Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Release Date: August 1st, 2021
Genre: Romance – LGBT
Rating: 2/5 Stars
I really wanted to like this much, much more than I did. For starters, it’s Bold Strokes Books, a publisher I really love! They put out some excellent LGBT+ fiction and definitely check them out. As for Shaken or Stirred, I think this wasn’t quite as up my street as I’d hoped for. It’s okay, and not like it was a chore to read, there were just some things that kind of irked me about it, enough to push this towards a lower rating.
Julia purchases her uncle’s bar, determined to turn it around and really make it own. Savannah is a caretaker, but on top of that, she feels responsible for the rest of her family, too, stepping in after her mother passed.
For me, a lot of Romance books hinge on the characters, and whether I really like the book or not is often because of the characters themselves. By the end of this, I felt frustrated with both Julia and Savannah, and kind of not really caring about them being together or not by the end of the book.
It might be because we get so little time seeing them actually together, and any ‘obstacles’ that come between them feel a touch forced. I did like Julia’s cousins, and the scenes where the three of them were hanging out were a lot of fun to read. But overall there were some things that annoyed me, and this is going into spoiler territory here a little so reader beware.
- Savannah and her best friend. Tiffany is Black, and I can see how Beers is trying to be inclusive, but Tiffany is very much a best friend side character, and we don’t see her nearly as much as Julia’s cousins. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it felt like Beers was trying to do something without actually looking into harmful tropes and representations, such as the Black Best Friend (or Token Black Friend) trope. There’s also a really awkward to read conversation between the two about white women and Black women, where white is capitalized, which just had me baffled.
- Savannah’s family. I get Savannah struggles to take a step back from her family, after having played a ‘mother’ role for so long, but this is a case where the telling about her father’s girlfriend doesn’t match up with the showing, and it feels like Savannah is all too often not willing to give her a chance. There were some possibilities here that felt like they were shoved to the side, especially when there were moments she could have bonded with her sister and her father’s girlfriend, but slinks off to sulk because she’s ‘no longer needed’. She also gets annoyed because Dina is trying to get her dad to eat healthier and yeah, the odd treat now and then is good, but this guy actually listens to her and her suggestions, and she is trying to get him to follow his doctor’s advice.
- Savannah’s dad. Okay, so throughout the book, it’s emphasised how Savannah’s family do not get along with the Martini’s, and her dad gets angry at the very mention of them. This could have been a really interesting plot point, especially if we’d actually seen the two dads meeting with encouragement from Savannah and Julia, but we don’t. We do get an explanation – Savannah’s dad was dating Julia’s mum before she dated Julia’s dad, and he felt Mr Martini stole Mrs Martini.
Firstly, wow, talk about holding a grudge! I know some people really can, over the most stupid things, but imagine being with a man and having his children while he’s pining over another woman? Also like Julia’s mum is a prize to be won, but what I couldn’t get out of my head was apparently this man was so wrecked by his wife’s death he couldn’t look after his own children (leaving it to Savannah), but he forbids his children from going to the bar because he was dating Julia’s mum? It just felt so forced and like there could have been a better reason (even if it was petty!) for the fallout between them.
- Her cousins and Savannah all complain that Julia works too much. That is fair! Especially as she literally spends all her time at the bar (even creating a lounge type room where she can practice her drinks). But she says it herself – it’s the world of a small business owner. Especially in the first year! And especially when the bar is struggling to get onto its feet. I know it’s a romance, but Julia’s workaholism felt more criticised and judged compared to Savannah, who is kind of presented as a saint near enough, and Julia’s defining trait is her workaholic attitude.
- Seriously, why didn’t Julia have any of marketing plans before buying the bar? How did she afford it? Because if she took out a loan, surely you would have to present a marketing plan? She spends so long complaining the bar is struggling/empty but doesn’t really do much to change that. (Yes, it’s possible I missed at the beginning how she afforded it. But still.)
Some of the scenes between Julia and Savannah were sweet, but by the end I was finding Savannah to be a bit annoying, and we don’t get enough of them really being around each other, with obstacles between them that feel like they weren’t well thought out enough.
The book is enjoyable, and Beers can write a fun novel, but this just wasn’t a hit for me personally.
I received this book from Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley for review consideration. Views remain my own.