Content warning: addiction, ableism (in response to a main character’s disability)
It is always fortifying to read a book within a genre an author has meticulously honed their craft in, especially when it leads to a backlist of intriguing reads! Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley is the first book I’ve picked up by the author, yet even as a first-time reader I can see distinct characterization, plot development, and pacing choices that highlight Wesley’s expertise in writing romance.
To start, Fake It Till You Bake It’s lead characters, Jade Townsend-Matthews and Donovan Dell, are experienced through their point-of-views which clearly lend to their messy (Jade) and methodical (Donovan) mindsets. For Jade, that is trying to embody her external traits of outspoken righteousness with her avoidance of the judgment she receives from her well-off parents who are nothing like her. She’s recently taken up residence in a condo her family owns in their hometown of San Diego after years of living away for college and exploration—including her participation in a Bachelor-esque dating show. While her parents never saw any prudence in her choosing the public influencer life, Jade initially saw this as a viable career—that is, until she follows her gut, leaving the principal love interest without the happy ending viewers expected. Now labeled a villain, Jade is reeling in consideration of her life goals when her outspokenness finds her on the wrong side of Donovan’s cupcake counter. What follows is a story that not only employs classic romance tropes like fake dating and antagonistic banter to showcase the many reasons why these individuals make more sense together, but also is paced in a way that no moment seems wasted or under-explored. Plot aspects about Jade and Donovan’s relationships with friends and family have a lot of bearing on how they relate to each other and how they are able to be the support each other needs that cannot be found elsewhere.
As the first entry to a new romance series that is poised to follow the romantic trevails of Donovan’s closest friends and co-owners of the cupcake shop, Fake It Till You Bake It layers hints towards what readers can expect next without throwing us off the primary couple’s story. If this novel is any indication, Wesley has all of the ingredients, recipes, and talent I could ever ask for in finding a must-read romance series.