Cover Image: The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane

The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane

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A sweet read.  The romance at least to me moved at the right pace for the book. Though there were parts that were predictable but I still enjoyed it.
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The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane is a darling start to a new Blue Cedar Falls series from Jeannie Chin and I believe it may be her debut novel. It follows Clay, an army Vet, who comes to Blue Cedar Falls to build the bar his fallen friend dreamed of building and June whose family owns the inn across the street from where Clay plans to build the bar. The pair but heads from the start but soon find themselves falling for each other. As with all small town romancers, there is a wonderful cast of side characters that bring Blue Cedar Falls to live and add to the entertainment.
I really liked both Clay and June. I loved their enemies to lovers dynamic. I also liked that the entire book wasn’t them getting together because I got to enjoy them growing together as a couple. I liked that they both grew individually as well as within their relationship. They felt very real and nothing about their relationship felt forced.
This book didn’t shy away from some difficult subjects. June’s family is struggling financially due to her mother’s hospital stay. Additionally June is Chinese-American in a small southern town. Clay is dealing with survivor’s guilt and adjusting so civilian life. There are complicated family dynamics at play. One of the side characters is figuring out how to come out to her parents. The town itself is struggling to modernize and survive. All this helped weave a story with a lot of depth.
I am excited to read the next book in the series about June’s sister May. Thank you to Forever for the digital ARC on NetGalley and gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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Overall, this book was okay. I could not suspend disbelief over the fact that a new freeway was built in a year (or even less time) - with all the environmental impact reports, design requirements, finding funding, other things, I'm going to say it' takes more than a year to build a freeway. 

I was also bothered by things being generically "Asian". Yes, I understand that sometimes the term Asian is needed for descriptions, but I feel that it was used too often as a shortcut. 

June forcing herself to do too much, and Clay needing to expand his focus weren't really things I enjoyed either. I guess it's hard for me to describe my issues. However, I did like the author's style of writing, even though this book wasn't quite for me, and sometimes that is the most important part of a debut - did the writing work for me. The writing was interesting enough even when the plot was not, so I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
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I listened to the audio version of this book and it was perfect. The narrators were simply wonderful. Tthe love story was a very emotional and touching one. I can't recommend it enough.
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I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I love romance novels set in small towns. And this was a great one. It had all the elements I love in a romance novel.
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The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane by Jeannie Chin was such a WONDERFUL small-town romance!
OMG I can't even put this special feeling - while I read this book - into good words. 
The Story of June and Clay left me with a warm heart and a smile on my face.
Please don't let this cute book cover fool you!
It get's really really HOT between the main characters! 
Soooo...Clay moves to Blue Cedar Falls to open a bar... vis-a-vis to the Inn of June's family. A bar? In a small-town like Blue Cedar Falls? The people in town are NOT really excited about... and June is one of them. 
What starts as hate and suspicion between June and Clay... turns into something different. 😉 
Well I absolutely didn't expect to FALL IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK SO MUCH! 
It's definitely so much moooore than you would think because of the cover! 
So it's really true: don't judge a book by its cover. ❤
I love a good enemies-to-lovers story! And the chemistry between Clay and June was PERFECT! OMG I got goose bumps EVERYWHERE when they first kissed!
Okay I really can't swooning here!!! 
And I hope there'll be more to come! I need MOOOORE! Everyone in Blue Cedar Falls was so cute - well not everyone. LOL
But most of them are great! You'll know what I mean when you read the book!
So get it now! 
Thanks to Dana from Forever Grand Central Publishing and Jeannie Chin for this ARC via Netgalley. And sorry for my belated review! 

♡ This is my honest review with my own words. ♡
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This book really took me by surprise. The cover made it seem like this sweet, cute little romance. It was so much more. This is my first book by this author, and I can't wait for more. It was well written with good conflict. I loved the hero and heroine. This book was steamy, fun and hit me in all the feels. Huge thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read and review this book.
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3.5 / 4 stars, rounded up to four.

I've been going back and forth on how to rate this one, and I think I'm going to split the difference between the ratings. The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane was a lovely read and the start to a new series. This story is perfect for those that are fans of small-town romances, opposites-attract, and enemies-to-lovers.

