I would rate this 3 stars.
This is actually the second book in this series. The first book, Accidental Baker, works like a prequel. It would be helpful to read it first because it introduces the reader to four couples. Yes, it’s an insta-everything meet cute, but it has a magical realism quality that makes it charming. Zest is very different stylistically, with less dialogue and being more inside the characters heads, with a lot of explaining. It focuses on Donnie and Will, alternating their POV. There are three more books planned, one for each couple, with obvious involvement of all the couples in this small community. Since it starts the next day after the previous book, I found the long recap odd and a little annoying.
I wanted to like these characters, but it was difficult for me. Will is too good to be true, but there isn’t much depth there. He seems less fleshed out than Donnie even though the reader gets his POV also. Donnie is uneven. Yes, at his age he is still figuring things out. This is his first real relationship. Still, at times I found him patiently and softly taking charge when he needs to and then wobbling to please everyone. He has self esteem issues, but is pretty easygoing and gets taken advantage of. He doesn’t like Will speaking for him, yet he he opens up to Trev and allows him to intercede on his behalf rather than dealing with his friends and their expectations on his own. When he has to take on so much responsibility, he is overwhelmed and shuts down. I also found it odd that Will talks to Donnie about employment right after sex with neither of them seemingly worried about dating and working together every day, or what would happen if this doesn’t work out, let alone Will making himself vulnerable as a business owner to being exploited or a lawsuit. The love scenes themselves don’t really add anything to this story.
As for the secondary characters, I didn’t like Donnie’s friends, Maisie or Henry. Abi isn’t in this book at all. Will has no friends, having just moved to town. Simon has a walk-on. Trev is used as a foil for Donnie to find help in unexpected places. Jez and Eric pop up. Will’s ex is vapid. Will’s mother is very inconsistent as a character all within the same scene. My opinion would be that the character interactions weren’t handled deftly. People are complex and the writing needs to show that rather than having the people be so contradictory, which doesn’t automatically make them multidimensional. When the main conflict of the story comes to a head, it didn’t ring true to me and I wasn’t emotionally invested. I have read other books by this author that I have enjoyed in the past, so maybe this series just isn’t my cup of tea.
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