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Book Review: The Dating Dare (A Sweet Mess #2) (ARC)

Expected publication: August 3rd 2021

Author: Jayci Lee

No serious relationships. This is the one rule Tara Park made for herself and it has been working swimmingly, thank you very much. The occasional fling is fine, especially since she’s busy with Weldon Brewery. But when Seth Kim, temptation personified and her best friend’s new brother-in-law walks into her life, Tara might be willing to bend her golden rule…but only for four dates—the four dates she agreed to after a few good rounds of beer and a game of truth or dare. It’ll be fun. No biggie.

Seth Kim can’t believe Tara agreed to his dating dare. He’s leaving for a new job in Paris in a month and a no-strings attached fling seemed like a nice little distraction for both… But their secret dates, while sweet and sexy, always hit roadblocks straight out of a romantic comedy. Thankfully, their non-dates and chance meetings are smoother, frequent, and heated. However, the more Seth sees of Tara, the less willing he is to let her go—and what was supposed to be a little fun game turns into something that neither of them are ready for.

But sometimes, the best things in life are the ones we never see coming.

[A Sweet Mess #1 Review]

The Dating Dare is the second novel in the Sweet Mess series. Each novel in the series, so far, features a new set of main characters within the same setting. Therefore, each novel could be read as a standalone or as a series. The main characters in this story is Tara, the best friend of Aubrey (the main from A Sweet Mess) and Seth, the brother of Landon (the other main from A Sweet Mess) and their story takes place directly after the previous novel. This series continues to be a very fun and sweet read, as I love all of the characters and the small town setting where everyone potentially is involved in everyone’s business.

Tara Park, 28-years-old, brewer at her family’s establishment, Weldon Brewery.  Due to some past trauma in her romantic relationships, she keeps men at a distance. She is okay with being together, but is not ready to fully commit to another person again. This part of the story is brought up and explained little by little where the full extent is given towards the end. For me, I wished there was a little more up front to explain her reluctance. It would add a little more understanding for the reader and, for me, would help me connect with why it is okay for her to date someone, but not become a full couple. Tara’s current relationship is with her crush from high school. Roger Stephens, a salesperson for a pharmaceutical company and her traveling lover, where the two of them connect when he is in town for the past three years, but Tara does not wish to become more.

Seth Kim, 26-years-old, sought-after fashion photographer, who will be moving to Paris one month after the wedding to start a new job. Although he and Tara knew each other previously from Landon and Aubrey, they reconnect at their wedding reception. Tara and Seth relocate to the Weldon Brewery for some quiet time together. They start a drinking Truth or Dare game that leads to Seth daring Tara to go on four dates with him without falling in love. Seth wants to get to know Tara better and this is the perfect solution, as he will be leaving in a month and he has trepidations about relationships due to his past. With Tara’s past and not wanting a serious commitment, while also wanting to get to spend time with Seth, she agrees. The story follows the two of them, who have an insane attraction to the other, try to get to know the other without becoming too vulnerable and potentially wanting more.

This concept for bringing the two characters together was extremely fun. In addition, there is an added factor of the setting to their dare. Since Tara will continue to live in Weldon and does not want gossip, she wants to keep this arrangement under wraps. Since small towns can become a place where everyone knows everything about everyone, it is a nice added factor to the story as Tara’s wishes to keep her personal life to herself and those closest to her, if she wishes to divulge to them. The two characters were really cute together and I loved that the author includes both of their perspectives as it was nice to see each of their inner thoughts. (I am not sure if it is a formatting issue or a conscious decision, but the transition between the two characters is very sudden. One paragraph will be from Tara’s point of view and the next one would be Seth’s one. For me, I needed a little more spacing or something to separate the two points of view as they sometimes blended while reading and I had to go back and re-read some parts.) The two characters start out with tension at the wedding reception that softens during their drinking game and becomes more apparent that they are smitten with each other by their first date. Although I loved the progression, my personal preference would be a slight extension of the tension before transitioning into the two of them liking each other. The two characters are an excellent match, however, so the quicker movement into like is understandable.

Overall, this was an excellent addition to the series with likeable characters and romance that the reader wants to root for where everyone can potentially get a happily ever after. I loved that each of the characters had their own pasts that they were working through before they could commit to the other. They also did not have the same types of past, so I liked how Tara’s took a little longer compared to Seth’s based on the events that happened to each of them. I would have liked a little more exploration of each of their pasts, but it did not affect my enjoyment of the story. I cannot wait to see what character will be featured in the next novel in the series. I hope it is Tara’s brother (either Alex or Jack) as there is some hints for one of them and another resident of Weldon; however, I will have to wait and see. This was a sweet novel that I would recommend to others.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Dating Dare (A Sweet Mess #2) (ARC)

  1. I still haven’t read the first book in this romance series but I did get sent an ARC of this one. I need to give it another go especially now that I’m in a romance mood—it does sound cute and I love that the heroine brews beer? Haha, I don’t think I’ve read a heroine with that job title before! Great review 🙂

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  2. I’m enjoying the overlap of the books you are reading with some of the things I’ve been reading! 😀 I haven’t been able to get a copy of A Sweet Mess from the library, so have yet to read the first book. It’s good to know The Dating Dare works as a standalone because that’s also the vibe I was getting. I didn’t like the book as much as I hoped though. I agree with you about having more background on their past, especially the relationships that left them somewhat skeptical about future relationships. It would have been nice to get those in the open sooner and have them work it out together.

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