The reader is introduced to June Wu as life takes a turn for the more complicated. Medical bills from her mother's treatments are piling up, the family inn could use a few more visitors, and a grumpy stranger is opening a bar across the street in the middle of the quaint main street of Blue Cedar Falls. The stranger is Clay Hawthorne, an ex-soldier who moved to Blue Cedar Falls to fulfill his best friend's dream of opening the bar. Almost immediately June and Clay clash, but they quickly discover that they may make a better team than opponents if they can iron out their differences.

Overall, I enjoyed this read. I didn't get into it as much as I wanted, but I enjoyed the setting. I especially enjoyed the relationships that each of the main characters had with their close friends throughout the story. With the inclusion of the Pumpkin Festival that June is planning, this is a great romance read for the autumn season.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the digital copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Warning: This book discusses some sensitive topics that may be triggering for some readers including death, grieving, parent recovery from stroke, depression, PTSD, trauma, and childhood loss of parents.
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June Wu has always been one to strive for perfection. She’s the fixer, the glue that holds her family together, and she needs to stay on top of things. But now, she has entirely too much to deal with thanks to her mother’s mounting medical debts and the bypass highway that has made her family’s small-town inn lose business. Now the all too handsome new neighbor is driving away the guests she still has with his loud music and construction noise. Still, he needs help and June is nothing if not helpful. Besides, his new bar could be just the draw to help bring tourists to their town, if she can just ignore the volatile attraction spiking between them.

Haunted by his time as a soldier and still grieving the loss of his best friend, Sal, Clay Hawthorne prefers his own company. He’s only in Blue Cedar Falls to carry out Sal’s dream of creating a bar in the hometown he never made it home to. Unfortunately, the business association is holding up progress and Clay needs an ally. June is soon his unlikely partner, but their temporary relationship doesn’t sit well with Clay. For one, he wants something lasting, but June is his total opposite and it’s going to take a lot for these two to meet each other halfway.

I read this book and listened to it on audio as well and I must say, having dual narration from a male and a female actor definitely helped draw me into the story. I found myself actually wanting to clean or go for runs so I could listen. Both June and Clay were going through a lot and had much to learn about themselves and each other. I appreciated that they were able to have that growth here and yet maintain a fairly low level of angst. Of course, there was a blow up between the MCs, but the rift was short-lived, and the make-up and communication were fantastic. The chemistry between June and Clay leapt off the page from the get-go and I absolutely loved June’s mom and her matchmaking. The two were definitely opposites, yet they were clearly meant to be together, and they were so easy to root for. Clay helped June see that she could ask for and accept help and didn’t have to always present a façade of perfection and she helped him cope with his survivor’s guilt and believe in his own worthiness. I’m a sucker for a hero who believes himself unlovable so that got me right in the feels. This was such an enjoyable book with a couple who really went together well, and I can’t wait to see what’s next from this new author.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This grumpy / sunshine (not really enemies to lovers) novel kicked me out of a slight reading slump. I was reading, but definitely not enjoying what I was reading. Chin’s book kept me enchanted the entire time. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here. I am a solid fan after this novel.
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🐱BOOK REVIEW | The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane by Jeannie Chin 🐱

SYNOPSIS | June Wu always has it all together—only now, she’s in over her head. Her family’s inn desperately needs guests, her mother’s medical debts are piling up, and the surly, if sexy, stranger next door is driving away the customers she has left! When he asks for June’s help, though, she can’t say no. After all, his new bar could be just what the upcoming Pumpkin Festival needs to bring in more tourists. But with the fierce attraction between them, will working together be playing with fire? 

Ex-soldier Clay Hawthorne prefers being on his own. He’s moved to Blue Cedar Falls for one reason—to carry out his best friend’s dream of opening a bar in the hometown he’ll now never return to. But the town’s business association is trying to stop Clay’s progress. June soon becomes his biggest supporter, and while their partnership is supposed to be only temporary, for the first time Clay wants something permanent—with June. Can two total opposites really learn to meet each other in the middle? 

MY THOUGHTS | Let me start by saying I loved June’s mom and her cat, Sunny! The town of Blue Cedar Falls was full of endearing characters, but unfortunately, this was a miss for me as Clay was a very difficult character to enjoy. There wasn’t a lot of communication in his and June’s relationship other than bickering, which was just not for me. Thank you to NetGalley for the digital ARC. 

