Ani Winthrop has spent the last ten years trying to forget what it meant to be Ani Mackenzie, the girl who had to say good-bye to her childhood love Sebastian O’Reilly when she was just sixteen. She married a wonderful man, had a beautiful daughter with him, and opened up her own bakery, The Sweet Spot. But when Sebastian walks into her bakery after fifteen years apart, she cannot ignore that he is the only one who could ever truly find her sweet spot.
Sebastian has returned to Boston now, no longer a boy, a man with a feral intensity and a hard muscled body tattooed with the story of his years away from Ani. He has returned to claim the love of his life, only to find that Ani is a wife and mother to another man’s child.
Now Ani has to choose between the love that she has for her husband Jordan, a handsome and successful pediatric neurosurgeon, and the love for Sebastian that she has never been able to let go of.
*ARC received in exchange for an honest review*
I’m honestly not sure if I’ve ever cried so much whilst reading a book as I did when I sat down one evening to read The Sweet Spot. And that was only by page 80! This book . . . Just . . . WOW! The emotions running through each page are so intense that I was immediately invested in the characters lives, and the story that they told.
As the synopsis says, Ani has been married to the wonderful Jordan for 9 years, and they have a beautiful daughter, Raffi. But then in walks Sebastian. The guy who Ani lost 15 years ago but was never able to truly let go of.
Now I know what you might be thinking. Sebastian lost his chance when their relationship ended and doesn’t deserve a chance now she has her own family. But you couldn’t be more wrong. They weren’t separated through choice and my heart ached so badly for the both of them after learning what they went through.
We are also helped to understand more from Sebastian’s tattoos. I said in my first review of this year that I love when there’s a story behind tattoos. Too many characters have ink with absolutely no reason behind it other than to make them hot, but the artwork on Sebastian’s body is so well thought out by the author that I can easily tell you about each of his tattoos and the meaning of them, without having to look back at the book, and that’s after reading 4 other books since.
Although as soon as Sebastian walked back into Ani’s life, I knew I wanted them to be together, I still loved Ani’s husband Jordan. There is no “good guy, bad guy” in The Sweet Spot. Both Sebastian and Jordan are amazing guys but they’ve lived such different lives. They are completely different, but my heart broke for both of them at various times throughout the book, and I desperately wanted them both to get the happily ever after that they deserved.
I can’t fault this book in any way, shape or form. Everything was executed perfectly, from the characters, the story – both past and present, to the writing. I know we haven’t been in this year for long yet, but The Sweet Spot is already first on my list of my Favourite Reads Of 2014. And I really hope it releases in paperback because I NEED this book on my bookshelf.
This is the start of a series that focuses on a different character in each book, and I’m very much looking forward to finding out more about them. And especially Sawyer, Ani’s sister who is up next in Mixing It Up. We get to read the first two chapters of her story at the end of The Sweet Spot and I honestly cannot wait!
The Sweet Spot by Ariel Ellman is a highly emotional story about soul mates, and a second chance at love so strong, it could last an eternity. An incredible debut from an author to look out for, and a Hot Reads Must Read.
★★★★★ 5 Stars
He was the same and yet he was different. He was taller, his youthful teenage body replaced with the broad shoulders of a grown man, and his arms were hard with tightly defined ink-covered muscles. The mop of unruly blond curls that Ani used to love running her fingers through as a girl was gone, replaced with a buzz-cut that accentuated the angles of his face, the sharpness of his jaw and the brilliance of his startling emerald green eyes. Two teardrop tattoos rested under his right eye, and a single white rose climbed up his neck. But it was the tattoo on his throat that mesmerized Ani. She stared, transfixed by the sight of the Irish Claddagh symbol inked onto Sebastian’s throat in the tangle of rose thorns that climbed up his neck. The Irish version of her name, Áine, stared back at her from the center of the Claddagh heart where it was written in dark ink.
“The Sweet Spot huh?” He stepped closer until the space between them disappeared and suddenly Ani was sixteen again, lost in the memories of their bodies tangled together on his sweaty sheets. “I think I’ve found the sweet spot baby…” he used to tease as Ani writhed and moaned beneath his probing fingers. She was drunk on lust in those days, intoxicated by love. She was in heaven and thought it would last forever. She had no idea it would all be taken away.
“Oh Bast,” Ani stared back at him in shock. She reached out a hand hesitantly to touch his face, to see if he was really there.
“Easy,” Sebastian murmured back as Ani’s eyes filled with tears and she swayed unsteadily on her feet. “Easy there.” He reached for her hands and pulled her into his arms and against his chest.
“I can’t believe you’re here,” Ani whispered as she buried her face in Sebastian’s chest, inhaling deeply. “It’s been almost sixteen years since you’ve teased me about my sweet spot.” Almost sixteen years had passed since the day the police had pulled Sebastian’s arms off of Ani.
What is your writing inspiration?
Everything around me inspires my work. Sometimes something simple will spark an idea, like the feel of a raindrop on my cheek, and sometimes my inspiration will come from something deeper, a feeling that a friend or loved one evokes in me.
What would you die without?
My AMAZING support network of friends and family
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
Definitely reading romance books! And drinking my coffee with heavy cream ;).
