Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
If you have read Penny Reid’s The Winston Brothers’ series, then you know Daisy’s Nut House. As Reid’s universe has expanded, the SmartyPants Romance authors have developed stories in Green Valley, Tennessee (the home of the Winston Brothers), and these stories also find themselves, at times, as patrons of Daisy’s Nut House. We know (1) that it’s a Green Valley staple, (2) it serves the best doughnuts anywhere, (3) each resident has their favorite Daisy doughnut, and (4) Daisy’s family (including her extended family members) are Green Valley prestige. What we don’t know, what many readers want to know, is Daisy’s origin story. And, thankfully Chelsie Edwards has crafted the perfect origin story for Green Valley’s Queen of Doughnuts in her book, Upsy Daisy.
Don’t let that title fool you, though. One might think that this story is a romantic comedy, something soft and funny to lighten your day. It isn’t. However, it isn’t a story replete with angst that seeks to break you emotionally. What you find in Upsy Daisy is a perfect blend of light and dark; serious and light. Once I began to read this book, I simply didn’t want to stop, and it wasn’t because I’m a huge fan of Reid and the SmartyPants Romance authors (although that is part of it). No. This story has a depth to it that seems essential in discussions about equity, accessibility of education, privilege, race, and sex. Even though this story is set during the 70s, this story is a reflection of our own time.
The story follows Daisy Payton as she starts her first year at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. Daisy is bursting to find a new place and new identity at Fisk. Coming from a wealthy family in Green Valley, she has lived her life with two identities: private and public, and the challenge of balancing these two, especially during some traumatic experiences in her family, has left her friend-less and wanting more. On her first day at Fisk, she meets the incredibly handsome Trevor Boone. From their first meeting, these two feel a connection. As they continue to cross each other’s paths, it becomes clear that they are fated for each other except that there are complications in their lives. These complications cause Trevor and Daisy to fall apart and come together. In the end, though, will Trevor and Daisy find their happy ending?
At first glance, this story is a slow-burn romance. In fact, while the romance is the seeming driving force for this story, it really isn’t. While it is set during the course of a school year, to a certain extent, this story is a coming-of-age romance where both Trevor and Daisy must first come to terms with their own personal struggles before they can accept their relationship. This causes them to be apart for quite a bit of Upsy Daisy. Yet, I loved Trevor and Daisy apart as much as I liked them together because their personal growth is necessary to allow their eventual coupling. Additionally, their struggle against each other drives the story. It is the reason I didn’t want to put the book down because I wanted the pleasure of knowing Trevor and Daisy could find their way back to each other. This suggests Edwards’s skill in developing her plot and finding the right pacing to both interest and build emotion in her readers.
Additionally, underpinning Trevor and Daisy’s romance are several themes. In very basic terms, Upsy Daisy illustrates the complexities (at least in the 70s, but I would argue, even now) of color (is there such thing as skin color that is too dark?), race, privilege (this is a major issue for Daisy as she comes from an affluent family and she tends to be judged for her family’s wealth. It is the reason that she assumes a “new” identity immediately on entering Fisk.), sex and sexuality power dynamics, and accessibility to education (these last two still find purchase in our current society). There is a social justice to engaging with Upsy Daisy. This social justice is packaged beautifully in Daisy and Trevor’s journey, but Edwards is challenging her reader to be aware and thoughtful about these issues. The foundation of them creates the gravity of this romance.
Intertwined in the romance and the issues the story details is a bit of suspense. In her blurbs on social media, Edwards notes the “caper” of this story. And yes, that exists too. There isn’t a mystery to be solved; instead, there is a reckoning to be had when poor choices seek to derail Daisy’s time at Fisk. This conspires with all of the qualities I’ve noted above to create a story that compels its readers forward, keeping them captive to the very end.
Finally, and I don’t know if Chelsie Edwards will read my review, but I really, really wanted a better ending for this story. Warning: yes, there is a happy ending, but there is still more that I would love to read about this couple. Even more, Upsy Daisy is a slow-burn romance. The chemistry builds through to the end. This story is rich with other characters whose stories are BEGGING to be told. I’ve already reached out to Edwards trying to exact a promise from her that their stories will be told, and she’s remaining quiet about it thus far. Why is this important? Because (1) I want more Trevor and Daisy and (2) it’s clear that Edwards is well on her way to becoming a master storyteller. In Upsy Daisy, she has crafted compelling characters whose stories reflect the values of the society of the time but also mirror the values and struggles of our own. We need more romances for POC. They are necessary for identifying the ways that we are the same and different so that we learn to respect and love our differences. As far as this reader is concerned, Edwards’s Upsy Daisy has cemented its place in SmartyPants Romance lore, and we NEED (and want) more from this world that Edwards has beautifully created.
In love and romance,