RATING | ⭐️⭐️⭐️
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I was really looking forward to trying The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane, I thought it was great to finally have a small town romance with more diverse representation. Unfortunately the story was a little too sweet and Hallmark like for my tastes. DNF at 30%
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Every once in a while I get an itch for a small town romance, but the lack of diversity and the suspension of disbelief (sure, every small town can support a cupcake bakery and a bookstore and a yarn shop and a cute coffee shop and…) can get a bit grating. But this book? It scratches that small town itch while addressing those issues, plus has a pretty fun enemies-to-lovers angle.

After a tragic incident that left him wounded, Clay has arrived in the small town of Blue Cedar Falls, North Carolina with one mission in mind: opening the bar that his best friend and teammate, Bug, always dreamed of. The bar is intended to be a giant middle finger to all the fuddy-duddies who made Bug feel like he didn’t belong in that polished main street facade, so Clay’s expecting some resistance from the townspeople. What he doesn’t expect is June. June’s already dealing with a lot, from the family B&B’s dwindling business to the medical bills piling up from her mother’s stroke, and having someone blasting rock & roll and working with power tools at all hours isn’t helping. After a new highway bypassed the town, Blue Cedar Falls is finding it hard to survive (cue the “Our Hometown” montage from Cars). June’s solution? Hyping up the town’s Pumpkin Festival. But first, she has to deal with Clay – and her inconvenient attraction to him.

Initially, Clay is a hard person to like. At first, all his decisions are driven by what will annoy his new neighbors the most, and even when he finally realizes that June is honestly trying to help him, he worries that his vision – Bug’s vision – is being taken over. He has a weird reverse-snob thing going on, about making a dive bar for “real” people, which June rightly calls him on. But underneath all that rudeness, he’s a good person at heart who’s primary response to trauma is to not deal with it (you can guess how well that works). Even under all the prickly jerkiness, June’s able to see their similarities. Rather than shuffled through foster homes like Clay, she ended up in Blue Cedar Falls, where her mother was able to find happiness with someone new, and where she found a place and people she loves. All of which means June is deadset on keeping the B&B running as smoothly as possible, even if her world feels like it’s falling down all around her. June likes being in control and having a plan for every possible outcome. This can be a good thing, especially in terms of planning the pumpkin festival and helping Clay figure out what parts of his bar he hasn’t given any thought to, but it also means she’s reluctant to let anyone else help her – not that anyone other than Clay seems to offer.

“She wasn’t cutting him any slack about being a rude jerk just on account of his being handsome or anything, but her attraction to him had blindsided her. His taunts had riled her up, making her lose her cool in a way she never did, and with every barb they traded, the unexpected flicker of desire inside her only grew.”

Their attraction to each other is inconvenient at best – town busybody vs destroyer of Main St – especially since arguing with each other seriously turns them on. But as Clay realizes it’s better to have June as a friend than an enemy, they also realize they’re more alike than they first thought. Both of them are convinced they have to handle everything on their own, that doing any less is a failure to their friends or family. Their relationship can’t be anything but casual, they both reason, as they’ve got too much on their plates. But they didn’t reckon with the depth of their emotions for each other.

“A good bar would make Main Street better,” he argued. “It brings in exactly what all your perfect ice cream shops and bistros and gingko trees can’t replace.”
“And what’s that?”
“Normal life. Real folks.”
Her frustration mounted. “Why do you keep saying that? What makes you think the people on Main Street aren’t real?” She reached for him before she could stop herself, grabbing his hand. His skin was hot and rough, but she grasped on to him all the same. “What about me doesn’t feel real?”

One of the things I liked about this book is that it doesn’t shy away from the problems of small towns, from residents who are resistant to change to the economic realities of being dependent on tourism. June also mentions being one of only a few Asians at school and the problems that caused, and there’s a coming-out side story that has several major bumps. June has two sisters, and there’s several hints as to who their romantic interests will be, so there’s definitely plenty of room for future books in this series.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I liked this book, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a small-town fall romance. I will be keeping an eye out for more from this author in the future!

