Rating: 3.75 stars
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Length: Novella

Caelan James may be the hottest baker in town, running a shop that’s renowned for its glorious wedding cakes, but that hardly qualifies him as a romantic; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Caelan Is prickly, a bit jaded, and definitely skeptical of the dating app sending him the “perfect” match for his date on Valentine’s day, of all days. He almost backs out when a sexy guy walks into his bakery, but suffers a wave of disappointment when he assumes the beautiful hulk of a man is the fiancé currently coupled to the screeching bridezilla at his counter. When Caelan does go on his date, he’s shocked to see the very same man waiting at the table for him. Is he some kind of horrible gigolo or did Caelan make a huge mistake and almost lose out on what he hopes will be more than just a one off date?

May Archer’s The Date is sweet novella that serves as a prequel to the Love in O’Leary series. It not only establishes the idyllic town of O’Leary, but like many initial stories that end up being the introduction for subsequent novels, there is a slight information dump about three quarters of the way through where we meet other men who will no doubt be featured in upcoming novels. The sudden introduction of all the other gay men in the area was done at a local town celebration and, frankly, made my head spin just a bit. However, other than that momentary distraction, as romances go this one was quite a fun read with a tiny bit of kink and lots of hot romance.

Ash is a former Navy SEAL and has returned to O’Leary not just for his brother’s upcoming nuptials, but also to remain and make it his home once again. Leaving the SEALs and his life in California was a big decision, but knowing he was needed at home was all the push he required. Caelan inherited the bakery from his grandmother when she moved to Florida to retire. He loves baking, but hates the customer interaction portion of running a store, so he leaves that up to his trusty employee and remains in his kitchen content to be in the background. When he and Ash finally wade through the initial crazy mix-up and realize there is decided chemistry between them, the story moves swiftly to establish them as a couple.

With little to no angst and a truly lovely connection between Caelan and Ash, The Date turned out to be a tender love story that prompted me to continue on with the next novel to see how the author would evolve the town and its occupants. This wasn’t really an insta-love trope since during the story an entire year passes. However, given the small number of pages, it tends to feel a bit rushed at times. I really did enjoy the feisty and sexy interactions between Ash and Caelan and must admit I wished for a full novel about them in the end. It would have been really lovely to see their affections and relationship grow. However, the little time we had with them did suffice in making me eager for more about this quaint little town and those she holds dear.

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