I’m still on hiatus so I won’t be able to answer comments. The reason I’m still posting is because I said yes to lots of review requests and blog tours long before I thought of taking a hiatus.
TITLE: Salt + Stilettos
BY: Janet Walden-West
GENRE/S: Contemporary Romance
PUBLICATION: April 21st 2020 by City Owl Press
NOTE: I received an e-ARC from the publicist. This has nothing to do with my opinions regarding the book.
Trading her red-dirt roots for the title of Miami’s go-to image consultant, Brett Fontaine refuses to let anything jeopardize her new life.
…Not an influential client-turned-stalker who’s up for parole…
…Not post-kidnapping panic attacks…
…And certainly not the stubborn, attention-phobic chef with the tempting tataus she’s been challenged to transform into a celeb in ninety days. Will Te’o can almost taste the dream he sacrificed American Samoa, culture, and cherished family ties for—opening a four-star restaurant in the most cut-throat culinary location in North America.
Unfortunately, that requires navigating its equally ruthless social scene. When his first public performance ends in a social media spectacle, his only option is turning to the stiletto-wearing nemesis who has invaded his kitchen. Neither expected to share anything but barbs, yet somewhere between accidentally bonding over comfort food and office-wrecking sex, they’re named South Beach’s hottest pairing! Until Brett’s stalker engineers an image-shattering reveal and the fallout trashes her reputation. She may be going down, but she’s not taking Will’s dreams with her.Now Will is pulling out all his new skills and cooking up a last-ditch event. Will it prove to Brett that relying on the right person makes for the perfect recipe? Or will he be left heartbroken in the spotlight?
I lower my expectation when it comes to new-to-me authors, but it turned out I didn’t have to with Janet Walden-West is now a favorite author. Salt+Stilettos is an absolute treat. At first I thought the concept is not that new, though I rarely read a book where it’s the guy who’s in need of a makeover. It’s not common in fictional books, especially in romance genre that the guy is the wallflower so upon meeting the main characters, I’m hooked.
I love the main characters, Brett and Will. Their first meeting is so cute. I wouldn’t call it insta-love, it’s insta-attraction which I think most romance should know how to work on. Because in this book, it’s so well done. I instantly know it’s not insta-love. Will and Brett’s reactions to each other are normal even to us when someone catches our attention. To be honest, I categorized the romance between Will and Brett as slow-burn because it is. Before they give in to their attraction/feelings, there are already hints of romance but the author worked on developing the characters individually and it’s amazing.
As the blurb stated, Will is Brett’s newest project. It’s Brett’s job to turn people public-ready and she’s good at it. Her success story is so admirable. Will, on the other hand, is someone I want to protect. He’s so precious. Imagine being 6’8″ but trying to hide himself. He has some self-confident issues due to past experiences and I just want to hug him. Aside from that, it’s obvious that he has a good upbringing, committed to his work as a chef, and driven. Because of Will, this book is family-oriented and promotes a very healthy workplace. Gosh, I reall love Will and Brett.
But Will and Brett’s relationship didn’t start good. As I said, I categorized the romance as slow-burn. Even though they seem to catch each other’s eyes right from the start, Will is Brett’s client so Brett must remain professional. Also, it’s hard for Will to change his ways, to conform on whatever Brett wants him to do so most of the times, they argue. And despite the insta-attraction, Brett and Will are actually judging each other silently and they are so wrong about each other.
The first part of the book actually reminds me of Pride and Prejudice. Salt and Stilettos of course means Will and Brett’s professions but more than that it’s what they think of each other at first. Will thinks of Brett as just another socialite who cares more about appearances and Brett thinks Will is just another salty chef who is annoying, entitled and know-it-all. They’re like that due to their past experiences. Will is not Brett’s first chef client and Brett is not the first woman Will met who cares about appearances. By the way, some might argue that making a person change their appearance just to be liked by the public is wrong and pretentious but in this case, Will needs it. Will is at the highest point of his career and the public is watching him. And he thinks that he can survive just by staying in his kitchen, we all know that’s not true. Besides, Brett’s way of a make over is working on a person’s confidence and enhancing what that person’s trying to hide.
Another thing I like in this book are the side characters. First, there’s Richard, restaurateur and Brett’s best friend since childhood. Their friendship is #goals. Richard is also Will’s current boss and future partner and I love their conversations. There are no guy drama between the two but they both support each other. There’s also Tara, Brett’s friend and colleague who’s more like a sister to Brett. I smiled dearly when she called Brett a coward. Brett needed to hear that. I also liked that I had a glimpse of Will’s family who are in American Samoa. I wasn’t really familiar with that certain American territory until now.
There’s a certain drama about Brett’s past, where she grew up and another about her past stalker who’s in jail. These things were a big deal to Brett because they’re the source of her concerns at present. Because of her past, she loves helping people and because of her stalker, she has trust issues and has panic attacks. I just wish there’s more closure in the stalker issue.
Another thing, I think the internal monologues are much longer than than the scenes with dialogues. I kind of hope there’s balance between them.
RATING: 4 blissful pages with lilies
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janet Walden-West lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. A member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance, she is also a founding member of The Million Words craft blog. She pens inclusive Contemporary and Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy.A 2X PitchWars alum, 2019 Pitch Wars Mentor, and Golden Heart® finalist, her debut multicultural Contemporary Romance, SALT+STILETTOS, is out from City Owl Press. She is represented by Eva Scalzo of Speilburg Literary Agency.
Have you read this book? Or planning to? What do you think of it? Let’s chat.