Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“I don’t regret a single day of the past five years because, for those five years, she’s been my favorite person in the world to spend time with. “
To say that I’ve been insanely excited about the SmartyPants Romance books would be an understatement. To say that I was ecstatic when I found that one of my favorite authors, Karla Sorensen, was writing a book for SmartyPants would not be a surprise.
I just finished the book, Baking Me Crazy, and I have all kinds of love for it. I finished it two days ago, and I’ve been trying to find the words for this review because (1) I want people to read this treasure of a story, and (2) I want people to recognize the treasure who is Karla Sorensen.
What should you know? This story is a “best friends turned lovers” book. The trope isn’t life-changing or earth-shattering. Yet, there is a complexity to this story, coupled with a tenderness in its story. Baking Me Crazy tells the story of Levi Buchanan and Jocelyn “Joss” Abernathy. These two meet when Levi assistant coaches Joss’s basketball team. At first sight, Levi is done for over Joss. According to his family legend, the Buchanan men fall in love at first sight and eventually marry the woman. Unfortunately, Joss spurns his invitation for dinner and asks for his friendship instead because she is newly dealing with living life in a wheelchair. After her rejection, the story fast-forwards five years, and Levi still pines for Joss. Yet, Joss doesn’t know it. They are best friends, and Levi has spent the last five years of their friendship, toeing the line between love and friendship. Until one day when Joss finds herself attracted to a new man in town. These are feelings she has never felt before. Levi, nervous that Joss will enter a relationship with this man, ups his flirting game to try and win her heart. Will Levi finally earn the prize of Joss’s affection, or will she choose the other man?
Karla Sorensen has this way of writing a variety of heroes. She easily writes the cocky player, the reticent hero, and the sweet but masculine best friend. It doesn’t matter the story she easily finds the voice of her hero, and it becomes a foundation for her book. It would be easy to say that Jocelyn is the center of this book. I’ll explain later why I love her so much. But, for me, Levi Buchanan is the heart of Baking Me Crazy. He is all man: works out at the gym, drives a big truck, earns his muscles through hard work, and has an intelligent mind. In spite of his masculinity, though, he is more tender than Joss. He feels her, knows her, and sees her through the entire story. Sorensen does this amazing job of showing us Levi’s heart in all the metaphors that Levi has created over the years to Joss’s eye color. Each new description was highlighted in my book, and boy did I swoon hard. When Joss struggles to accept his interest in her, Levi doesn’t push her. He waits. And he does this because he knows her, sometimes, better than she knows herself. There are these indelible moments that show the depth of Levi’s love for her, and Sorensen places all of her writing gusto behind them through her words and imagery. You can’t help but fall in love with Levi because Sorensen makes it so. As such, he becomes one of the best parts of Baking Me Crazy.
Similarly, Sorensen decides to break the heroine mold with Jocelyn. How many romances have you read where the heroine is wheel-chair bound? Not many. With Joss, though, Sorensen can question and remind us of the perceptions of peoples with disabilities. Joss’s inability to “see” Levi’s love for her resides in her identity as someone in a wheelchair. Her perception of love is tainted by her feelings of insecurity. Sorensen eloquently illustrates the ways in which disability can re-define a person. It creates a new ‘normal’ for them that suggests they are “less than,” that they are “too much.” And while Sorensen creates this mindset in response to Joss’s disability, really this mindset is common for any of us who don’t feel like we are enough. It doesn’t matter if our legs don’t work; if we think our beauty, our body size, our intelligence, etc. isn’t enough, sometimes, our mindset doesn’t allow us to recognize the blessings in front of us. Sorensen creates the essence of her book through Joss’s character, and it’s an admonishment that, with the “right’ person, anyone can be loved fully.
With Levi as the heart of this book and Joss as its essence, it’s easy to understand why this simple story comes with so much depth. I’ve been trying to find the words to say why I adore Karla Sorensen’s books, and I think it comes down to the story we see in her book, Baking Me Crazy. She takes these simple romantic tropes and breathes life into characters that we can’t help but connect to. It’s easy to fall in love with her characters and their story. I’ve done it over and over again. She makes her words visceral and important, and her story unfolds its truth in the beauty of her characters’ connection. Baking Me Crazy is no different. Joss’s story is an important one to read; Levi Buchanan will steal your heart and prompt you to remember what it feels like to be loved at your core; and Karla Sorensen will remind you once again why you should be reading her books until she chooses not to write them.
In love and romance,