Sweet on You

by Carla de Guzman

A super-sweet (so, so sweet in all the meanings of the word) romance set in Lipa, Philippines in a small village of artisanal shops where the owner of Cafe Cecilia takes an immediate dislike to the new bakery moving in next door.

Sari, the middle sister of three who took over their Grandmother’s coffee roasting business, prides herself in her cafe’s work and making of signature coffee blends. Gabriel, the oldest of 9 siblings, is secretly in Lipa to open a bakery and make it enough of a success to please his rich father.

What follows are lots and lots of descriptions about coffee, pastries, and Philippine Christmas traditions. Right up my alley. There’s a steady trickle of Tagalog phrases, and only about a third of the food is described so if you don’t know what Tuyo or Pancit or Bonete bread is, you’ll have to just be fine with not knowing or Google alot.

This is very sweet, very family centered romance. Most of the emotional work here for the hero and the heroine is being done within the context of their siblings and their place in their family. It’s super sweet romance with quite a dance leading up to the first kiss (quite swoon worthy kiss, too mind you with a romantic dance dip) but then gets kind of unexpectedly steamy. A bit of adjustment was needed there.

The story kind of meanders, there’s alot of repetition of the particular angst for the hero and heroine (oh no I have to please my father! why am I far from my family! oh no everyone leaves me!) and the final scene where the heroine basically goes to the beach and just changes her mind was a little…sketch…but I was so mesmerized by the large cast of interesting side folks and the food/coffee that it didn’t matter. The description says they “prank” each other, but those pranks are more….little fun signs and stuff and not really pranks that move the story along too much or matter (other than the swoony kiss) so I wish more had been made of those.

Still, from a cultural and foodie point of view, this was really fun. And now I have to go Google a recipe for the heroine’s favorite cake (brazo de mercedes) because who doesn’t like a cake roll filled with custard?