In book two of Annabeth Albert’s Portland Heat series we meet Vic, a baker, and Robin, a trust fund kid with a big heart. Their road to romance is of course paved with misunderstandings, stubborn personalities, and steamy sex scenes. That’s all good romances right?
Vic and Robin meet at the local homeless shelter that caters to addicts and teens. We find out midway through the story that Robin got his fresh start/second chance thanks to the shelter and has very high expectations for what he can do there to help others going through similar experiences. This novel wasn’t as specifically diverse as Served Hot or Knit Tight (they’re both white men as far as I can read), but it does have characters that I’ve never read before.
Not only is Robin a former addict who occasionally turned tricks, but Vic has undergone gastric bypass surgery and Albert has done a fascinating job of weaving that into the story from Vic’s insecurities and driving force to an incredibly delicate and moving scene when Robin touches his scar and they have a frank talk about it.’
Albert’s humor came through this time, but not as well as in the first one for some reason, or maybe not as frequently?
“Damn; I’d known Robin probably came from money, but there was money and then there was Donald Trump or Lex Luthor money.” (Loc. 918)
Apart from the humor, I’ve noticed she really loves playing with words and themes. So the titles are kind of giveaways about the books: Served Hot (barista/coffee), Baked Fresh (bread/baker), Delivered Fast (delivery man and restaurant), Knit Tight (knitters/crafters), Wrapped Together (stationary store owners), and Danced Close (wedding planner), but she also throws in little references when you least expect them that are just perfect. I’ve noticed them more as I got through books three and four, but this one I’d highlighted here
“Reaching out, I pulled him toward me, closing the gap between us. I brushed my lips over his—a little hello, nothing too heavy. But Robin took my dainty, little petit four of a kiss and poured hot fudge all over it, licking his way into my mouth, arms coming around my neck.” (Loc. 604)
Apart from it being sensual, it’s also just a really perfect metaphor of something slight, whimsical, and somewhat formal to something hearty, filling, and fun.
If there’s a major critique of this novel it’s that she didn’t allow the house to become a character. She mentions it a few times and the happily-ever-after even depends on the house, but it just didn’t quite have the impact that some authors have managed to do with specific places. She’s done a great job of building Portland as a character, but knowing how unique the houses can be and how she started to set it up to be a character, but then didn’t follow through as much as I wanted, she could’ve done more.
Recommendation: Definitely a beach read. I read it in under three hours and I enjoyed it immensely. I’m making my way through the series even faster than I thought I would. I can’t wait to finish out the series.
Other Books in the Portland Heat Series
Opening Line: “‘So, what’s your plan this year?’ Cliff asked as we unloaded pallets of food for Victory Mission.”
Closing Line: “A beautiful, glorious mess in a house that was finally a home again.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Baked Fresh
“Robin. I just wanted to get out there. Give myself a chance to maybe meet a nice guy who wouldn’t care about my food issues and my loose skin and my bald-by-choice look.” (Loc. 52)
“A quartet of young guys in Blazers jerseys gave us a disapproving glare. I glared right back with a heavy hint of I can bench press two of you, sending them scurrying faster down the corridor.” (Loc. 275)
“Regrets will eat you alive if you let them. You gotta outrun them. Find something in the now.” (Loc. 288)
“However, Robin did do pretty work—the midyear appeals letter and brochure he’d designed for the mission were eye-catching and stylish without being pretentious. I’d heard from Melissa that donations had almost doubled. She was right; he would be great at keeping things afloat while she was out.” (Loc. 528)
“Gotta love the Northwest, where you apologize for sticking gluten and butter in your baked goods.” (Loc. 844)
“I mean, yeah, you have this stare that says I will steal your soul if you look at me wrong. But you, my friend, are a nice guy.” (Loc. 1,642)