Rating: 5 ‘Sweet’ Stars

Publisher: Beth Bolden

Genre: Gay Romance

Tags: Contemporary, Age Gap (6 Years), Family, Romance, Small Town

Length: 324 Pages

Reviewer: Cindi

Purchase At: Amazon

Blurb –

Luca Moretti is grumpy—and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wrangling six—Italian—siblings and the family’s restaurants would make anyone cranky. But when his mother requests that he save his aunt’s struggling Italian deli in charming, picturesque Indigo Bay, he has no idea that he’s about to get an overdose of sweetness.

Luca expected his aunt’s stubbornness—she’s a Moretti, isn’t she?—and his cousin’s resistance to actual work, but the last thing he expected is the absolute ball of sunshine known as Oliver Billings.

Oliver loves Indigo Bay. Loves owning his small artisan bakery, Sweetie Pie’s. Helps nice old ladies cross the street. Even volunteers for the local Sweethearts Festival.

Sweet isn’t really Luca’s style, or so he thinks. But when he discovers Oliver can be a little spicy too, his prickly exterior begins to crumble like a well-baked crust.

If Luca isn’t careful, he’s going to develop a taste for sweets—and a particular baker’s pie.

And one or two servings will never be enough.

Review –

Luca’s the oldest of the Moretti kids. His family owns a few upscale restaurants, and when his grandmother died, he kind of jumped in and took charge. This meant, of course, that he never had five minutes to himself, which was exactly the way he liked it. He was the fixer, the one who was always called when there was a crisis in the family business.

Now he’s being asked by his mother to go to the small town of Indigo Bay to help fix his aunt’s deli that she runs with her son, Enzo. It carries the family name, so he feels he has to do it. Giana, his aunt, is beyond stubborn and doesn’t exactly welcome his help. Well, she wants the help, she just doesn’t want to put in the work to make changes. Enzo isn’t any better. He didn’t want any part of the business to begin with. His passion is art, but his mother doesn’t exactly encourage it, instead pushing him to be part of the family business whether he wants to be or not.

Oliver owns Sweetie Pies, a bakery in Indigo Falls. Leaving work one night, he has to slam on brakes when a man walks in front of his car, paying more attention to his phone than his surroundings. Needless to say, Oliver isn’t exactly nice about it, giving the man a piece of his mind. Imagine his surprise when the man almost runs into him again the next day, only this time inside Oliver’s mother’s B & B while Oliver’s carrying a box of muffins. It goes about as well as the first time.

They meet again later when Luca walks inside the bakery in hopes of speaking with the owner about fresh bread for his Aunt Giana’s deli, not knowing the owner is Oliver. There’s instant attraction, even though they did almost run into each other a couple of times.

Enzo, Luca’s cousin, absolutely despises Oliver, and makes sure everybody in town knows it. They’d had exactly one date in the past, but had it been up to Enzo, there would’ve been a lot more. To Oliver, there wasn’t any type of spark. Let’s just say it doesn’t go well with Enzo when Luca suggests buying homemade bread from Oliver. Things really take a turn when Oliver and Luca go on a date.

Giana wants Luca’s help to turn the deli around, but she wants it done her way. That won’t work for Luca. He writes up a proposal of what needs to happen, what would happen if she wants his help. If she says no, or pushes for changes, he’ll be getting on a plane back to Napa leaving her and Enzo to continue dealing with it themselves; meaning they’ll be out of business in no time. Giana fights him every step of the way, and Enzo can’t shut up about how much he hates Oliver, which infuriates Luca, who handles his jealous cousin.

Luca and Oliver have their date and want to keep seeing each other, even if both men know what they have would have an expiration date in the near future. As much as they try not to think about it, it’s always there. This is bad for both because real feelings snuck in probably from the very start. The more time they spend together, the more each one cares. It doesn’t matter that they’ve only been seeing each other for a couple of weeks. They just know.

Luca is an integral part of his family’s business in Napa. There’s no way he can stay in Indigo Falls. Oliver has a successful business, not to mention that his family literally started the town. He can’t leave. Which makes everything with Luca even that much more heartbreaking.

It doesn’t help that Oliver’s mother Joy, though well-meaning in her own ‘motherly’ way, doesn’t exactly approve of the relationship between Luca and Oliver. She means well, I suppose, but it’s one of those cases where certain things don’t need to be thrown in your face, obvious things that are already keeping you up at night already. As a mother of three grown sons, I understood where Joy was coming from, but Oliver knew what he and Luca had couldn’t last. He didn’t need his mother reminding him of it at every turn. For that reason, I wasn’t a fan of Joy, nor was I a fan of Giana and Enzo, for obvious reasons.

Luca and Oliver were perfect together. They both knew what they were feeling was love, regardless of the short amount of time they’d been together. It was sweet and heartbreaking at the same time as they fought to keep the words to themselves, knowing that saying them would make their goodbye a thousand times worse. I was very pleased with how everything came together.

Then there are the Morettis, the big Italian family. I love all things Italian. It’s a running joke with my husband (of over 35 years) that my next ex-husband will be Italian. 😉 And the food… I could eat Italian food every day and not get sick of it. I don’t even like some of the ingredients Luca threw in some of his dinners for Oliver – he cooks for him quite a bit – but I found myself wanting to try them anyway.

With the Moretti family I felt like I’d been dropped into a story I wasn’t familiar with, especially with one of Luca’s brothers, Gabe, and a cousin, Ren. It turns out that I was dropped into something with these guys. Gabe and Ren both have their own stories in a different series that I may read at some point.

Overall, I really loved Sweet As Pie. Luca and Oliver were just so good together. When they finally came together, as in together, it was such a sweet and aww thing that I got a little misty eyed.

I’ve had really bad luck with books this year. This is one of the few of 2023 that I can say I really loved.

Easy isn’t worth doing,” Nonna whispered in his ear, and this time he sent her a message back.

Love isn’t either, and it’s worth even more.