I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Happy Thursday y’all! Ahhh I cannot believe that we’re on our last day of September! Only one quarter left in this year, which is crazy because it feels like 2021 just started! Thank you so much to Forever/Grand Central Publishing for sending me a free finished copy of The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane and for approving my request for the eARC on Netgalley! I started reading the finished copy of this book but then transitioned to the eARC, because sometimes it’s just easier to read on my phone haha The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane came out on September 28, so make sure you go out and grab it as soon as you’re done reading my review!

The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane 4/5 Stars

Summary from Goodreads:

From a “must-read voice in romance” (Christina Lauren, New York Times bestselling author) comes a charming opposites-attract romance about two lonely hearts discovering that love doesn’t always go according to plan.

June Wu always has it all together—only now, she’s in over her head. Her family’s inn desperately needs guests, her mother’s medical debts are piling up, and the surly, if sexy, stranger next door is driving away the customers she has left! When he asks for June’s help, though, she can’t say no. After all, his new bar could be just what the upcoming Pumpkin Festival needs to bring in more tourists. But with the fierce attraction between them, will working together be playing with fire?

Ex-soldier Clay Hawthorne prefers being on his own. He’s moved to Blue Cedar Falls for one reason—to carry out his best friend’s dream of opening a bar in the hometown he’ll now never return to. But the town’s business association is trying to stop Clay’s progress. June soon becomes his biggest supporter, and while their partnership is supposed to be only temporary, for the first time Clay wants something permanent—with June. Can two total opposites really learn to meet each other in the middle?

This book was totally different from what I was expecting. Like I was expecting light, fun romance, but there was a lot more than that in here. Let’s start out by talking about June and her family. June takes on so much responsibility (even when, often times, it seems as though she doesn’t have to) and after her mom’s stroke, that sounds like such a tough way to live. Not telling anyone else about the medical debt and trying to figure out a way to pay it even when the inn isn’t doing well sounds super stressful! I’m honestly surprised she didn’t have some sort of stress induced breakdown sometime during the book! Now, speaking of June’s family, I really liked Elizabeth in the few short snippets of her that we got to see. I’m really hoping we get to read a whole book based on her! And May, while not my favorite of the sisters, definitely also seems like a really interesting character and I would love to get a book that goes into the background of her and Han’s relationship as well as what the future of that could look like (I did really love Han). Now, onto Clay. He was kind of just… there. I really liked his interactions with Lisa and her daughter and how he wanted to fulfill Bug’s wish of having a bar in Blue Cedar Falls, but I never really connected with Clay, because he just didn’t seem to have a real personality and his chemistry with June didn’t really seem to be there. I did like his friendship with Han and how passionate he was about the bar, but honestly, that was about it. I think The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane is a great start to a series with wonderful main characters and great secondary characters!
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Small-town romances have been my go-to trope while reading books nowadays. There's something so comforting about these kinds of books, I keep going back to them in a heartbeat. 

The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane had a trademark Hallmark movie touch but explored themes of grief and financial struggles in such a perfect manner. We follow June and Clay's lives as they partner up together to deal with the problems in their lives. I am South-Asian, so getting to see the Asian representation in The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane was such a nice experience. Clay's life though - it's a bit sensitive for me since it concerns Afghanistan - but I will say this: Kudos to the author for bringing up the struggles in a veteran's life through Clay's POV. 

If you are looking for a book with a Hallmark-y romance and cozy feeling but wouldn't mind seeing some difficult topics getting touched on along the way, pick this one up.
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This is a solid start to Jeannie Chin's Blue Cedar Falls series. It's a small-town contemporary romance with charm, heart, and intriguing characters but it doesn't stop there. Chin has added complexity and emotional depth to the story, exploring some weighty topics and the impact they have on the lives of her characters.

Chin has placed Asian representation front and center in this book. I especially enjoyed the dynamics of the Wu family and how they influenced June's actions and motivations throughout the course of the book. She's a flawed character I didn't always agree with but I never doubted her love for her family or her desire to protect them. As her layers - and her past - were revealed, the reasons for her fierce control and determination became more clear and understandable.  As she began to understand, and accept, the effects of her actions her character became more sympathetic. By the time the end of the book rolled around, I was convinced that the Wu family - and June and Clay - would all be moving forward with a new appreciation and understanding of one another.  

