ARC Review: Sweeter Than Honey by Joy Avery

Special thanks to Montlake for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Sweeter Than Honey (Honey Hill #2)
Publisher: Montlake
Published: 28 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

A talented baker and a small-town sheriff forced into a fake relationship decide whether to take a chance on love in this delectable romance from Joy Avery.

Baker extraordinaire Rylee Harris has a recipe for everything—except love. It’s been five years since she lost her husband, but romance is still a struggle for Rylee. In her small hamlet of Honey Hill, North Carolina, Rylee knows she’ll be the talk of the town when she finds someone new.

To ease her mother’s worries about her love life, Rylee impulsively invents a fake relationship with the only man who’s caught her eye: the town sheriff, Canten Barnes. It’s supposed to be a secret, but secrets don’t last long in Honey Hill. One bit of gossip leads to another, and soon the whole town thinks Rylee and Canten are an item.

As Rylee and Canten embark on a make-believe relationship to save face, they slowly realize that their feelings for each other aren’t fake at all. Can Rylee and Canten keep the charade going—or will the town’s prized baker and respected lawman take a real chance on love?

TL;DR: There was a lot about this small-town romance between the sheriff and the baker that I really enjoyed, but certain aspects made it a little difficult for me to really get into. While I definitely had fun with all of the characters and our main couple, I’m bummed that I didn’t enjoy this one more; although I do feel like I’m in the minority with this feeling. Sweeter Than Honey had: brother’s best friend/best friend’s little sister, friends-to-lovers, fake dating, and a small-town setting complete with meddling parents and nosy and gossiping elderly folk.

This was my first book by Joy Avery and the cover and synopsis are what prompted me to want to pick it up. 😜

A huge part of what made this such an entertaining read was the small-town setting, the townsfolk and the friendships Rylee and Canten have with everyone. I especially loved that these other relationships weren’t pushed to the side and just mentioned in brief in place of the “new” albeit fake relationship established between Rylee and Canten. Rylee’s bestie and town mayor Lunden and her son Zachary were great additions to the story. Zachary in particular absolutely stole the show for me. This kid and all the things his friend Johnathan would say had me in absolute fits—kids really do say the darndest things?! It was hilarious! 😂

Rylee and Canten were pretty much an inevitable couple. They were kind-hearted and genuine characters and it wasn’t hard to see why they were so well-loved in the community. They both had great relationships with their parents/families and I always love to see those strong familial relationships in romances; though I do wish that we got to see more of the friendship between Canten and his supposed bestie and Rylee’s brother, Sebastian, especially since I have a feeling that his story is next! Rylee and Canten have a very natural and easy connection that stemmed from their close friendship and their interactions and banter were pretty cute. The way that they supported and boosted one another really warmed my heart! However, the reasons for the fake dating were a little flimsy and if I’m being honest, I thought of them as actually dating because they acted like a real couple the whole way through. I have to say that I felt that there was a lot more “tell” than “show” when it came to their chemistry, especially since the story begins with us being told repeatedly that they are attracted to each other but I personally never saw or felt that romantic spark. That’s not to say that I didn’t like them together cos I did think they were good together but I never became fully invested because of that lack of spark!

I also found the pacing in the latter half especially slow and I feel it dragged down the momentum of the story. The ‘back and forth’ reasons for why they wouldn’t admit their feelings for each other became a little tiresome as well. They both were married before and those marriages ended tragically and sadly, but I feel like there was never any real tension there. They also have a strong foundation of friendship from the beginning but in their fake relationship they’ve struck up a “friends with bennies” deal too and so the original reasons for why they wouldn’t date seemed all but irrelevant and again, a bit of a weak excuse. I wished that more focus had been given to them working through these hangups, instead of just saying “we’ll not let the past hold us back” and then having them continue to go back and forth without ever really addressing or discussing these issues further. It would’ve made for a stronger story overall!

That said, Sweeter Than Honey was sweet, pretty cute cheesy at times and had a satisfying HEA that made me smile! I’m glad that I gave this a read and that I’ve discovered a new romance author I wouldn’t mind reading more from in the future.

Do you have Sweeter than Honey on your TBR?
Have you read the first Honey Hill book or do you also have it on your TBR?

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: Sweeter Than Honey by Joy Avery

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