Book 2, Portland Heat
This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.
From its famous coffee to the mouthwatering fare at its cafés, restaurants, and bakeries, Portland, Oregon, has a lot to whet the appetite, including the hard-working men who serve it all up—hot, fresh, and ready to go—with no reservations…
Vic Degrassi is a baker on the rise, and it’s all thanks to his rare ability to make—and keep—his New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s losing weight, giving up smoking, or graduating from culinary school, Vic goes after what he wants—and gets it. This year? He wants Robin Dawson, the sweet-hearted hottie who volunteers with him at the local homeless shelter. When he learns that Robin is suddenly single after being unceremoniously dumped, Vic is more than happy to offer a shoulder to cry on—or at least a fresh-baked pastry to bite into. But it’s been a long time since Vic’s gone on a date, and he’s nervous about risking his friendship with Robin. So when their flirtation turns into a steamy night together, Vic and Robin have to figure out if they’re friends with benefits or lovers in the making, and if Robin is ready for something more than just a rebound. There’s only one way to find out: turn up the heat…
this wasn’t a bad read for me
The second in the Portland Heat series, Baked Fresh by Annabeth Albert does work well alone: the two factors that tie the titles in the series are the location of Portland Oregon and the Male / Male romance themes. Focusing on different professions and areas within the city, Albert has presented a nice slice of Portland that incorporates the foodie feel of the town while giving a glimpse into it’s residents.
In Baked Fresh, we meet Vic and Robin. Vic is on a self-improvement campaign, he’s lost over 100 pounds, and has been trying to get into better shape, even though he has self-image issues. In his early 30’s, he’s had his eye on Robin, who he met through his volunteer work at the shelter.
Robin is 23, an ex-addict with issues from a recent relationship breakdown and his own problems with sexual addiction / rejection and compulsions. Really working on himself and his own issues, a relationship is the furthest thing from his mind.
In a vastly different approach from the first book, the sexual element in this story is far more prevalent, and I found that the connection between the characters, for me, was far more physical than emotional. This was two broken / damaged people who, with the best intentions are trying to make a life together, but there just is something not quite present in the mix. Whether it’s the age or the issues, and a bit too much of Vic’s quick conclusions and Robin’s manipulative and attention seeking immaturity that had me rolling my eyes more than once. I loved that Vic wanted to help, but Robin’s need to push-pull-direct every situation except in the bedroom where he was anything goes just felt unnatural.
While this wasn’t a bad read for me, it just didn’t work as well as Served Hot for me in terms of character development, perhaps because so much of the interactions between Vic and Robin felt as if they were centered around sex, rather than honest sharing of feelings.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
An incredibly sweet, sexy story
When his best friend and cousin died of a heart attack far too young, Vic knew it was time to make some changes, the first of which was to lose all the extra weight. But even though he’s a hundred pounds lighter, he’s no poster boy for self-confidence, and getting into the dating scene is harder than he expected. But it’s time for a New Year’s resolution, and when he discover that the friend he’s been crushing on is suddenly single, it seems there’s only one resolution that will do — get a date with Robin.
Judging Covers: I am really loving the covers for this series so far! The “labels” for titles are cute as can be, and they're exactly the kind of design that’s floating around in the industry right now. And the photos, while they make it clear that we're in for some hot M/M action, are so much classier and sexier than what I find on most contemporary romance novels — for any gender preference. Whoever’s putting these together is kind of brilliant.
The Verdict: It’s impossible not to immediately feel for Vic, a guy who’s never even had a boyfriend due to his weight and self-confidence issues. And while he’s certainly slimmed down, he’s worried about the flab that remains, not to mention the fact that he has no clue how to go about pursuing a relationship. He’s been crushing on his friend Robin, a guy who volunteers at a local homeless shelter, forever. But he’s always thought Robin was out of his league. Of course, now that Robin’s jerk of an ex dumped him, Vic’s finally thinking of taking that leap.
Robin’s not without his issues either, some of which explain why he’s so generous with his time spent helping others. He had a rough few years and did some things he’s definitely not proud of, things that mean he doesn't drink anymore and apparently can’t keep his boyfriend happy. Granted, said boyfriend is now an ex, not to mention a grade-A douche, but once the nature of Robin’s issue was made clear, my heart just broke for him.
Their coming together is a slow and awkward journey, as neither of them have the confidence in themselves to fully believe in what is happening. Vic is resigned to take what he can get, so to speak, and while he is patient with Robin and certainly wants something long-term, he’s a bit convinced that it won’t last. Robin, on the other hand, simply doesn't believe he can be in a real relationship. It’s not that he doesn't want one, but his problems in the bedroom and the demise of his last attempt at a relationship have really done a number on him. Fortunately, Vic is all-in, and he won’t let Robin give in to his own personal demons.
Baked Fresh is an incredibly sweet, sexy story of two men whose damage resides in their minds. They take some flirting, turn it into a fling, and then let their hearts turn it into something so much more. Neither fits the kind of stereotypes you normally find in romance novels, making them seem all the more real, their relationship entirely true. It’s impossible not to feel for both of them and then start mentally cheering when they finally take a chance on each other. If you love the M/M genre or are even considering giving it a shot, this is the series to grab.
***FicCentral received this book from Tasty Book Tours for free in exchange for an honest review.