Special thanks to Sara at St. Martin’s Press for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads: When Sparks Fly
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: 21 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Running the Spark House, a hotel/event space that has been in her family for years, has been Avery Spark’s lifelong dream. After years of working hard and making personal sacrifices, Avery and her two younger sisters have turned the Spark House into the premier destination in Colorado Springs. Avery is living her best life—she works with her sisters and loves every minute of it, she has a great group of friends, and she lives in a fantastic condo with her best friend Declan. She might not have any love in her life, but she’s happy.
But everything comes to a screeching halt when Avery is in a car accident, leaving her immobile for weeks. After nearly losing Avery, Declan insists that he will be the one to take care of her while she recovers. However, as Declan becomes Avery’s caretaker, lines begin to blur.
Avery and Declan have been best friends since college and always had an attraction to one another, but when she ended up dating his best friend, Sam, they successfully stamped down any feelings they may have ever had for one another. Now, as Declan and Avery spend more time together, they each begin to wonder what would’ve happened if she’d dated him instead of Sam. What starts as a friend helping out another friend turns into foreplay and, before they realize it, they recognize how deeply they care for one another. But when things get serious their past threatens to destroy everything they have built.
TL;DR: Sadly, sparks didn’t exactly fly for me with this book. There were definitely some cute fluffy moments between Avery and Declan and I enjoyed reading about the Avery and her sisters running Spark House, plus I appreciated that Hunt emphasised the importance of seeking mental health support by seeing a therapist. Ultimately though, the writing felt stilted and repetitive, and I was unable to really connect with the characters or feel invested in their romance. I’m in the minority though but it was still a quick and easy read and would be a good palate cleanser between genres.
CW/TW: car accidents (one in the past, one happens in present but mostly off-page), PTSD, parental death, toxic relationship, stalking/phone tracking, cheating (in the past)
Friends-to-lovers is easily one of my favourite tropes in romance and although the relationship ended up being more toxic towards the end, there were some sweet heart-fluttery moments between Avery and Declan throughout the book. I liked how their romance grew organically from the friendship and another trope that I do like is ‘forced’ proximity and this one definitely served! Despite everything that happened leading up to the accident, Declan was sweet and considerate when taking care of Avery so I can’t deny I felt some smooshy feelings in those moments. As someone who often reads fairly sexy romances, this wasn’t very steamy with one fade to black sex scene, and the rest were just mentions of intimate moments that had passed or thoughts of a sexual nature. So if you’re not into steamy sexy reads, you wouldn’t have a problem picking this up!
I really liked that Hunting emphasised the importance of seeking out help by seeing a therapist. I’m seeing this more often in books and I love how reaching out to support for your mental health is being normalised, especially in romances and for both H/H. While I wish the lead up to Declan’s therapy was handled better, I’m glad that his seeking support was acknowledged and highlighted. The concept of Spark House was also really fun (I’d love to go there!) and that was one area where I actually felt Avery’s passion come to life. I also enjoyed how the sisters worked together to keep the place running and it showed how close their bond was and how much they cared for each other. I always love reading about sisters in books and this one was no exception. I did want the sisters to have stronger development but I still liked whenever all three came on the page together and I loved how natural and fun their interactions were!
The biggest issue for me was in the writing. Since I haven’t read anything by Hunting before I was honestly a little shocked by how stilted and repetitive it was. The writing made it pretty difficult for me to not only immerse myself in the story but to really connect with the characters, especially because I felt it was a lot of telling and not enough show, which made it hard to feel invested in the romance and the characters’ personal growth. There were also some parts that were uncomfortable to read, such as when one of the characters said that a person isn’t whole if they have a disability, and it really made me cringe! I also thought that Avery’s PTSD was handled pretty well at first, until it just disappeared and then she was suddenly very okay with driving and being in a car again, which didn’t feel realistic to me?
In the end, I didn’t feel much of anything towards the characters and their romance except frustration and anger for how quickly everything spun out of control in such an over-the-top fashion. I already wasn’t a huge fan of how the story started with the incident leading up to the accident, and while things mellowed in the middle, the relationship quickly became toxic (I mean, phone tracking? No, sir!) and everything that happened after the big ‘blow out’ felt rushed and unrealistic. Overall, while I’m disappointed that this one was much more miss than hit for me, it was still a fast read between books!
Have you read When Sparks Fly or is it on your TBR? Have you read any of Helena Hunting’s books? Which one would you recommend?