Review of Sugar

Sugar by Lauren Dane. Carina Press. 2018

Sugar by Lauren DaneThis follow up erotic romance novella reminds me a bit of Dane’s Laid Open, which is a follow up erotic romance novella to the triad established in in Laid Bare. I like seeing established relationships again, and I’m glad Dane writes these, not just because its nice to revisit the characters, and its lovely to see more heat from relationships that bring that in a big way, but it’s also a way of showing the longer haul and what its like a while into the relationship, which is rare to see in romance except the hints you get in series or extras. A whole follow up novella is a treat. (Kit Rocha has done this too, and their Beyond Doubt is one of my most favorite books they have written.)

I reread Cake before reading this long awaited sequel, and I’m glad I did. It helped me have the characters fresh in my mind, and approach this book in relationship to that one. I know most of Dane’s contemporary books quite well, they are often comfort rereads, and Cake has been one of those (despite the ending, which I find troubling). The series often cross over, and this one crosses a bit with her new Whiskey Sharp series, as Gregori is cousins with the heroes in the first two books (Jagged and Unraveled). It also includes a brief cameo of Brody and Elise Brown from her Brown Family series (Coming Undone).

There were many things about Cake that keep drawing me back to it as a comfort read. It centers two characters who adore sweets, bond over eating them together, and flirt via sweets, and that makes it one of my favorite foodie romances. I let a lot of things go if the foodie aspect of a romance satisfies. (Dane’s Lush is another one of my favorite foodie romance comfort reads, and it has a trope I deeply dislike.) It also is a romance between two artists, and there is so much about art in it that it makes me swoon. I love romances between artists! The heroine has really lovely relationships with her cousin and her BFF; strong friendships and family relationships are a strength of many books by this author. It has a grumpy hero who intimidates pretty much everyone but the heroine, and a younger heroine who is certain about her desire from the beginning. There is smoking hot chemistry between the MCs and the sex scenes really deliver as far as heat is involved.

Sugar has all of these elements, except the BFF is out of the picture. Instead, we see Wren’s relationship with her cousin, and some really great family moments. (We even get to meet her two moms!) There are are also several delightful moments where it becomes clear that the grumpy hero really enjoys doing things to make the heroine happy, even if he doesn’t care for them personally. All of this makes for a really enjoyable novella-length epilogue to the first book. Which, in my opinion, improves it.

Cake felt like a sexy category romance, but for me it left things at best at a HFN. This is due to a resolution (spoiler, so highlight to read) based on a ultimatum that is combined with what at best is a pushy and intrusive romantic gesture, but honestly felt more like the heroine was stalking him. Yes he agrees to her ultimatum, but I was worried about them lasting after that. Sugar firmly establishes them as a couple that are still together and happy three years later, and not only delivers a wedding, but combines it with a road trip and lots of sexy times.

There is basically no conflict, just a weather-induced change of plans, which I enjoy quite a bit as a trope. The lack of conflict is part of what makes this feel more like a follow-up epilogue than a romance that stands on it’s own. There are no obstacles keeping them apart or making them doubt each other or worry about the relationship. Instead, we get to bask in their happiness and ride alongside them witnessing their relationship. It was quite comforting.

There is an aspect to their relationship that bothered me in Cake, and it’s even more present in Sugar, and that’s the way Wren unabashedly exoticizes Gregori for being Russian, especially around his accent and speaking Russian. At one point he directly uses that word (exoticize) to describe her doing that, and jokes about how she should stop, in a way that makes it seem like he doesn’t mind. This joke made me uncomfortable, as did her response and her behavior around this. There is another joke in the book that also made me even more uncomfortable, where he says he’s glad that she “didn’t take no for an answer” (referencing the resolution of conflict in Cake).

Overall, I had an enjoyable reading experience, and would definitely recommend this to fans of Cake. It also offers a lot of fun as a road trip romance. I want to note that while I don’t think it’s necessary to read the Whiskey Sharp books before this one, I do really recommend reading Cake first. I don’t think it will feel like quite a whole story on it’s own, without that framework first. Plus, Cake is lovely in a lot of ways and it will add to your enjoyment I think if you read it first.

Representation

  • Russian immigrant hero

Content Warnings (in white, highlight to read)

Bigoted hotel clerk is a jerk to the MCs because the hero has a Russian accent and they have tattoos and piercings; its challenged textually and directly. There are multiple references to the heroine thinking the hero’s accent and speaking in Russian is sexy in a way that felt exoticizing; he jokes about it and seems to consent to that. Frames the heroine “not taking no for an answer” (in the previous book) as romantic. Sex on the page.

Disclosures

  • Source of the book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
  • I have had no contact with the author.

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