Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I am new to the Erin Nicholas world. Prior to reading Forking Around, I had only read the first book of the Hot Cakes series, Sugarcoated, and she hooked me into this new series of 5 entrepreneurial male friends who have bought a sweets factory. I think it would easy to say that this series, and by extension Forking Around, is a fluffy treat. There is a lightness to these stories because they are contemporary romantic comedies meant to entertain you with a story of delectable romantic delights. However, it is too simple to say that Nicholas’s Hot Cakes books are easy, sugary goodness because they aren’t. Underpinning their casual stories runs a thread of depth that anchors her stories. In Forking Around, hidden in the rich guy-poor girl story, lies a greater message about personal sacrifice and the common good.
This second story of the Hot Cakes series follows Dax, the fun-loving Fluke co-owner. People can count on Dax to bring fun to any situation. He lives to lighten people’s days. It would be easy to say that Dax doesn’t worry about life, but underlying this mischievous and charitable person is a man who tries to seek the approval of his father. He has a tendency to listen to the needs of others and find solutions, but his solutions have unintended consequences with his inability to fully realize his solutions. His prowess lies in the ability to initiate change, but he struggles with seeing those changes into the long term.
Enter Jane, the heroine of this story. Jane is the heavy to Dax’s light. Her life has been ordained to care for her ailing father, intermediate for her half-sister and step-mother, and help those closest to her, sometimes at the expense of her own happiness and well-being. At the re-launch party for Hot Cakes, Jane catches the eye of Dax, and he finds himself enamored with her quickly. He uses his usual tricks to capture her, but Jane is grounded in a difficult life. This leads Dax to want to make her life easier, but, in doing so, he finds himself embroiled in a situation that feels beyond his capacity. Will Dax and Jane find a future together, or is Dax too much fun while Jane’s life is too much reality?
At its essence, Forking Around is an “opposites attract” tale. At first glance, Dax and Jane would be the two least likely to connect, except that each does for the other what the other can’t do. Jane struggles to find peace in her life as she is constantly “putting out fires” in the lives of her loved ones. She needs more carefree fun, and she needs someone who can walk by her side providing that levity. Nicholas constructs Dax to be her soul mate. It’s clear from the start that their teasing is the medicine that Jane needs in her life. Conversely, Dax needs someone like Jane to ground him, to give him purpose. As the perpetual dreamer, his follow-through with ideas is realized through his three of his partners in Fluke: Grant, Aidan, and Cam. Yet, in his personal life, Jane offers him a solidity that he doesn’t understand. Nicholas’s ability to craft their chemistry so that it screams off the page, in my opinion, is the strength of this story. Unlike Aidan and Zoe in Sugarcoated, these two compelled me into their story. I didn’t want Dax to “fix” Jane’s situation. Instead, I needed him to be her safe landing, and Nicholas aptly captures this in her storytelling. She gives Jane a resiliency that is admirable, and her resiliency becomes the foundation for Dax’s growth
If I struggled with anything, it’s Dax’s believability for change. This is a character who has lived as a carefree playboy. It was understandable that Jane would be contrary to his previous conquests, but he so readily falls for Jane. I think it would have been more believable had he struggled with his attraction to her more. Instead, like Aidan in the first book, he falls deeply in love with Jane quickly. I would have appreciated the depth of their couplehood if Dax had offered more conflicted internal dialogue. However, his struggle with other characters’ perceptions of his inconstancy were the moments when my heart hurt the most in this story. Nicholas carefully exposes Dax’s insecurities, and those moments bring a depth to Dax’s character, making him the “perfect” man for Jane.
If you love sugary sweet romances with some spice on top, then Forking Around is definitely your cookie. This book is currently my favorite of the series, but there are a few more to go, and I am eagerly ready to gorge on this dessert of hot men who find intelligent women to ground their lives.
In love and romance,