Sugar and Salt, For Butter or Worse and Bless Your Heart, Rae Sutton all deal with issues affecting women. Whether is is sexism, justice, the other woman, proving yourself, or just dealing with preconceived notions of being emotional and not smart enough, they are all here in one way or another. These are very different stories from one another, with one being Christian Fiction and one being a bit steamy, but all were enjoyable to read or listen to.

Sugar and Salt (Bella Vista Chronicles #4) by Susan Wiggs, Christine Lakin (Narrator)

Published July 26th 2022 by HarperAudio, William Morrow & Company

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I picked up Sugar and Salt expecting an uplifting romance based on the cover and the blurb. Well, I did get that, but the trauma mentioned in the synopsis is a huge part of the story. Susan Wiggs wrote a story about people of privilege and how they get away with crimes and despicable behaviour and trauma, as well as new beginnings, relationships, and romance. Margot Salton fled Texas after some serious incidents and opened a small BBQ restaurant in San Francisco on historic Perdita Street and names it Salt. She shared a commercial kitchen with the bakery next door, run by Jerome “Sugar” Barnes, aptly named Sugar. They become friends, then more than friends, which is when she shares her story. There is a second storyline dealing with Jerome’s mother, Ida, and a love from her past, but Margot’s story is the main one. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, so will not say much more about it.

I did enjoy this story and loved Margot’s character. She was alone in the world, but never gave up, and fought for herself. She was lucky to have some benefactors along the way, which not everyone gets. She went through some extremely difficult situations, ones many people would have trouble coping with on its own, but hers kept multiplying. This was a well-written story that definitely kept me from doing other things, as I had to find out what happened to Margot. I was also invested in Ida’s story, even though it was a secondary one. I recommend this book, but be prepared for some heavy content. Themes include rape, unwanted pregnancy, justice, privilege, racism, interracial relationships, regrets, new beginnings, friendship and romance. Sugar and Salt is part of the Bella Vista Chronicles series, but you can read it as a standalone story. I listened to the audiobook provided to me by the publisher upon request. Christine Lakin narrated the story and I was totally pulled in by the story and her performance. She gave the various characters a voice, and used her tone and expression to add emotion to this emotionally charged story. I will not hesitate to listen to other books she narrates.

For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa, Mela Lee (Narrator)

Published July 26th 2022 by Harlequin Audio, HQN Books

For Butter or Worse features Chef Nina Lyon and a chain restaurant owner, Leo O’Donnell. Nina dreams of cooking her way to culinary stardom and becoming a household name. She thought she would achieve this by hosting The Next Cooking Champ! but she and her co-host Leo O’Donnell go together like water and oil. Nina has enough of his remarks and obnoxious behaviour, and quits on live TV so she can focus on keeping her restaurant open. Leo approaches her to apologize, knowing he has overstepped, but he trips and falls into her, and a photo is taken of what looks like a passionate kiss. The next thing they know, they are an internet sensation and everyone thinks they are in a secret relationship. A plan is hatched to help both of their businesses. They will pretend to be a couple in order to help each other.

This book has two of my favourite tropes: enemies to lovers, fake dating. When there is as much emotions between two people as there was with Nina and Leo, you know it will sizzle when changed from hate to attraction. As this book began, I really didn’t like either of the main characters. They were both a bit obnoxious and closed up. As they get to know each other, they begin to open up and share things from their pasts and feelings and emotions they are dealing with. This made them relatable and much more likable. There is some humour in this book and a lot of witty banter, but there are also more serious issues. Themes include sexism in the world of cooking and chefs, mental health issues, parental issues (interference, expectations, not letting family down), hardships for business owners, as well as friendship, romance and cooking. The food in the book sounds amazing, so I recommend you not read this when you are hungry. My one issue (it is a personal one) were the rather descriptive bedroom scenes. I did fast forward through them and it didn’t diminish the story at all for me. The audiobook was narrated by Mela Lee, the author’s cousin. I thought it a bit funny when she apologized to her for having to narrate the sex scenes. She did a nice job with the book and it added to my enjoyment of the story. If you enjoy women’s fiction, with some romance and steamy scenes, then I definitely recommend you pick this one up!

Bless Your Heart, Rae Sutton by Susannah B. Lewis

Published May 24th 2022 by Thomas Nelson

4 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Bless Your Heart, Rae Sutton is a Christian Fiction story set in Whitten, Alabama. Rae Sutton is at a crossroads in her life. Her mother recently died from cancer and she is grieving, especially after also losing her father a few years earlier. She has also separated from her husband, who is involved with a younger woman. She and her fourteen year old daughter, Molly, have come home, to decide what to do next. She finds out that her mother has left her the house, but can she stay in this small town. While battling her emotions and trying to figure out who she can confide in, she is invited to attend a meeting of the “Third Thursday Ladies”, a group her mother was a proud member of. These women would meet once a month to drink coffee and eat dessert as well as discuss who to send flowers to in the hospital, write cards (Get Well, Congratulations) or who to take a meal. They also prayed for their family and friends. When she is given letters that her mother wrote to her to be read after her death, they give her hope. Can this group help her sort out her life? When she meets her daughter’s basketball coach, they develop a friendship that develops into more, but can it work out?

I enjoyed this story and loved Rae’s character. She is realistic and relatable, with problems faced by many on a regular basis. Rae’s journey was complicated by her husband showing up to try and reconcile. The Thursday Ladies were wonderful. They were a bit eccentric and quirky, but full of life’s lessons, advice and most of all love and good intentions. They helped her to put her trust in the Lord to lead her on the best path. I liked the growth in her character as the story progressed. I enjoy stories about the south, with all the quaint sayings, sweet tea, canning, Tupperware (I used to sell it at one time), southern living magazine and of course, the “Bless Your Hearts”. The faith content in this story was beautiful. Rae feels angry at God for everything going on but there is a beautiful redemption for her with the Lord as she realized that there is peace in his arms. This beautiful story focuses around grief, healing, redemption, and finding your path. It is a beautifully written story with a small town setting that I love. It made me laugh, made me angry at times and had me smiling as well. I recommend this story to those who enjoy Christian Fiction, and stories of growth, new beginnings, multi-generational friendship and romance.