When You Smile by Melissa BraydenWhen You Smile by Melissa Brayden is a contemporary romance between a young woman and the babysitter she used to have a crush on.

Taryn Ross had one of her best summers ever when she was 11. Charlotte Adler was 5 years older than her, impossibly cool, and oh so pretty. Everything was great until Charlie and her family moved away.

Taryn and Charlie are surprised to run into each other a decade later, when Charlie helps a drunk Taryn at a frat party. Taryn’s crush comes roaring back, but she knows she needs to be cool, because Charlie is straight.

Charlie’s in the last year of her graduate degree in a writing program and everything is falling into place. She has a long-term boyfriend, Danny, that she’s almost certainly going to marry and his mother adores Charlie. Getting to know Taryn all over again shouldn’t be a big deal, except Charlie feels a charge when she’s around Taryn that she doesn’t with anyone else—including her boyfriend.

While Taryn knows what she wants, Charlie has a big choice: follow the path that was laid long ago or listen to her heart (and body).

Writing

Tara: I couldn’t wait to read this one as soon as I heard about it, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never read a romance with a former babysitter and her charge before. I was thrilled, because When You Smile does NOT disappoint.

Jenna: I too, anxiously awaited this one and I love that Melissa Brayden pushed the boundaries and created this really unique plotline.

Tara: For anyone concerned that their history might be offputting, I found it worked really well. The age gap is only 5 years, which means it’s not too wide. Also, Taryn is a transfer student, so she’s not a freshman. And, because they’d spent time together before, they have a foundation to build from as they catch up and build a new friendship as adults that turns into a romance.

Jenna: You’re exactly right, Tara. The building blocks of Charlie and Taryn’s relationship began when they were young. They shared a lot of fun times when Charlie was Taryn’s babysitter and Charlie’s presence in Taryn’s life during that brief snippet had a lasting impact on her. When they meet as adults, it’s almost as if they’re able to pick up right where they left off but with the maturity and worldliness that comes with age.

Tara: That’s an excellent way to put it!

I also appreciated the way social anxiety is represented in Taryn’s character. As someone who previously struggled with it a lot, I felt like it very realistic and Taryn’s coping mechanisms might help someone get started on their own path of learning how to live with it.

Jenna: Brayden’s inclusion of social anxiety and abuse into the narrative shows a commitment to addressing complex and sensitive issues. By exploring how these experiences from the past shaped the lives of Charlie and Taryn, Brayden adds depth and realism to the characters. It’s commendable that she handles these heavy topics with care, allowing readers to understand the profound effects they can have on individuals.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

Tara: The chemistry is so on point in this book. I loved seeing Taryn anguish over her crush on Charlie while Charlie is initially confused about what she’s feeling. The chemistry builds over time until it’s undeniable in a way that’s incredibly satisfying.

Jenna: Yes! Charlie and Taryn’s chemistry is off the charts and I loved how, while they spent time reestablishing their connection, there was always that underlying heat simmering just beneath the surface.

Charlie’s loss of her mother and the lack of support from her longtime boyfriend, Danny, contrasts sharply with the emotional and supportive connection she finds with Taryn. This mutual support system, where Charlie becomes Taryn’s rock and Taryn becomes Charlie’s cheerleader, adds an emotional layer to their story. I love the way they fill the gaps in each other’s lives. It makes my romantic heart soar.

The supporting cast of characters, especially Taryn’s parents and her roommate Caz, are adorably endearing and add so much light to the story!

Tara: Taryn’s parents are SO lovely. I loved every time they made a cameo!

When You Smile also has a character do some of the best groveling I’ve read in years. I won’t get into the reasons for it, but it was so well done that I loved it.

Jenna: Hear! Hear!

Heads Up

Tara: Although we don’t see any of it on the page, Charlie talks a little about how her dad was abusive. Few details are used, but you can skip past a page or two if that’s something you don’t want to read about.

The Conclusion

Tara: I thoroughly enjoyed When You Smile! I loved the characters very much and it was such a fun read that I tore through it in a few days. If you want a sweet and sexy read with just enough angst to keep things interesting, this is definitely the book for you.

Jenna: I absolutely love When You Smile! Taryn and Charlie’s story strikes a perfect balance between emotional depth and lighthearted sweetness. The combination of warmth, honesty, vulnerability, and smiles makes their journey incredibly relatable and heartwarming. Grab your copy, settle into your comfy reading spot, and enjoy the ride.

Excerpt from When You Smile by Melissa Brayden

It was from that corner she first spotted the gorgeous blonde in jeans, brown boots, and a casual white blouse with flowy sleeves walking across the room. Hello. She didn’t fit in. At all. She was dressed for dinner out, not Friday night at the TKE house, and that snagged Taryn’s attention along with something vaguely familiar about her. Her confident carriage. The dimple on her right cheek that appeared when she smiled and waved at some girl she recognized as she glided through the room like she owned it. She was clearly on a mission, and no one was paying attention. Fueled by courage made of trash can punch, Taryn followed the blonde into the kitchen because she wasn’t quite ready to pull her gaze away. She didn’t know why or what she hoped to accomplish, but something dragged her like metal to a beautiful magnet.

“Excuse me,” Taryn said. The blonde turned. “Are you looking for someone?” Not that Taryn would be able to help even if she was. She’d figure that part out later.

The girl offered a smile. Luckily, it was a few decibels quieter in the kitchen that was now littered with empty beer cans and red cups. At least they didn’t have to shout. “Yeah, my boyfriend. He’s around here somewhere. I’m supposed to meet him.” The blonde quirked her head and Taryn was circling the familiar factor once again but couldn’t quite land on how.

“Do we know each other?” Taryn asked, squinting.

“Hmm. No. I don’t think so.” Her blue eyes were large and beautiful, but it was the voice that did it, linking the treasure trove of summertime memories to the face in front of her right now all these years later. Was it actually possible?

“Charlotte. Are you Charlotte?”

That seemed to catch the girl off guard. “Yeah. Charlie. Wait. How do we know each other?” It had been nearly eleven years, and Taryn hadn’t even gone through puberty the last time they’d seen each other. It made sense that Charlie wouldn’t recognize her.

“Sorry. I should have led with that. I’m Taryn Ross. Don’t laugh, but I think you were my babysitter.”

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Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 978-1636796710

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Melissa Brayden Online

 

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