Friday 26 March 2021

#CBR13 Book 10: "Act Your Age, Eve Brown" by Talia Hibbert

Page count: 320 pages
Rating: 5 stars

Eve is the youngest and seemingly flightiest of the three privileged Brown sisters. She's always felt like the odd duck in the family, neither as focused nor as intelligent as her two older sisters and completely unable to settle on anything for very long. When she abruptly closes down her wedding planning business after one single event (a generally very successful wedding, that nevertheless descended into some chaos after Eve took it upon herself to liberate all the doves that the bride had wanted, and was left with a large bill to reimburse the animal wranglers), her long-suffering parents have had enough. They demand that Eve get a job, any job, and hold it down for at least a year. They'll freeze her trust fund payments until she can prove herself thusly. Deeply frustrated with herself and the whole situation, Eve goes driving and ends up a bit lost.

Jacob Wayne needs to hire a new chef for his B&B asap, after his previous one won the lottery and popped off to Scotland with her boyfriend. None of the candidates he's seen so far live up to his exacting perfectionist standards, and no matter what his best friend (the local pub owner) tries to do to persuade him of each candidate's virtues. Jacob knows he's not easy to work for or with (his autism makes it difficult for him to casually interact with people), but he's not willing to settle when it comes to the quality of his B&B's food. Eve comes barrelling in, soaked through because of a sudden rainstorm, with no apparent resume, and applies for the job. It takes him about two seconds to conclude that she's 1) wholly inappropriate for the job and 2) that he finds her inexplicably and incredibly attractive. After a series of unfortunate events lead to Eve backing into Jacob with her car and breaking his arm, she feels that she pretty much has to stay around to help him with the running of his B&B until he is better, even though she finds him insufferable and robotic and he finds her unreliable and chaotic.

This wouldn't be a very good romance if our protagonists didn't overcome their initial antipathy towards one another and found some common ground. Because of Eve's many different attempts at a career over the years, she turns out to actually be really good in the kitchen. While her charm and bubbly personality don't really do anything for Jacob, to begin with (she did land him in the hospital with a broken arm and a minor concussion, after all), she seems to be a big hit with the guests at the B&B and aptly handles not just the various breakfast orders, but baking for the afternoon teas. Jacob's not exactly thrilled to discover that she's living in his spare room, but despite his suspicions and misgivings, has to admit that Eve is a good cook and that she throws herself into helping with the housekeeping and other duties in the establishment while Jacob recovers. 

Having been presented with Jacob's big pile of handwritten employee handbooks (that he never really intended for anyone to read), Eve comes to understand how important order, a clear system and predictability is for Jacob. She has no problem with his neurodiversity, having grown up with sisters who are clearly both also on the spectrum. Over the course of the story, Eve comes to realise that her own struggles are also due to her being on the autism spectrum, without ever having been diagnosed as such in the past. She finds a connection and acceptance with Jacob that she's never felt in her own family, for all that her sisters love her deeply. 

Take a Hint, Dani Brown was one of my very favourite books last year, and I was very eagerly expecting this third book in the series, despite having found Eve a bit annoying as a supporting character in her sisters' books. I needn't have worried, however, because once I got to read about Eve as the star of her own book, I came to love her just as much, if not more than both of her unusual sisters, since Eve, despite having grown up in a wealthy and loving family, always felt like a failure and the black sheep. She needed my love more, if you will. 

As well as having a wonderful pair of protagonists, who start out as short-term enemies, this romance has a great cast of supporting characters, from Jacob's best friend and said friend's formidable twin sisters (all three characters will be the stars of Hibbert's next romantic trilogy, and I am super excited), to Jacob's aunt, who ended up raising him and his brother after his parents just really abandoned them on her doorstep. Eve's two sisters and their lovely boyfriends also make appearances, of course, as does her colourful grandmother and yoga teacher/wife. I feel like we didn't really get a sense of the Brown parents until this book, and while I understand their frustration with Eve, feel like they could maybe have made a bit more of an attempt to get to know their youngest in a more in-depth way rather than just wash their hands of her temporarily. 

Because 2021 seems determined to constantly challenge me, this is so far the ONLY book I have been able to finish, all month. I can already see myself revisiting it often. I am so happy I have discovered Talia Hibbert as an author, and hope that some of the earlier books of her career can help break me out of my extended reading slump. This was a great read, and I heartily recommend it to anyone wanting a good romance to take their minds off the seemingly never-ending pandemic.

Judging a book by its cover: I don't love this cover as much as I did the one for Take a Hint, Dani Brown, but the whole series has adorable covers, in very pleasing colours and has made me at least partially rethink my antipathy to the cartoon trend that is so popular now. For these books, the covers really fit. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.  

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