Earlier this year, Sweethand by N. G. Peltier was one of my most anticipated books of March. Admittedly, it might be that adorable cover that caught my attention – cake?! headphones for music?! a cat?!? – but the summary confirmed my need to actually read the book. It felt like a perfect summertime read, so as we enjoy these last few weeks of heat, I dove into this first Island Bites book.
|Sweethand by N. G. Peltier|
|Series||Island Bites (#1)|
|Number of Pages||307|
|Format I Read||Paperback|
|Original Publication Date||March 30, 2021|
After a public meltdown over her breakup from her cheating musician boyfriend, Cherisse swore off guys in the music industry, and dating in general for a while, preferring to focus on growing her pastry chef business.
When Cherisse’s younger sister reveals she’s getting married in a few months, Cherisse hopes that will distract her mother enough to quit harassing her about finding a guy, settling down and having kids. But her mother’s matchmaking keeps intensifying.
Cherisse tries to humour her mother, hoping if she feigns interest in the eligible bachelors she keeps tossing her way, she’ll be off the hook, but things don’t quite go as planned. Turns out for the first time in ages, she and Keiran King, the most annoying man ever, are on the island at the same time. Avoiding him is impossible, especially when Keiran’s close friend is the one marrying her sister, and he’s the best man to her maid of honour.
Keiran doesn’t know what to make of Cherisse now. They’ve always butted heads. To him she’s always been a stuck-up brat who seeks attention, even while he secretly harbored a crush on her. Now with Cherisse’s sister marrying one of his good friends he can’t escape her as the wedding activities keep throwing them together.
When things turn heated after a rainy night of bedroom fun, they both have to figure out if they can survive the countdown to wedding day, without this turning into a recipe for disaster.
Let me start this review with why I was so excited to read Sweethand in the first place. I’m a huge music fan, so I’m always a sucker for any story that weaves music into its plot and characters. Our leading man, Keiran King, is a music producer, musician, and songwriter. He works in a genre I wasn’t actually familiar with: soca, which originated in Trinidad and Tobago. (The book is set in Trinidad.) But I always love learning about new music, so I’ll have to check out some soca songs.
For her part, Cherisse Gooding is a talented and successful baker, catering weddings and some of the biggest events in Trinidad. Throughout Sweethand, I wished I could eat some of the delicious baked goods she kept whipping every time she was stressed or angry. I have a sweet tooth, and this book certainly made me hungry!
Early on, it’s obvious that Cherisse and Keiran have some history, and they’ve never gotten along well. More so than the last novel I read – To Love and to Loathe, in which the two main character engage in playful banter – this enemies-to-lovers story seems rooted in more legit negative feelings… even if their mutual dislike seems like little more than leftover feelings from their adolescence. Indeed, Keiran and Cherisse have hardly seen each other since they were teens, but their antagonism hasn’t waned in the years since.
Both of them casually insult, joke about, or avoid each other, but there isn’t much force to sustain this enmity, especially on Keiran’s side. Moreover, good-looking people that they are, neither of them can ignore their physical attraction to each other. Thanks to their mutual lust, Cherisse and Keiran may have a chance of improving their overall relationship, too.
I’ve never been in a wedding party that require nearly as much time and commitment as the one portrayed in Sweethand. My own wedding was extremely casual, especially compared to this one. As the best man and maid of honor, respectively, Keiran and Cherisse have to interact a lot in order to pull off the bachelor and bachelorette party and other wedding-related events. Honestly, it sounds exhausting to me, but I’m glad it pushed these two characters together at least! The forced proximity trope is one of my favorites. Actually, so is enemies-to-lovers, so this books was crushing it.
One thing I liked is how the gender norms are somewhat switched here. Cherisse swears like a sailor and fails at making flower crowns for the wedding. In contrast, Keiran is talented with crafts and is remarkably good with cats and dogs. I appreciate that they aren’t outdated cookie-cutter versions of masculinity and femininity.
Another major plus (and surprise): Keiran is bisexual! I love finding unexpected LGBTQ+ representation, and Sweethand has loads of it. Although Keiran isn’t out, it’s good to see bi characters, including when they end up in a straight-passing relationship. Besides Keiran, several friends and family members in this novel are queer, including Scott, Remi, Dale, and Maxi. I’m anticipating future books in the Island Bites series to follow some of them and depict queer love stories.
Another thing I liked about Sweethand is how it looks at the (negative) assumptions people make about others. Cherisse believes a bad rumor about Keiran that turns out not to be the full story. Keiran thinks poorly of Cherisse without giving her (and her baked goods) a chance. The moral of the story is don’t believe the rumors, don’t jump to conclusions, and don’t judge a book by its cover. Both Cherisse and Keiran have some growing to do, and that transformation goes hand in hand with their blossoming relationship.
All in all, I loved Sweethand. It’s light, fun, and filled with diverse representation. I also love that it’s set in Trinidad and Tobago – a first for my own armchair traveling! But beyond the romance and fun, it also offers some depth and valuable lessons, ones that our main characters learn along the way. My only complaint about this book is the abrupt ending. Why do romances so often just end right when the characters kiss and make up? Give me one more chapter! Give me an epilogue! Please! Luckily, this is only the first in a series, so hopefully the future books will give Cherisse and Keiran a bit more screen time to enjoy their love.
Sweethand is a cute and steamy romance with strong characters and a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I can’t wait to read future books in the Island Bites series. As of yet, there’s no word on what book #2 is called or when it will come out, but I’m hoping that sometime next year it will be available for all our reading pleasure.
About the Author
N.G. Peltier is an anime watching, book reading, video-game playing, story writing kinda girl.
A devourer of words and books from a young age, she enjoys writing romance and creeping people out with the Caribbean folklore stories she grew up hearing.
A Trinidadian born and raised, she currently lives in Trinidad with her mountain of ideas and characters battling each other for whose story get told next.
She is represented by Lauren Abramo of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC