A slice of pie on a plate and a latte

About the Book

Title: Small Town Hearts
Published: 2019
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Tasty Business
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: House of Cards
Bonus Factors: Tasty Business, Beach Town
Anti-Bonus Factor: How Old Are You People?
Relationship Status: Summer Fling

Cover Story: Tasty Business

It is a truth universally acknowledged that I will always read a book that has pie and coffee on the cover. This book looks absolutely delicious. And the deliciousness continues inside its pages, in more ways than one!

The Deal:

Babe Vogel has always lived in the picturesque seaside town of Oar’s Rest, Maine, and she doesn’t plan on changing that anytime soon. Now that she’s out of high school, she lives in the town’s historic lighthouse (so cool) and slings coffee at the Busy Bean. Nothing brings her more joy than baking tasty creations for her customers, spending time with her lifelong best friends Penny and Chad, and enjoying life in Oar’s Rest year-round, even in the summer months when tourists—including cute summer boys—spill in from the four corners.

Babe’s plans for a perfect summer come crumbling down when Penny breaks up with Chad, and in a heated moment of confusion, Chad and Babe kiss on the beach. And to complicate things even more, Babe’s ex-girlfriend is back in town for a summer mentorship at the local arts center. But none of these things send Babe’s easy life into a tailspin quite like the appearance of Levi, a cute artist who is also visiting Oar’s Rest for the arts mentorship, and who causes Babe to question her most important life rule: Never fall for a summer boy.

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Man, Babe gets it. She wants a simple life, and she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with or lesser-than for it. She’s been on her own a lot, since her mom started working on cruise lines most of the year. She lives in a historic lighthouse for dirt cheap, because she has a deal with the city to give tours of it to tourists in the summer. She bakes—a girl after my own heart—and loves her job at the Busy Bean. She even hopes to buy it one day. She’s openly bisexual, even though she’s been teased for it in the past. I respected all of these things about Babe. She knew who she was, and she never worried that she wasn’t enough.

My only problem with Babe was the way she let certain toxic friendships dictate her life. Sometimes, having been friends with someone a long time does not automatically mean that the friendship is worthwhile. But, ah, I wish I could tell my own 19-year-old self this, so who am I to judge Babe?

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

The moment tall, hot, artist Levi walked into the Busy Bean, I wanted to start banging my fists on a table and chanting “KISS! KISS! KISS!” Levi was not about playing games, which meant that he was open and honest with Babe about how he felt about her, and that is so sexy, y’all. Unfortunately, I had to deduct points for some contrived drama keeping these two apart longer than was necessary, which I’ll talk about more in a moment. Like, you’re both living alone for the summer. THAT IS A SET UP FOR SEXY BUSINESS. Sure, eating ice cream on the beach is *fun* but let’s just say I was left a tad disappointed.

Talky Talk: House of Cards

I have a lot of ambivalent emotions about Vale’s writing, because on the one hand, it was beautiful—the descriptions of Oar’s Rest were particularly dreamy—even if Vale’s prose could sometimes err on the side of purple. What bothered me more than that, though, was that much of Babe’s motivations, and the motivations of Levi, Penny, and Chad on occasion, felt paper thin. I thought much of the book leaned heavily on its setting and aesthetic, and what little plot there was felt like an afterthought. It also felt too long, which only made the contrived drama repetitious to the point of bordering on annoying.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting, chocolate icing and cherries on top

Good God, my stomach was rumbling while I read this book. Babe is constantly whipping up cookies and pies, she even mixes her own tonic waters! Even Levi was mixing up some fancy-sounding sangria. And when they weren’t making food themselves, they were going to a friend’s seafood restaurant for fresh caught shrimp, or down the pier for ice cream at the Dairy Bar. Now excuse me while I go find a snack.

Bonus Factor: Beach Town

Blue house on the beach with a dock and a palm tree

Oar’s Rest was really the star of the show, in my opinion. It was the perfect little beach town where everyone knows each other and all the town’s residents are too stuffed full of good seafood to be in bad moods. You’ll be packing your bags before you finish the book (though, I am sad to tell you Oar’s Rest is not a real place).

Anti-Bonus Factor: How Old Are You People?

Maybe this won’t be an anti-bonus factor for you, but it drove me crazy that every 18 and 19 year old in Small Town Hearts lived alone, or with a significant other, or even owned their own restaurant! There were absolutely no parents in this book. While I understand that an 18-year-old living alone is not crazy, it felt unrealistic that the entire cast of this book did. In fact, the story of Babe’s mom essentially abandoning her teenage daughter was barely touched on, and I kept wishing I had been given more from that storyline.

Relationship Status: Summer Fling

Book, you’re like one of those idyllic pre-planned beach communities: totally gorgeous, but lacking the depth and substance that I need to commit long-term. You touched on some important subjects, but I never felt like you cared enough to dive deep. I enjoyed our brief time together, but when summer ends, we’ll both go back to our respective lives.

FTC Full Disclosure: This review was originally posted on Kirkus Reviews in exchange for monetary compensation, which did not affect or influence my opinions. Small Town Hearts is available March 19, 2019.

Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and cocker spaniel. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. She is a brand designer who loves tiki drinks, her mid-century modern house, and obsessive Google mapping.