Overall Grade: 4.5 ⭐️
“She was bringing him back to the world he’d known before, one that he’d thought was lost forever.”
On entering Claire Hastings’s Cakewalk, a Busy Bean story, I sighed with content. It has been a few months since we were introduced to the first few stories of this new series out of the World of True North universe, and I had missed this essential hub in Colebury. With Audrey, Zara, and Roderick as the anchors for this story, I jumped in. And what I found is a story that tugs at your heart as its hero, Holden, and heroine, Gigi, must overcome the tragic circumstances of their pasts to find a future together.
In Hastings’s Cakewalk, you are met with Holden whose tragic past has left him simply existing, not living abundantly. A victim to his routine, he spurns regular contact with the world to live in his pain. Concurrently, Gigi is running from her life. A Southern Belle from an affluent family, she’s been a victim to its grasp, and she leaves Georgia to find a new life. Not expecting to land in Colebury, she finds herself stranded there due to car issues. While her car is being fixed, she happens upon the Busy Bean where a strange string of events point to Colebury being the place for her to live. With a new job for which she’s ill-prepared, Gigi’s beginning feels fraught with complications; however, when Holden enters her life and he offers her a place to live, she feels a strange tug to him. As Holden and Gigi engage in each other’s lives, she feels a strong connection that grows deeper as they navigate lives that seem to be changing and expanding. However, will their pasts catch up to them? Are they destined for a future together?
From the first chapter, as Gigi flees her life, I was hooked. I have this habit of prioritizing my reads based on release dates, the more recent release dates requiring the earliest read. As I order my ARCs, I read a page of the stories so they will move within my Kindle app. Every time I entered Cakewalk, I didn’t want to stop reading because Gigi’s flight hints at trauma, and Hastings compels you further into her story. She very early leads us into Holden’s trauma which also hooks you to her story. Hastings’s capacity to develop their chemistry in a way that feels reasonable and believable makes you want more for them. Hastings’s deft pacing also guides the reader forward, falling deeper into Gigi and Holden’s story.
What you find further into Cakewalk is its insistence on proffering the message that we have to live abundantly in the moment, no matter the past. It’s clear that Holden’s life has been placed on hold, keeping him frozen from living life. Similarly, Gigi’s life has kept her suspended. While they each have different motivations for this, Hastings suggests through their experiences that we must live in the moment, allowing love to guide our lives. As this message is revealed, the adoration between Gigi and Holden transforms the story, and their relationship moves from something that feels strained and contentious to something that will make you want to weep. That transition, in my opinion, is the best part of Cakewalk.
An added bonus to this story is the ancillary characters that play a part in Holden’s life as wizened guides. I love how Hastings weaves a literary tradition into her romance in a variety of ways especially because this reader teaches English. Even more, I love a good personal evolution story as characters makeover themselves, and Gigi’s journey fulfills that interest in this book.
For the newest book in the Busy Bean world, Claire Hastings has baked up a delicious treat with Cakewalk. If you haven’t yet jumped into this series, Cakewalk is a perfect guide in.
In love and romance,