How Sweet It Is is the third novel by Bold Strokes author Melissa Brayden. It has been more than four years since chef Molly O’Brien’s wife Cassie died in a tragic plane crash, and she’s recently been thinking about testing the dating waters. She’s also struggling to keep her family business, a small town bakery/coffee shop, afloat in the Starbucks era. While her in-laws have always been incredibly supportive, it’s her sister-in-law Jordan with whom Molly always felt a particular kinship. Jordan was also wounded by the death of the older sister she could never quite live up to, and has been dealing with Cassie’s loss by avoiding their small Illinois town.
Jordan returns to town at a moment when she’s reevaluating her filmmaking career and the direction of her life. At the same time, Molly returns to the dating world and her shop’s financial woes approach a crisis point. Nothing can completely distract the two women, however, from the spark of attraction they feel when they’re together. Brayden does a good job of portraying the complicated dance between Molly and Jordan (and Cassie’s ghost) as they progress from denial to relationship.
Molly is understandably nonplussed by her attraction to someone she’s always thought of as a kid sister, and struggles with what feels like a betrayal of Cassie’s memory–especially since her attraction to Jordan is stronger than what she felt for her dead wife. Her resistance is neither short-lived nor too drawn out, but ebbs and flows as she and Jordan work things out. For her part, Jordan is willing to pursue a relationship with Molly, despite the disapproval they might face from her family. But she’s also worried that she will never live up to her sister, and that Cassie’s ghost will always be there between them. There are also subplots involving Jordan’s gay best friend, Molly’s sassy best friend/employee, and the quest for the perfect truffle. There is plenty here to like, and Brayden takes her time filling in the details of their small-town life.
I picked up How Sweet It Is in advance of publication through NetGalley, and it was just as sweet as advertised. In fact, I subsequently bought a paper copy for my collection at home. It’s not flawless, but it has an admirable heart and I recommend it, especially for fans of chocolate. For other food-related lesbian romances, see Karin Kallmaker’s Roller Coaster and Starting from Scratch by Georgia Beers.