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  • Writer's pictureSara Bond

Pairings Project: SALT+STILETTOS

TLDR; SALT+STILETTOS is a delicious dip into a Miami restaurant scene that is almost as hot as the romance between this book’s leads.

Surprisingly, this is my first


I LOVE the romance genre. After I finished reading the entire children’s section of my local library (it wasn’t that big; it’s not that impressive), I moved on to reading the romance section. Eugenia Price, Anne Siddons, Victoria Holt, I simply devoured them. Though I moved on to my fantasy and science fiction phases soon after, I’ve never lost my love for a happily ever after and a well-executed seduction. I love the slow burn as two characters learn to trust, to yearn, to ache for each other. Then, when they finally come together? Nothing is better.

That brings us to this delightful book full of summer heat, delicious food, and characters that are perfect for each other. I read Salt+Stilettos over the summer and was instantly taken by Brett and William. Brett is a cool, fashionable, no-nonsense PR genius; William is a family-oriented awkward giant who happens to be the socially-challenged genius chef behind a new restaurant opening in the hot Miami restaurant scene. Brett is hired on to smooth out William’s rough camera-fearing edges and get him ready for his big opening night.

Brett comes ready to work, but she’s dragging behind her several tons of Louis-Vuitton branded hard case baggage. She’s been the focus of a violent stalker, and is more than reluctant to trust her heart to anyone, let alone a clumsy oaf like William, no matter how talented he is in the kitchen. There’s nothing about their pairing that should work, but as they get to know each other, they realize there’s no one better suited for each other.

Author Janet Walden-West does an exceptional job fleshing out these two incredible characters. Romance really fails or succeeds on the characters involved. If they’re too underdeveloped, unrelatable, or unlikable, the story will fall flat. That’s part of why this story soars. Brett and William are so complex, so nuanced, and so real, you fall in love with them both. William is a sweet cinnamon roll of a character, with his huge Samoan family, his strong work ethic, and his willingness to set his own ego aside, no matter how good he is at what he does. Despite her brittle ice queen facade, Brett is a woman coping with too much. She’s got a past she’s struggled to overcome, recent trauma haunting her every move, and a job that demands she show no flaws, either in herself or her clients.

The way the two of them overcome these impediments is inspiring, and Walden-West doesn’t let them take the easy way out. There’s no magical moment that solves their problems for them; they have to confront each other and themselves, and I am more than here for it.

And the FOOD! William is a star chef in a demanding restaurant scene, and Walden-West delivers descriptions of so many dishes, that I wanted to gorge myself at the closest Michelin-Star restaurant I could find. I only hope the cocktail I’ve chosen can do justice to the incredible food porn this book offers up.

TLDR; SALT+STILETTOS is a delicious dip into a Miami restaurant scene that is almost as hot as the romance between this book’s leads.


The Hemingway Daquiri

SALT + STILETTOS takes place in the middle of the hot hot Miami food scene, and the location plays a huge part in the story. The distinct mix of cultures gives the food and the food scene a lot of its flavor, and I wanted that culture to influence my drink selection.

I also wanted it to be a drink I could actually see the characters drinking. Brett is pretty no-nonsense, so giving her a frozen blended drink was right off the table. She knocks back whiskey and tequila with equal ease, so she’d probably not be into some super sweet martini either.

I settled on a Hemingway Daquiri. Daquiris can sometimes fault toward overly sweet, especially when they’re made with sugary pre-mixed concoctions. The Hemingway Daquiri, though, is light, refreshing, and still packs a solid punch. It’s also appropriate for a book cocktail, seeing as it’s named for Ernest Hemingway.

Brett and Will could easily knock back one or two of these on a day off at the beach, and I think it adds just the right kick of fresh, Miami flavor.

Hemingway Daquiri

2 oz white rum

.75oz fresh squeezed lime juice

.5oz grapefruit juice

.5oz maraschino liqueur

Splash of simple syrup

Garnish with lime

Mix all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime wheel.

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