men undergo a certain amount of angst about potentially ruining their solid friendship. I could have done with slightly less internal monologuing, but overall, these moments are significantly outweighed by all the fun scenes filled with new and familiar secondary characters who fill out the rest of the cast. Everyone has our heroes’ best interests at heart, especially during the dark moment – which is less of an overt conflict and more a stumbling block that shows Ben how much better his life could be if he doesn’t fall back on bad habits.
The events of this book could have taken place during any time of year. However, the Christmas season excellently highlights the differences between Ben and Ianto that ultimately make them perfect for each other. Since we don’t have enough representation in seasonal films, I offer this novel as a delightful alternative. I’m sad to see the end of this series, but this installment is definitely the icing on the cake – or perhaps the star atop the tree.