Clay is also a flawed character, with PTSD and guilt that run deep. Again, the author did a good job of exploring that aspect of his character, with gradual healing and assimilation that was both realistic and believable. I enjoyed watching him slowly open up to the military friends he had ghosted and especially enjoyed his slowly evolving friendship with Han, over dinners at the local Chinese restaurant Han's family owns (adding here that I hope we learn more about Han's history with June's sister in a future book!)

I enjoyed the friction and frisky banter between Clay and June as well as the sizzling chemistry that flared whenever they were together. But I also appreciated the fact that time was taken to explore the emotional pitfalls on the way to their happy ending. There are thought-provoking layers to both their characters and their journey. 

The secondary cast adds humor, depth, and potential for future stories in this series. There are already numerous characters, including June's two sisters, and Han, whose stories I am eager to read. Not to mention a certain grumpy feline social media star I wouldn't mind seeing more of. There's also a poignant, complex, and affirming secondary romance between June's best friend, Bobbi and Bobbi's girlfriend, Caitlin that explores coming out to one's parents, dodging parental matchmaking (with numerous eligible men) when you're gay, and finding the courage, self-confidence, and acceptance to finally be your true self. I loved the sweetness, respect, and emotional support between these two women. They made my heart happy.

If you enjoy small-town contemporary romance with a strong sense of community, solid representation, heart-tugging romance, complex emotion, and hard-won happy endings, give this one a try. I'm already looking forward to my next visit to Jeannie Chin's Blue Cedar Falls.

*ARC received for fair and unbiased review
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3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars

CW: Financial Anxiety, Military flashbacks, mentions death that occurs off page but is described, family member in critical care in the hospital

Overall this was a super cute small town romance between a grumpy vet and a perfectionist. 

Though Clay and June got off on the wrong foot they didn't stay there long. This was an annoyance to friends to lovers set up with little time between those stages but not in a bad way at all. I really appreciated the seamless way that their relationship developed and how easy it was for me the reader to love them as a couple. The only downside (personal preference) was that I would get really frustrated with June and since of her behavior because it was a little frustrating to see her make things so hard for herself but I think that's mostly because I do the same thing myself. 

I decibel enjoyed this book and loved the hints the author dropped about the next book in the sequel and maybe even a third book! If Jeannie sees this, I would love to see a novella about a certain sapphic couple.
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This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I hope to read more.  This book is centered around June and Clay.  This is a slow burn romance, so be patient readers, lol.  June’s family is trying to hang on to their Inn and pay all the medical bills from her mom’s stroke.  Clay comes to town to carry out his deceased friend’s dream of opening a bar in Blue Cedar Falls, North Carolina. He was injured when Bug was killed and has retreated from his friends.  No spoilers, so grab your copy and see what happens.  I hope we’ll get to read more books set here in the future.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from NetGalley and this is my voluntary and honest review
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This was a such a strong start to a new series, seriously the potential is great! Don’t let the cute little cover fool you either, yes it’s a cutesy little romance set in a small town but there’s so much more than that. While the town was described beautifully it isn’t portrayed in a way that makes it seem like the totally perfect place to live. Not everyone is welcoming and many residents are resistant to change, especially when the change comes in the form of a new bar coming to town. It doesn’t help that the new bar owner is an outsider either. There was a great balance between light and heavy here as well, Clay is a veteran dealing with issues from serving the country and June’s mom is dealing with some health issues so you have characters that are flawed and struggling and the author did such a good job of exploring their issues. Also an Asian American lead character and LBGTQ+ made the representation here awesome! This was also really sexy too, see what I mean, don’t let the pretty cover fool you this one has depth! Katy Tang and Zachary Webber we’re both A plus narrators and their voices exactly matched what I had in my head, amazing!
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3.75/5 stars!

The hero arrives at the small town to fulfill his dead best friend's dream of opening a bar, he meets the heroine when she came to his building due to the noise level. There's instant attraction between the strong-minded individuals. How will the two stubborn people reach their happy ending when they're facing obstacles together and as individuals?

This is a nice read from a new-to-me author. I enjoyed the small-town vibe and the diverse group of characters. I liked the heroine a lot more than the hero but do feel the connection between them. I liked the exploration of the characters' background and how they evolved throughout the story. And as a personal preference, I do feel there are more details needed in certain parts of the story. Overall, I liked the book and look forward to reading more Jeannie Chin books in the future.

**Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy. All opinions and thoughts in the review are my own.**
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