Title: In the Case of Heartbreak
Series: Fern Falls: Book Two
Author: Courtney Kae
Publisher: Kensington Books
Length: 317 Pages
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: While I felt some of the writing, particularly the dialogue, was a bit overly formal, it’s Ben and Adam and their story that kept me turning pages. This is a friends-to-lovers story filled with all the warmth and sweetness I expected.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Ben has been baking his mother’s cinnamon rolls at the family café for years. He’s been quietly in love with Adam Reed, his musician-slash-mechanic neighbor, for just as long. But Ben’s done waiting behind the pastry case. Despite his fear of failure, he’s entered a make-or-break competition to build his recipes into a national brand. He’s going to take charge of his business instead of nearly tanking the café—again. And he’s going to finally confess his feelings for Adam. ON LIVE TV.
Except his big plans get punched down before they even half-rise. Soon Ben is dashing down the coast to his grandma’s 80th birthday party on the beach, hiding his broken heart in Maywell Bay, California. Sun, sea, and fresh breezes should blow in something new—except they don’t. They blow in Adam Reed, grinning like a pirate and stealing the show as the musical entertainment hired by Grandma for her big bash. Grandma’s signature Heartbreak Tea is the only remedy, and Grandma’s tea could take the paint off a fence.
But there’s a burn of truth along with the booze in his bottle, and Ben has a decision to make. Can he take the sweetness in front of him, and brave the bitterness that comes after? Or is a little sea salt just what this cinnamon roll needs?
Salty cinnamon rolls? Ew. Ben would never.
Review: The town of Fern Falls was introduced in Courtney Kae’s Holiday Romance In the Event of Love, which I adored and is why I was anxious to visit with these characters again. Ben and Adam are introduced in that book, giving some pretty irrefutable proof that there was a story to tell. That’s where In the Case of Heartbreak picks up. This is a friends-to-lovers story filled with all the warmth and sweetness I expected, but with abundant angst too, all delivered by a cast of characters who work alongside Ben and Adam to get them to their happy ending.
Working against that is Ben’s father. Or, at least his father’s massive deficiencies as a decent human being, let alone a parent. Ben carries around a load of childhood baggage that manifests now as near-crippling insecurity and anxiety, plus abandonment issues. He’s got ninety-nine problems, and confidence ain’t one of ’em, so he pines away silently, afraid to admit to Adam that he wants to be far more than just friends. That’s been the status quo for most of their lives, though; Ben yearns while he watches Adam move on from one relationship to the next, which hasn’t done Ben’s heart any good at all. But then he finally works up the courage to shoot his shot when the producer of a baking show he has been chosen to compete on mistakes Adam for Ben’s boyfriend.
And, in return, Adam shoots Ben down while the cameras are rolling. Cue social media humiliation and manipulation. And more of Ben’s despicable father.
Kae directs this story away from Fern Falls when Ben leaves his mountaintop safe haven—his financially struggling bakery—for Maywell Bay, to lick his wounds and spend some time with his mom and grandmother. G-ma, as she insists on being called now that she’s turned eighty, is a joy. She’s a little eccentric, lives her life with a heaping helping of gusto, and has no qualms about playing the part of Ben’s fairy godmother. Which she does, liberally, and it’s exactly what Ben needs to see him through the mishaps that life throws his way.
Both Fern Falls and Maywell Bay are a little bit of paradise (think Schitt’s Creek, but with more diversity and without the plethora of delightfully absurd characters). There is no hate, no manufactured outrage or contrived pearl-clutching to burden the story. These are simply places where life is lived and if people aren’t minding their own business, they’re there to be generous and help in any way they can.
While I felt some of the writing, particularly the dialogue, was a bit overly formal, it’s Ben and Adam and their story that kept me turning pages. Despite the presence of Ben’s father, there is kindness and understanding in the story, especially on Adam’s part to gently ease Ben into realizing that his feelings don’t flow one-way. Consent is sexy is an important part of it. As is Ben’s insistence that Adam doesn’t give up on his dream, which causes a little eleventh-hour drama before the happiness can fully begin.
The warm fuzzies abound as Ben and Adam’s friends and family come together to work out problems. And they also learn never to count G-ma out.
You can buy In the Case of Heartbreak here: