Author: Annabeth Albert
Series: Portland Heat, #2
Released: April 14th 2015
Length: 159 pages
Source: Publisher for review
From its famous coffee to the mouthwatering fare at its cafés, restaurants, and bakeries, Portland, Oregon, has a lot to whet the appetite, including the hard-working men who serve it all up—hot, fresh, and ready to go—with no reservations…Vic Degrassi is a baker on the rise, and it’s all thanks to his rare ability to make—and keep—his New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s losing weight, giving up smoking, or graduating from culinary school, Vic goes after what he wants—and gets it. This year? He wants Robin Dawson, the sweet-hearted hottie who volunteers with him at the local homeless shelter.When he learns that Robin is suddenly single after being unceremoniously dumped, Vic is more than happy to offer a shoulder to cry on—or at least a fresh-baked pastry to bite into. But it’s been a long time since Vic’s gone on a date, and he’s nervous about risking his friendship with Robin. So when their flirtation turns into a steamy night together, Vic and Robin have to figure out if they’re friends with benefits or lovers in the making, and if Robin is ready for something more than just a rebound. There’s only one way to find out: turn up the heat…
A few months ago, I read Served Hot by Annabeth Albert and truly enjoyed the quiet, romantic e-novella and its two protagonists. It was the first in her Portland Heat series, so when Baked Fresh came along, I expected the same easiness and lightness I enjoyed in the first installment. But compared to its predecessor, Baked Fresh is a much heavier read – a more memorable one, perhaps, but one that demands a significant emotional investment.
Fortunately for us, Albert gave us two truly realistic, remarkable characters to follow. Vic just lost his young cousin to heart attack and he’s trying to reevaluate his priorities in life. He already lost considerable weight, but he’s still afraid to put himself out there and finally find someone to date. He has many insecurities and he doesn’t see himself very clearly, but if there’s one thing he wants for himself, it’s Robin, the guy from the LGBT teen shelter.
Robin just broke up with his boyfriend Paul and the last thing he needs is another relationship. He works at the shelter as a penance of sorts – not too long ago, the shelter saved him and gave him a new life. He sees Vic as a gentle giant, someone who makes him feel safe and who shows him kindness and patience.
I admired Albert’s characterization, especially for a novella. Both Vic and Robin were such clear characters, so detailed and human. Robin especially had some issues that were very difficult to overcome. I admire how they were done. They didn’t seem like something copied from a bullet point about abuse victims. They truly rang true and my heart felt every second of his pain.
As the more stable of the two, Vic had fewer problems, but his insecurities sometimes got the best of him. After his cousin’s death, he chose to have the gastric bypass surgery, but all the exercise and healthy eating in the world couldn’t help him with his self-image. Robin was very good for him from the start because he saw him as a hero, a mix between the Rock, Vin Diesel and Superman.
The third novella in this series is already out and I bought my copy yesterday. I wish these could be full-length novels, but even for a series of novellas, Albert continues to give us complete, complex stories. I can’t wait to read more.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.