In The Case of Heartbreak by Courtney Kae Book Review
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With a gorgeous beachfront mansion, salty ocean breeze, steamy nights, and ALL the summertime feels, this funny, sexy queer rom-com is a celebration of summer love, as a cinnamon roll of a pastry chef finds his indie rocker crush suddenly within reach. Perfect for fans of Casey McQuiston, Roan Parrish, Alexandria Bellefleur, Ruby Barrett, and Alexis Hall!
Ben has been baking his mother’s cinnamon rolls at the family café for years. He’s been quietly in love with Adam Reed, his musician-slash-mechanic neighbor, for just as long. But Ben’s done waiting behind the pastry case. Despite his fear of failure, he’s entered a make-or-break competition to build his recipes into a national brand. He’s going to take charge of his business instead of nearly tanking the café—again. And he’s going to finally confess his feelings for Adam. ON LIVE TV.
Except his big plans get punched down before they even half-rise. Soon Ben is dashing down the coast to his grandma’s 80th birthday party on the beach, hiding his broken heart in Maywell Bay, California. Sun, sea, and fresh breezes should blow in something new—except they don’t. They blow in Adam Reed, grinning like a pirate and stealing the show as the musical entertainment hired by Grandma for her big bash. Grandma’s signature Heartbreak Tea is the only remedy, and Grandma’s tea could take the paint off a fence.
But there’s a burn of truth along with the booze in his bottle, and Ben has a decision to make. Can he take the sweetness in front of him, and brave the bitterness that comes after? Or is a little sea salt just what this cinnamon roll needs?
Salty cinnamon rolls? Ew. Ben would never.
This book does have a content warning printed in the book. Here is the sensitive content I observed while reading:
- Childhood trauma (neglect)
- Divorce (parents)
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual content
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There are possible **SPOILERS** beyond this point!
In The Case of Heartbreak was both extremely adorable and deeply emotional. I loved Ben and I just wanted to give him the biggest hug throughout the time I was reading! This book is told from a single POV set in a beach town, Maywell Bay. We accompany Ben after he is put in an awkward situation where he is shown on live TV being rejected by the one man he’s had a crush on for years, Adam Reed. On top of that, he receives a threatening letter from his DAD trying to blackmail him at the height of his recognition for being a contestant in a baking show that could push him to real success in his field. He escapes to his grandmother’s mansion to help prepare and celebrate his G-ma’s 80th birthday. Expecting a reprieve, he runs into his crush Adam at the festivities because Adam is now the lead in the band G-ma hired for the celebration. Both staying at the comfy guest cottage on the property, Ben and Adam are forced to face their feelings and figure out how they can be together with all Ben isn’t saying to Adam.
I really loved Ben and Adam together! There were so many missed opportunities between these two characters as they navigate all that happens to Ben in this story. When they were finally honest with each other and shared their truths, it was beautiful! The moments where these two actually talked to each other made me swoon and I was giddy with how happy I was for them! I wanted much, much more of their happy times. There is a courtship that we get little bits of and I just expected more romance after they admitted their feelings for each other but it was still quite sparse.
Ben definitely gets the award for the most family problems one person can have. This character took an absolute beating and we got a front row seat. I would say that 60 percent of the book is introspective with Ben, finding his strength and courage to find solutions to the problems of his life. Many of these problems were direct consequences of how he handled the situations, which is not very well. As I mentioned, he faces many terrible circumstances because of his family. I would say this book reads more like a fiction piece with a romantic subplot. Miscommunication is used heavily to stretch the romance plot out and it didn’t work for me. I was very irritated with how easily they could “forget” they were about to profess their love for each other. Kiss already!!
Courtney Kae really knows how to create beautiful settings and powerfully joyful scenes that grip my heart and stay in my memory. Her writing feels so immersive at times, I swear I was sitting in Maywell Bay. I love how diverse her cast is and the representation she incorporates seamlessly into this tale. I also really love how she included amazing representation of depression and anxiety with a great relationship between Ben and his therapist. Though I was conflicted on Ben’s familial relationships in this book, the found family Ben has in Fern Falls is fantastic! We don’t actually spend more than 20 percent in Fern Falls though. The rest of the time we are in Maywell Bay. I seriously disliked his family and I felt like everyone around him lied to themselves and each other, a lot. Also, no one respects privacy or boundaries and that did trigger me at times. Ben, tell them to back off and mean it if it’s making you uncomfortable. It made me very uncomfortable.
My critique of the first book that the ending is resolved too easily also makes an appearance in this book as well. The problems Ben faced in this book all seem to go away at the very end in the most anticlimactic way. With how much Ben suffered in this book, I really wanted something equally as intense to get to a resolution.
I was very excited to go back to Fern Falls after how much I loved Morgan and Rachel’s story, In the Event of Love. This book feels different in tone and style. There were many amazing moments in this book that I loved so much, but it was much heavier with the complex family drama and childhood drama. The author’s note at the beginning does let you know all the content warnings, which I appreciated. In the Case of Heartbreak just read like a different book from what I was expecting from the blurb and cover. Though I didn’t dislike this book, I would not recommend this as a romance to anyone. I would recommend this to someone I think would enjoy an interesting fiction piece that follows one bisexual man who has extensive legal troubles and unresolved childhood trauma trying to decide what he wants from his life. Thank you to NetGalley and the author for this advanced copy for review!
There are only closed door scenes with a lil bit of sexual content. These scenes aren’t long or extremely descriptive.
Genre & Tropes
- Small Town Romance
- Friends to Lovers
- Opposites Attract
- Slow Burn
- Forced Proximity
- Emotional Scars
- Found Family
“And what does happiness mean to you?”
“Not being tethered to my fears.”
“I would have never let him sleep on my floor. I would have offered to share the bed. It’s called manners.”
“You make every good thing even better. I want to share everything with you because you make me happy. You always have.”
“I love you just being you.”
“He feels like home, and that isn’t just enough, it’s everything.”
“Dating is too fragile… My feelings for you are not fragile.”
“He grabs my hand and presses it to his heart. It races beneath my palm. “This is yours,” he says.”
Check out In The Case of Heatbreak on Amazon here.