Agatha Christie said, “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.” That’s great when Mom is working for you. It’s not so awesome when Mom considers you one of the obstacles on her path to perfect parenthood.
Belinda Drayson-Jones is the perfect woman: beautiful, poised, intelligent – and alone. The last man in her life called her stuck-up. The success she has found at Lillian’s, her family’s famous Chicago bakery, has not been met with equal success in her love life. Her goal is to cut loose, have some fun, and generate some heat with a real man. And she knows just who she wants for a playmate.
Malik Anthony worked hard to get into a prime position in the NBA. When an injury took him permanently out of the game, he worked equally hard at his surprising second career as a baker. He had the money to open his own shop but instead went to work for his best friend at Lillian’s, a premiere spot where he could enjoy what he was good at without the hassle of owning and running the company. Now his friend’s sister is giving him signals that are hard to ignore.
Getting together with Belinda surprises him though. The beautiful woman seems snooty – but she’s not. She is happy to help at a charity event with him, cheering the kids on and offering up brownies with a smile. It’s clear she is sweet and friendly under that glossily perfect exterior. As the relationship heats up he is equally surprised by her shy yet sensuous nature. She is everything Malik could want except for the fact that she blows hot and cold.
Malik is everything Belinda has always wanted as well. But he is not everything her mother has always dreamed of for her. One of her many perfect traits has been being the perfect daughter, and Belinda is not sure if she is ready to strike out for her independence by choosing her own man. It is hard enough for her to pick a dress without entering into a power struggle with her mother over it, much less choosing a partner. Surprisingly, the book doesn’t make Belinda seem weak but caring. Her mother feels like she sacrificed a lot and expects Belinda to pay those sacrifices back. Belinda naturally struggles with the concept of just how much of a debt is owed – and why.
Malik has mommy issues of his own. His mother was willing to pay any price to see him get the coaching he needed to make the NBA – and she found a coach quite pleased to accept her offer. Needless to say, that left Malik with respect for neither his mother or mentor. He still bears scars of shame and anger from what was done supposedly for him. He has mostly moved beyond it but an unexpected encounter with his former coach has him wondering just how much better he really is.
As the two grapple with their parental issues, they find themselves wondering whether or not they really are a natural fit for each other. This works fine as a plot point and I thought it even made sense given their respective backgrounds. What doesn’t work is all that is thrown in with it. The bakery is facing a cooking competition similar to Food Networks Cupcake Wars but no one seems very focused on that. Bakers tend to keep early hours, meaning early nights but that didn’t seem to be a concern for these two. And Belinda being picked on for her so-called perfection eventually grew old.
In the end I found the novel good, a bit better than the average series romance but not something I could rave about. If you absolutely love bakery stories or love stories involving basketball players this might be a good fit for you but otherwise, probably not.