Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“It’s not about responsibility and burdens and obligations. It’s about you.”
Following the success of the first blog tour I took part in, I instantly jumped at the chance to be involved in the next! It’s been a while since I read a good romance, so when this particular book cropped up, I couldn’t really say no. If you’re a fan of a good, heartwarming romance, but you’re also after a bit of danger and suspense, I think you’ll love this book. This is my stop on the blog tour – I’m really excited to share my review!
Salt + Stilettos by Janet Walden-West follows the story of Brett, who learned early on that appearance matters and not to count on anyone but yourself. That was until she met Will, an up and coming Samoan chef who is about to change the culinary world forever. However, when Brett’s past tries to drag her down, she’s determined not to take Will’s reputation with her. Can relying on the right person create the perfect recipe for success and happiness?
My first thought after reading the first chapter of this book was, “Where the hell has this author been all my life?!” It was an absolutely solid opening chapter which told me all I needed to know and more about Brett, one of our main characters, and even gave a spectacular explanation to what could happen in the story, without actually saying the words. I was seriously impressed with the author’s writing style and tone right from page one, and from just one single chapter, I had the urge to keep going and find out more about Brett’s weird and wonderful feelings towards Will, a budding chef who she now has no choice but to work with.
There is a strange tension between Brett and Will to begin with, and at the start, it felt as though they were both a little too different from one another to be able to get along. Brett is a very strong character who knows what she wants, and won’t settle for anything less, especially in her career as an image consultant. Will seemed to be surprisingly shy on the outside, but it was interesting to get an insight into his brain and his real thoughts about Brett! I particularly enjoyed how the reader knows how each character feels towards the other initially, but the characters have no idea. I was very curious to see how much things altered over time and just how their situation changed as the story went on.
The story is written from both Brett and Will’s perspective, and in my eyes, these alternating points of view always work really well in a book. It makes the reader understand each character’s motives and even helps us to comprehend another character’s reactions to a particular event or situation. At the beginning of the story, we witness the embarrassment of one particular character, and we also see how this embarrassment affects a different character too. The story is easy to read with a great conversational narrative, even with a few sprinkles of humour for good measure too.
“First rule of warfare. She who chose the battlefield had the advantage.”
It’s obvious how strongly Brett and Will feel about each other, even though they really don’t want to admit this to themselves or each other at this stage. This made for fun reading and the build-up towards the inevitable was really well put together. It left us wanting more, and the story soon became a real page-turner! The author has created two very unique characters and I’m sure their paths will tell an unforgettable story. However, love is not the only thing on the agenda for these characters – danger is also lurking in the form of Lloyd, Brett’s creepy stalker. Could an appearance from him or those associated with him jeopardise Will’s career and send Brett back into a dark place she once fought so hard to get out of?
Brett and Will are forced to spend more time together, which results in a friendly, professional relationship forming between the two – at least at first. It was refreshing to see how this relationship blossomed, how they slowly grew to trust one another in a variety of ways and how they began to open up to each other and speak more about themselves. The author has carefully crafted each snippet of dialogue in a way that resonates with the reader, making things seem real instead of simply pages and pages of fiction. This growth in relationship was beautiful to read and we really get to learn more about the real Brett and Will.
I had to have a little giggle at Will’s reaction to Brett’s suggestion of ‘fake dating’. Even though he finally understands his feelings for Brett after a while, Will is stuck between being overly keen at the idea of the two being a couple, and feeling guilty for having to put her in such an awkward situation. However, if their dinner date with a top chef critic in the business is to be a success, they need to work together to improve Will’s confidence, which will improve the success of his restaurant’s opening. Again, this was very pleasant to read and at this stage, I just wanted them to realise they need to be together, goddamn it!
As well as the relationship between these characters, the story also explores Brett’s anxiety and panic attacks, which have developed after a dark and terrifying past. This dangerous and potentially life threatening part of the story really makes us feel for Brett and understand what she must be experiencing, yet at the same time, we respect her for continuing her work in a professional manner, and not letting anything get in her way. However, she is only human, and at some parts of the story, we see her slip into a weaker state. I was confident that Will was just the person she needed to get back on track and to feel safe and secure once more – it’s the least she deserves!
“Trusting your heart to another person, swearing eternal devotion, and then putting your dreams on hold. Or losing them entirely.”
When the pair finally make a move on one another, Brett declares that it’s a one off and to not expect anything to happen again, shattering Will’s hopes. I began to feel a bit angry at Brett for giving him false hope, but also understood how she felt in a way. I also had a feeling something bad would happen – we still haven’t seen Lloyd’s sidekick again after Brett picked him out of the crowd, so it was only a matter of time before something happened again. Would Brett be able to protect herself from Lloyd? Would she relive the horrors of her past? The author constantly keeps us drawn in throughout the book and makes us eager to find out what happens next!
Thankfully, Brett soon comes to her senses and realises just how much of a positive asset Will is to her life. I liked how the author has covered Brett’s fears in detail, helping many readers to relate who will likely have suffered similar problems in their lives. The author doesn’t rush anything, almost planning out each step of the pair’s relationship in real time which I really admired. Every intimate scene at this point is so delicately written and described making us understand their special bond. Heartwarming, lustful and beautiful.
Just as we think there is the expected happy ending, Brett’s past comes to haunt her once again. Things get dangerous, not just for Brett, but for Will and his career too. This change in scenery really complemented the story well, and made us want the best possible outcome for both characters even more! We really see how Brett changes her ways and allows Will to help her, instead of her trying to do everything for herself. It was really nice to see this growth and how, hopefully, she’ll have a more involved life with other people, and feel more confident as a result.
Reading the ending of the book was a little stressful, especially since I was invested in Brett and Will’s relationship so much. Things take an unexpected turn, but Brett soon comes to her senses and realises she needs to try a relationship. After all, Will is the only person she’ll ever need. As a reader, our hopes are temporarily lost close to the end of the story, as Brett seems to give up and Will chooses to continue on without her, but will this be enough to keep them apart? I had a feeling the pair would join forces again soon enough.
“She closed her eyes, afraid again at the admission. At laying herself open to the ultimate loss.”
The final chapter was everything I’d hoped and more, and even though it doesn’t answer the question we’re all asking, we don’t need it to. It allows us to use our imaginations and to draw our own conclusions, and I thought this was everything the book needed and more! I think we could definitely see more of Brett and Will in a sequel, and I’m really looking forward to reading more work by this author!
I simply can’t praise this book or the author enough. With two very unique characters being pushed way out of their comfort zone, neither expected an outcome like this! The story is captivating in every way imaginable and it’s impossible not to become invested in Brett and Will’s unforgettable adventure together. However, it’s not all just about love and lust – there is danger lurking, which really turns up the heat. Together, Brett and Will change each other’s outlook on life and become each other’s safe place. Just beautiful. I also must mention the author’s extraordinary talent for storytelling and flawless use of language. Would wholeheartedly recommend this one for fans of romance!
Thank you so much to Janet Walden-West for the ARC and congratulations on creating such an uplifting and involving story! Keep an eye out for Salt + Stilettos being released on April 21st – I’ll update this review closer to the time with a purchase link. For now, you can add the book to your GoodReads TBR list here, or follow Janet over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!