Reality in Check by Emily BantingReality in Check by Emily Banting is a wonderful age gap, ice queen romance set in South Downs, England.

After news of her grandmother’s death, sculptor Arte Tremaine leaves her teaching position in Italy to return home to England to run the ramshackle hotel that was left to her and her sister. Arte is determined to make the business a success despite her lack of funds and the hotel’s complete disrepair. Hotel heiress and star of the hit television show Hotel SOS, Charlotte Beaumont hopes to become CEO of Beaumont Hotels if only her mother will stop blocking her.

When Charlotte and the crew of Hotel SOS descend upon Hotel Aloysius, Arte is less than thrilled. Charlotte’s attitude and direct opinions about the hotel rub Arte the wrong way and the two clash. But as the two work together on the show, Arte begins to see that there’s more to Charlotte than meets the eye. As Arte slowly breaks down Charlotte’s frigid facade they both get a reality check they didn’t see coming. Can they find the courage to face things together?


Reality in Check is the second book in A South Downs Romance series that can be read as a standalone. Emily Banting’s love of the English countryside is apparent throughout this book where she’s created a picturesque setting and the rolling hills, snowy fields, and a rundown hotel can easily be visualized. Emily Banting has such a way with words that on numerous occasions I found myself pausing, smiling, rereading, and highlighting. It took me double the time to read this book, which I am so not sorry about because the collection of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that I highlighted I will revisit quite often.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

*Dreamy sigh* I absolutely adore everything about this book, including its beautiful cover! I was gripped from the first page and simply could not put it down. The first meeting between Charlotte and Arte is absolutely epic. Charlotte’s uppity attitude and snarky words would have cut any mere mortal to the quick. But Arte is no mere mortal, and her response is the perfect rebuttal to Charlotte’s iciness.

Charlotte has somehow lost herself over the years of playing the dutiful daughter, wife, and heiress to a hotel empire. She’s become someone she honestly doesn’t recognize. She’s prickly, mean, demanding, and domineering. Upon meeting Arte, the two clash, yet she’s intrigued by Arte’s fire. After reflecting on their first encounters, Charlotte comes to realize how far off course she’s gotten. The steps she takes, with the help of some good old-fashioned vulnerability, help set her on a path that’s right for her. Charlotte is an ice queen, but not your average ice queen which makes her such a compelling character.

The loss of her beloved gran and inheriting her rundown hotel has thrown Arte for a loop. She’s completely out of her depth but she’s not afraid of hard work and getting her hands dirty. Despite being sweet and compassionate, she is no pushover. She doesn’t mince words and always tells it like it is. I feel that these elements of her personality play a major part in Charlotte’s character arc. Arte’s honesty, forthrightness, and ability to call her out on her bullshit seem to be exactly what Charlotte needs to help her change direction.

Charlotte and Arte’s romance is a slow burn that is so perfectly paced. While their beginning is a bit contentious, the two quickly form a bond that strengthens over time. Their dialogue is witty, honest, and real, and a major part of their relationship development. I love it when characters communicate effectively so they avoid all of the unnecessary drama and angst. The lack of angst is one of the things I enjoy most about this book because I was able to more fully appreciate Arte and Charlotte as individuals coming together to make a dynamic duo.

Freddie, Charlotte’s assistant is lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him better. Rodin, the adorable farting Labrador warmed my heart. His enthusiasm and exuberance are such a bright spot in the story.      

Heads Up

Grief over the loss of a grandparent is a theme of this book. References to domestic violence a character previously experienced.

The Conclusion

I’m a huge fan of Emily Banting’s writing and I honestly could not put this book down! The storyline flows smoothly, with perfect pacing, believable dialogue, and many smile-inducing moments. It’s a story about honesty, reflection, growth, and vulnerability with a beautiful swoon-worthy romance.  I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a delightful age gap romance with an ice queen who learns from her mistakes and a goofy labrador who deserves all of the bacon rolls in the world!   

Excerpt from Reality in Check by Emily Banting

A slender woman stepped out from the hotel, admiring the Bentley as she passed it slowly. She was a curious-looking creature in a pair of black dungarees, a bold move for any woman over the age of twenty. Her long, blonde, wavy hair cascaded out from under a beanie and over her shoulders onto a stripy knitted jumper. She didn’t recognize her as one of the usual crew. In a pair of dungarees, she could be a member of wardrobe. They often dressed on the eccentric side whilst believing themselves to be at the forefront of the fashion industry.

As the woman neared, Charlotte found the look grew on her; it kind of suited her kooky cuteness and added an element of authenticity to her overall appearance. The way she carried herself with such uninhibited expression served as a reminder to Charlotte of the beauty and strength that comes from embracing one’s true identity. She pushed the unhelpful reminder aside, and suddenly aware she was staring, she turned her attention to the server passing her a bacon roll. The woman in the dungarees appeared beside her and ordered the same and a cup of tea.

Charlotte took her in again out of the corner of her eye. She was a fraction shorter than Charlotte’s taller-than-average height, but then again, she wasn’t wearing heels, just a pair of beaten-up Doc Martens. Her flawlessly sculpted face, smooth skin, and vibrant sky-blue eyes glowed, creating a harmonious symphony of beauty that was hard for Charlotte to ignore.

“Are you a brown sauce or a ketchup woman?” Charlotte asked, as she smothered her bacon in brown sauce and cursed her lack of casual conversation skills.

“Brown, of course.”

Her smooth, breezy voice made Charlotte smile. She passed the woman the bottle of brown sauce as the server offered up a roll to her.

“Good choice.” She watched as the woman covered her bacon in sauce and took a bite as if she hadn’t eaten for a week. It made Charlotte’s smile tighten. “Why are none of the vehicles covered in mud and scratches? I’ve driven through miles of barren countryside to get here.”

“There’s another route in from the main road. It’s much longer, but the road is wider. There’s no farm traffic, so it’s cleaner too,” the woman replied through her mouthful.

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Series: A South Downs Romance

Broken Beyond Repair

Reality in Check


Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 978-1915157126

Publisher: Sapphfic Publishing

Emily Banting  Online


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Note: I received a free review copy of Reality in Check by Emily Banting. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site