Reviewed by Helyce
Juliet Lamprey is the owner of TART, a very successful bakery in town. Along with her good friends Mary and Daisy, she’s expanded the bakery to now include Mary’s catering business and provide a place for Daisy and other local artists to display their art. She’s enjoying life in general, and though she’s not dating anyone seriously that quickly changes when she runs into Gideon Carter. She’s known Gideon almost all her life and now that he’s moved here permanently to help his Grandfather with his farm, she is very interested in getting to know him again.
Cal Whaley has been in love with Juliet for years. Openly bi-sexual, he’s loved Juliet for as long as he can remember. He’s never acted on it though, choosing friendship over a romantic relationship. That all changes for him when Juliet starts dating Gideon and Cal realizes that if he doesn’t make his feelings known now, he may never have another chance.
When Cal makes his move, he turns Juliet’s world upside down. Juliet is hurt and confused. She’s waited a lifetime for Cal to treat her as more than just a friend and he decides to do so now, when she’s involved with Gideon. But no one is more surprised than Juliet when the two men interested in her suggest an unconventional relationship.
Before I get into my comments about Tart, I feel I need put out there that I am extremely picky about stories with a ménage theme. They are not stories I look for or gravitate to. I wanted to read this one because a) I’m a fan of Ms. Dane’s Brown Siblings series and b) I very much enjoyed the short story in Cherished that introduced this spin-off series, Delicious. I wanted to return to this little town on Bainbridge Island and re-connect with these characters. It was a bumpy ride, though.
For the most part, I really did enjoy all of the main characters. Juliet is an intelligent successful business woman. She’s got a great network of close friends who are more like family to her than her blood relatives. Before she even meets Gideon, though, there are scenes or conversations where Juliet laments the fact that the love of her life, Cal, may never reciprocate her feelings. As the reader, we know that Cal has feelings for Juliet-what is unclear and never addressed to my satisfaction is why he’d never acted on those feelings.
When Juliet meets Gideon, sparks fly. They date and quickly begin a physical relationship. They seem to be meant for each other and that’s what triggers Cal to finally approach Juliet and tell her how he really feels. Juliet’s immediate reaction is to run to Gideon and confess the “kiss” that Cal sprung on her. A kiss she kind of enjoyed and wholly participated in, until she remembered who exactly she was kissing. Juliet arrives, very flustered, to Gideon’s place and confesses this “kiss”. Cal’s there too, determined to state his case. And this is where I began to have problems. The scene where they discuss the kiss and then move on to talking about the possibility of a ménage relationship completely lacked the seriousness of such an issue in my opinion. They sounded like two teenage boys fighting over a girl. The fact that Gideon was the one who suggested that Cal “join” their relationship just didn’t make sense to me either.
I thought the issues with Juliet’s family were well done and helped to explain why Juliet does some of the things she does. She’s estranged from her father, and her mother has taken to traveling to “find herself”, at the expense of her relationship with her son and daughter. I would have liked to have seen a better resolution between Juliet and her brother Ethan. It felt very unfinished, regardless of the turn of events near the end of the story and Juliet’s big epiphany.
There is some interaction with the Brown siblings which was very enjoyable. We witness Adrian and Gillian’s wedding and all the preparations leading up to the event. The conflict that appears near the end is the catalyst for Juliet’s big change. The fact that Juliet found such strength after the hurtful words of her father’s wife was believable and I was thrilled to see Juliet come out of the event even stronger than she was before.
As well as Gideon, Cal and Juliet’s relationship seemed to work, I never totally bought the ménage. Yes, they are three people in a committed relationship, but it could have been three separate relationships as there are scenes with just Juliet and Gideon, or just Juliet and Cal and there is also a scene with just Gideon and Cal. All hot and sexy, but odd in some respects.
I felt the ending was a bit rushed with a big decision seemingly made a little too easily. Hints for book three, Lush, involve Juliet’s friend Mary and Adrian Brody’s rocker friend Damien. This is a book I look forward to reading!