I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Delicious Dilemma by Sera Taíno
Published by Harlequin, Harlequin Special Edition on August 24, 2021
Genres: Fiction / City Life, Fiction / Hispanic & Latino, Fiction / Romance / Contemporary, Fiction / Romance / Multicultural & Interracial
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Different worlds collide in Sera Taino's debut novel.
It's hard to remain enemies when you've broken bread together
Val Navarro’s first mistake: going out dancing after a bad breakup when the chef should be focused on her family business. Her second mistake? Thinking the handsome, sensitive stranger she meets could be more than a rebound – until she discovers he’s Philip Wagner of Wagner Developments. His father’s company could shut down her Puerto Rican restaurant and unravel her tight-knit neighborhood. When Philip takes over negotiations, Val wants to believe he has good intentions. But is following her heart a recipe for disaster?
From Harlequin Special Edition: Believe in love. Overcome obstacles. Find happiness.
I’m excited to bring you an excerpt from Sera Taíno‘s debut contemporary romance, A Delicious Dilemma. I really enjoy a good enemies to lovers romance, and this one didn’t disappoint. Stick around after the excerpt for my review.
Excerpt of A Delicious Dilemma by Sera Taino (Aug 24)
Harlequin Special Edition
Val took a sip of her añejo, listening to the beats of a reggaetón mash-up as it boomed through the room. People made their way to the dance platform, dappled in colors from the strobe lights. Val loved the way the music blasted through her body, the reverberations of the pumping bass through her bones; it had been too long since she’d felt this loose.
Olivia, who had stopped to talk to people she knew, grabbed Val by the hand and pulled her onto the dance floor.
“I also forgot how much fun dancing could be,” Val shouted.
“Yeah, that Luke did a number on you,” Olivia shouted back.
Val waved her hands, indicating she didn’t want to talk about Luke or anyone else. She just wanted to enjoy the music, let her mind grow empty of everything except the lyrics and the beat. Reggaetón was a gift to someone like her—US born but every bit as Puerto Rican as a transplant could be without having lived on the island. It was the soundtrack of the vaivén, or the back-and-forth movement that characterized the migration of people going from the mainland to the island and back again.
Val danced until the song changed. Olivia’s face split into an uncharacteristically dazzling smile at her girlfriend’s arrival. Aleysha’s smooth, dark skin contrasted sharply with light brown eyes the color of burnished bronze that were shocking even from a distance.
Aleysha raced over to them, giving Val a glossy, messy kiss on her cheek before flinging her arms around Olivia. “Why didn’t you text me when you got here?”
Olivia shrugged. “I figured you’d be late, like always, so why stress you?”
“You’re one to talk. Let’s go sit with Malena.” She gave Val a wink. “She’s been seeing this one guy and he brought a friend of his.”
Ugh, not a spontaneous blind date. That was the last thing she needed tonight. But of course, before she could say no, Olivia spoke for her. “Why not?”
“I’m not really—” Val started but Aleysha put a hand on her shoulder.
“We’re just hanging out. No pressure, okay?”
She just wanted to dance, maybe catch a buzz and go home in peace. But Olivia and Aleysha were wrapped up in each other, so Val had no choice but to follow them. At the far end of the patio, she recognized Malena, who often stopped into her family’s restaurant for a late lunch. She sold real estate in one of the smaller boutique agencies in Wagner Financial Place. Malena was leaning into a good-looking man she introduced as Étienne, who said his name with a voluptuous, Creole accent.
At the end of the table, almost in his own orbit, sat Étienne’s friend.
“And this is Philip,” Aleysha said.
He was whispering something to Étienne, initially unaware of her, but when he turned, the overhead lights flashed, illuminating the most striking blue eyes she’d ever seen. They reminded her of the Caribbean lapping at the beaches of Ponce, where her family used to vacation when she was a child. Music skipped through the space between them before passing her by. How long had she been staring at him. A few seconds? Minutes?
She gave him a cursory wave, determined to cover her dazed reaction before taking the seat next to Olivia. He had the kind of face that was just shy of being too good-looking and it kept dragging at her attention. Through sheer force of will, she fixed her gaze on her cousin to tame her wayward eyes, focusing intensely on her conversation without really processing the meaning of her words. Maybe if she ignored him, he’d forget she was there.
But she didn’t have that kind of luck. He slid into the chair next to her and cleared his throat.
A Delicious Dilemma is a fantastic contemporary romance, where chef Val Navarro has a full plate cooking in her family’s Puerto Rican restaurant, fighting back by heading a community group against the company that is buying up their neighborhood piece by piece only to rebuild and modernize it so it’s over priced for those that have lived there for years, and nursing her publicly broken heart from her last relationship. She doesn’t intend on falling for a handsome yet shy man named Phillip on a rare night out with her cousin, and she certainly didn’t intend to fall for him from the start. After a fantastic yet chaste couple of nights getting to know him, it’s finally revealed that Phillip is Phillip Wagner of Wagner Industries fame–the company that is rebuilding her neighborhood in the name of progress, so their relationship is doomed before it even had a chance to begin.
Even though Phillip is the lead designer of his father’s company and definitely not on board with how his father sweeps into communities and takes them over, not caring what’s left behind, Val isn’t willing to give him a chance since he didn’t tell her who he was when they first met. As Phillip works together with Val and her group to compromise on the sweeping changes in her neighborhood, can he prove to her that he’s not his company and he’s not the man she fears he is?
Val guards her heart so tightly that she won’t let anyone new in, but she’s fiercely protective of those she loves–both family and acquaintances–and no one dares cross her. Phillip has his own share of crosses to bare, and his father is his biggest hurdle. While Val and Phillip have many things in common, the wealth divide between the two is a big hurdle along with Val’s misconceptions about Phillip’s career being his own opinions. Val’s reluctance to trust is her biggest issue while Phillip isn’t an alpha male that asserts his dominance, so these two circle widely around each other with neither making a move.
I give A DELICIOUS DILEMMA a 4.5 out of 5. A Delicious Dilemma is full of light hearted banter, drama, realistic family dynamics, Star Wars references, and above all else–heart. The characters were fleshed out nicely, and the neighborhood was a lovely and unique character all of its own. I really enjoyed Val and Phillips journey, and I liked seeing both Phillip and Val grow and come into their own so they could be together.
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About Sera Taino
Debut romance author Sera Taíno has been selected for Harlequin’s Romance Includes You Mentorship, an initiative launched in 2019 to reach out to diverse communities of writers and bring more own voices stories to romance readers. Her unpublished, #ownvoices novel, Incomparable, will be published with Harlequin Special Edition in 2021 as part of the mentorship initiative. When she is not writing, she can usually be found teaching, traveling, or wrangling her family.
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