Did any of your early ideas or characters make it into your current work?
Yes and no. All of the characters in The Sweet Spot were original to the book, but the idea of Ani and Sebastian’s story came from a fictionalized memoir that I was working on before it. Everyone that read my memoir kept fixating on the story of my first love from my teenage years, and the unresolved way that we left each other. The interest that everyone showed in that aspect of my original story sparked the idea of Ani and Sebastian’s love story in The Sweet Spot.
Do any of your friends or family inspire the characters in the book?
Yes! My relationship with my little sister definitely inspired the relationship between Ani and Sawyer in The Sweet Spot and the entire series. My sister and I cannot be around each other without doubling over in hysterics every five minutes. We laugh non -stop when we’re together, we both have foul mouths and a playful sense of humor, and we know each other inside and out. We mother each other to death, and we know that we can always count on each other no matter what. There is nothing like a sister to get you through all your good times and bad, and Ani and Sawyer’s relationship reflects that throughout the entire series.
Do you have any new projects in the work for another book?
Yes! I am currently writing Book #4 in my Boston Harbor Romance Series, which is about Bella, Bobby’s little sister, who you meet briefly in Book II. I’m really in love with this story, partly because I feel like I have a little more freedom and flexibility with this book than I had with Book #2, Mixing It Up, and Book 3, Mississippi Spice, which will be released next month. In books #2 and #3, the characters had already been established from The Sweet Spot, and while I loved telling both Sawyer and Jordan’s stories, I didn’t have as much room to play with them as I do with Bella, because I’d already given my readers certain expectations of Sawyer’s and Jordan’s personalities. With Bella and book #4 in general, I feel like I have a blank canvas again, the way that I did with The Sweet Spot when I started the series, and it’s a lot of fun. I love that I can continue to develop all of the existing characters in the series, especially Raffi, who is slowly becoming a teenager and approaching her own story, and yet, I’m also creating something fresh and new at the same time with Bella’s story.
Do you let your close friends and family read your work while you are writing it?
Initially I did, and The Sweet Spot went under the microscope with my friends quite a bit through all of it’s stages, but as I’ve progressed through the series, I’ve become a little more hesitant about letting anyone read anything until the first draft is at least complete. While I definitely think it’s valuable to get input from “test” readers, I also think it can sometimes be distracting when you’re still trying to figure out the exact direction that you are heading with the story yourself.
I got my first taste of romance novels tucked away in the back of Papyrus, a little bookstore near Columbia University in Manhattan, when I was eleven years old. They had a children’s section, but it was downstairs in the basement, accessed by a separate street entrance, and they always closed it before we got there.
My father liked to take me and my brothers to bookstores late at night, after spending at least an hour lingering over black coffee and poppy seed cookies at The Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam Avenue and we never made it over to Papyrus before ten p.m.
Out of boredom, trapped in the dusty aisles of Papyrus late at night, I started browsing through all the old used books. I wasn’t too interested in the textbook sections that catered to the Columbia students, but I did fall in love with the paperback romance novels. The first one that I read was an epic 500-page historical love story set during the War of 1812. I was drawn in instantly, and I fell in love with romance novels after that. My oldest and dearest friend Barbara’s older sister, Audrey, lent me my second romance novel, a tattered paperback that reminded me of a steamier version of the movie Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. After that, I could always be found in the romance section of B. Dalton Books, devouring steamy historical romance novels by Catherine Coulter and Dorothy Garlock.
I then proceeded to write my own romance series, which I thought was fabulous, but since I was only twelve and had an almost non-existent love life to base it on, it probably wasn’t actually that exciting.
Over the years, I detoured away from the standard romance novels as I delved into classic literature as an English major in college at Drew University, and I fell in love with the classics: Jane Austin, George Elliot, The Bronte Sisters, Hardy, and Hawthorne. In my personal reading, I delved into Gail Tsukiyama, Dorothy Allison, Kathryn Harrison, Julia Alvarez, Anita Shreve and many others. I devoured memoirs by Alexandra Fuller, Adeline Yen Mah and Helen Fremont. I went through a Patricia Cornwell phase and even considered becoming a mortician, earning the nickname Morticia from my husband’s high school buddy Jeremy. But through it all, the constant theme that attracted me to everything that I read was romance, and in the end, I found myself circling back and falling in love with the good old romance novel again.
Upon my return to my old love, the romance novel, I fell in love with Julie Garwood and read every historical romance that she wrote at least five times. Then I discovered Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and tore through them, sulking and grumbling as I waited for each new book in the series to come out.
During this process of abandoning the romance novel and finally returning to it, I graduated college, married a wonderful man and spent the next twelve years having five children, which kept me a little busy and distracted me from the one thing that I love more than reading romance novels, writing them.
So armed with a little more history in the love department than I had at twelve, I decided to dive back in and write The Sweet Spot. I had no idea initially that it was going to be the first book in my Boston Harbor Romance series, but as I was writing it, I realized that I didn’t want the story to end, and that so many of the characters in the book had stories that needed to be told.
Whenever I finish reading a great romance, it is always bittersweet because I miss the characters that I have fallen in love with. The wonderful thing about a series is that you never have to say good-bye.