Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Tropes: second chance romance; small-town romance; Penny Reid-inspired romance; going home
Stacy Travis’s Dough You Love Me? has found an apt home in Penny Reid’s crafted Smartypants Romance world. Set in the Donner Bakery series, the story follows Julia, who has returned to Green Valley after her grandmother’s death. Julia ran from Green Valley when she was younger because she was spurned by her crush, Shane. Never realizing that Shane felt like he wasn’t good for her, she left town and stayed away. She realizes she has stayed away too long in the shadow of her grandmother’s death. When she encounters Shane at the Friday jam session, long-buried feelings rise to the surface, and she runs again. Thankfully, she only runs as far as her grandmother’s home. As a friend of Cletus Winston, he connects her with his love, Jennifer Sylvester nee Winston who needs her help making bread. It becomes immediately clear that Julia will be working with Shane. As these two spend time together, those buried feelings find flight, and Shane and Julia fall in love in the specter of their past. Eventually, Julia decides to stay in Green Valley, finding her future with Shane.
Dough You Love Me? provides enough of that tension between falling in love and fighting the hurt feelings of one’s past. Julia and Shane engage in a tug-a-war of feelings until they simply can’t deny their attraction and love for each other. Through their story, Travis deftly points to how young people often struggle with differences. Shane’s story is wrapped up in his finding self-confidence in himself due to his disability. He rejects Julie out of a lack of confidence. When he finds music, specifically the French horn, he finds himself. When Julia returns to town years later, he is now able to love her despite his disability. Travis handles this storyline well.
I think Travis muted this message with the coincidence of Julia and Shane’s bread-making. On the one hand, she’s able to spend some time focusing on the importance of companies using local growers to source their ingredients. It’s an important message to consider, but I found it to undermine the larger message of Shane’s journey of self-acceptance. There were times when the story felt uneven as Travis had to balance what I felt were two storylines.
All in all, though, I loved Stacy Travis’s Dough You Love Me? as it returns us to the world of Cletus and Jennifer (even if they are sitting in the background), and it keeps us wrapped in the world of the Donner Baker’s delectable pastries and bread. I’m hoping we see more stories from Travis in this new world for her. I think Clay deserves a story in the Smartypants Romance world.
In love and romance,