Review: Five stars for Beth Ciotta’s In the Mood for Love, the new addictive, joyful, sensual, and calorie-free Cupcake Lovers novel

imageThere are certain authors that I treasure like gold. When their books are released, I do a happy dance, because I know that their words will sparkle with a lightness and sincerity, even when they deal with difficult topics. One author who embodies this is Beth Ciotta. The inhabitants of Sugar Creek, Vermont, where her Cupcake Lovers novels are based, have become some of my BBFFs (for those in the know, that’s best book friends forever). So it was with great pleasure that I found myself purchasing the fourth book in that series, In the Mood for Love when it was released last week.

Today, I cracked the first page of In the Mood for Love: A Cupcake Lovers Novel by Beth Ciotta in my Kindle and didn’t stop reading till the entire story was told. No breaks, no discussion. All tech in the house was disabled (well, there was an electrical storm going on as well). I just curled up and read for a little over three hours, becoming totally enamored of the story of the protagonists, Harper and Sam. (You may recall their unexpected and steamy hookups from the previous book, Anything But Love).

At the opening of In the Mood for Love, it’s apparent that widower Sam is still trying to find the woman who’ll be the second Mrs. Right for him, but it seems that all candidates should echo the calm personality of his late wife. However he’s not having much luck. It couldn’t be because he misses Harper, right? Where is she anyway? It seems like this B- and C-list Hollywood publicist pulled up stakes in Sugar Creek and headed back to LA. But we discover she’s actually back, however laying low, very low – under the radar low – in her semi-haunted, restored farmhouse.

When she and Sam reencounter one another, actually when he rushes to her aid after receiving a desperate text, it quickly becomes apparent that it wasn’t just the thought of his deceased wife that kept him from moving on. He and Harper together generate enough electricity to power not only the farmhouse, but Sugar Creek. But is it only the physical side of things or could actual emotions be involved?

In my opinion, every woman should meet a man like Sam McCloud. Former military, furniture designer, craftsman, devoted husband, now single father of two – just someone who radiates kindness as well as hot sexuality. Yes, this is one man that no woman would want to say goodbye to. Why would you when Harper describes him favorably to Dylan McDermott, who she sees interviewed on a morning talk show. Yep, Sam is that hot!

I fell more than a little in love with both of Harper and Sam when Sam shows Harper his children’s rooms, including in the passage below Harper’s experience of seeing the painting he’s created for his daughter. Is it possible that under the brittle celebrity focused publicist exterior that Harper may be disguising the heart of a romantic? Does Sam see this or just the hot babe who started his engine again? Well, Ciotta explains it much better in this passage, one of my favorites:

Just now, surrounded by castles and tiaras, Harper wanted something in between, something romantic. Instead of Rambo, she wanted a knight in shining armor. Her vision clouded and she swore she saw Sam in full body armor. Richard Gere as Sir Lancelot. No. Clive Owen as King Arthur. Wait. Worse. Sam McCloud as Harper Day’s champion. (p. 135)

Wow, Dylan McDermott, Richard Gere, and Clive Owen! Anyone else want to hop in the car to travel to Sugar Creek and hang out in Moose-a-lotta, the happening coffee shop run by Chloe and Daisy?

Seriously, Ciotta has a true gift of how to convey who her characters are until they practically take physical form in front of you. The gentle evolution of perpetually-in-motion, uber-connected, non-relationship driven Harper and gentle, quiet, patient, and strong Sam is just beautiful to read. Once you add in all the subplots (Adam & Peppy, Daisy & Vince) as well as childbirth, a cyber-stalker, and just loads of humor – well you have a book that I dare anyone to put down.

While I would highly recommend reading ALL the Cupcake Lovers novels in sequence, In the Mood for Love could definitely be read as a stand-alone story. Yes, you might have questions about who these people are, but this story is fairly self-contained. But I’ll guarantee you that once that final page is turned, you’ll be looking for the rest of the series to devour. Yes, Beth Ciotta’s The Cupcake Lovers are as addictive as their namesake baked goods. Readers truly connect with Ciotta and you’ll find some cupcake recipes that they’ve submitted at the conclusion of each novel. Speaking of which, I think I’ll be trying out Mary Stella’s Key Lime Cupcakes with Coconut Buttercream Frosting. Don’t those sound delicious?

So I urge you, if you want to read a book that is heartwarming and sensual, hilarious and moving, and really well written, pick up In the Mood for Love today. I’m awarding it five stars (or five cupcakes) and hoping that there will be more tales emanating from Sugar Creek soon.

From the Publisher

The Cupcake Lovers, Book 4
In the Mood for Love: A Cupcake Lovers Novel by Beth Ciotta
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
ISBN 9781250001351
Price 7.99
Publication Date: July 1, 2014

Sugar Creek, Vermont, is a world away from Los Angeles for high-powered, media-obsessed Harper Day. When she took the job doing publicity for the Cupcake Lovers, she never expected to be won over by the town’s old-fashioned charms. But that was before she moved into the Victorian vacation home of her dreams and fell in with a man whose good looks and irresistible ways are anything but small-town…

Sam McCloud is a widowed father of two. He and bossy, big-city Harper appear to have nothing in common… though the attraction they feel toward one another cannot be denied. But will their romance last longer than the day’s headlines? There’s more to Harper than meets the eye, and as it turns out, she needs to get married—fast. Little does Harper know that family-man Sam will do whatever it takes to keep her in Sugar Creek—even if that means taking matters into his own hands. And never letting her go…in the fourth novel in the Cupcake Lovers series, In the Mood For Love.

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