You Had Me at Merlot by Melissa BraydenYou Had Me at Merlot by Melissa Brayden is a perfect blend of sugar and spice.

Bordeauxnuts in New York City is a charming coffee and doughnut spot that transforms into a sophisticated wine bar each evening. Owner Jamie Tolliver is enjoying a blueberry latte with her regulars when a stunning and enigmatic stranger, Leighton Morrow, walks in.

Jamie is drawn to Leighton’s captivating presence, kindness, and faint lip print on her cup, and each time Jamie sees her, the crush she’s holding grows.

Leighton, a development coordinator with Carrington’s Department Stores, has a job to do and plans to take over the city block for a new location, including demolishing her new favorite café. While she’s sad the cafe will have to go, she knows this is good business. But as she grows closer to Jamie, the lies of omission threaten to ruin their fledgling relationship.


Melissa Brayden’s books have been a fixture in my nearly decade and a half of reading sapphic romance. She’s made me laugh, cry, swoon, wail in anger, blush, and fan myself; sometimes all at once! I’ve been a part of births, deaths, reconciliations, first kisses, breakups, weddings, business expansions, and relocations. In my humble opinion, she’s done something really special with You Had Me at Merlot. The story goes beyond a delicious romance to include a good solid ethical dilemma and how one recovers from the aftermath of betrayal. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of Brayden’s usual charm, quirky characters, and zingy one-liners, but the attention to detail, especially through characters’ actions and facial expressions, character development, and tension has been elevated to a new level.

Melissa Brayden has done a masterful job incorporating elements, characters, and businesses from her previous novels into You Had Me at Merlot. It’s an adorable little scavenger hunt that I challenge any MB fan to see how many connections they can find! Trust me, you can make plenty!

Pros And My Favourite Parts

First, I adore Jamie’s Bordeauxnuts brand that’s by day a delightful cafe where folks can pop in for a blueberry late with a side of tiny donuts. When the sun goes down it turns into a sophisticated wine bar featuring wines from all over the world. Her regulars are an eclectic little group from all walks of life that gather every morning to chat, work, and relax. They’re supportive, motivating, and quite entertaining. The care that Jamie has taken with her small business has made it a giant success, and it’s a staple in the community.

The connection between Jamie and Leighton is instantaneous when they lock eyes over the counter at Bordeauxnuts and a chance encounter at an engagement party allows the two time to get to know one another. I love the little zips of electricity zinging from both Jamie and Leighton during their first date through looks, glances, and flirtatious comments. Can I just say how much I love their first kiss? Well, it’s one of my top ten favorite first kisses ever because it was not only swoon-worthy but also had me smiling from ear to ear!  The connection between them strengthens rapidly, and the more texts they exchange and time they spend together seals how amazing they are together.

Leighton is well aware that she needs to come clean with Jamie about Carrington Department Store’s plan that could force Jamie’s business to close its doors. But she’s afraid to ruin what they’ve begun. Tom Hanks’s saying, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” rang through my mind multiple times, and while in theory that may be true, it does become personal to someone.

My heart broke for both Leighton and Jamie when the truth was revealed because the bond they’d established was stronger than either had felt in their lifetimes. I kept thinking, “These two are meant to be together, but how can they possibly work it out? How can you come back from such a betrayal?” Their road to happily ever after is not so much a journey but an evolution that spans several years. Each detail, comment, quip, spark, and sizzle had me hanging on Brayden’s every word.      

Heads Up


Abandonment by a parent.

The Conclusion

You Had Me at Merlot by Melissa Brayden is an epic sapphic romance filled to the brim with charm, wit, sweetness, and steam. Brayden’s writing is astellar as always and this story goes deeper than the usual romantic flair diving headfirst into an ethical dilemma. Leighton and Jamie’s story is one that I won’t soon forget. I loved being a part of their lives, witnessing each laugh, glance, touch, tear, and sigh. The tension and longing left me breathless at times and all I wanted was that line between them to be erased, quickly. The story is emotional on many levels but doesn’t ever get bogged down in the negative. It’s a story about honesty, trust, forgiveness, vulnerability, shame, and growth. It’s about appreciating the little things. So grab a glass of your favorite merlot, settle into your favorite reading spot, and enjoy this brilliant book!

Excerpt from You Had Me at Merlot by Melissa Brayden

Her back was to the café door when she heard it open, inspiring her to spin around with a smile that evaporated from her face. There, standing at her register, was the most beautiful woman in a forest-green trench coat, sash tied. Tall. Dark blond hair. Stunning.

Jamie swallowed, remembering herself. “Morning. Hi there. What can I get for you?” Smile. That’s it. Tons of pretty people came and went from the bar every day. This was like any one of those moments.

“Oh”—the woman scanned the blackboard menu overhead, decorated with little snowflakes for winter—“I think I’ll give your peppermint latte a try.”

“Yum,” Jamie said with simply too much enthusiasm to be natural. She’d face-planted that response in glorious form. Why couldn’t she function like any other person? “Any milk preference on that? We have lots of milks.” Dammit. Her heart danced around in her chest like a professional tap dancer had moved in. What was happening? The woman had the softest smile. Big brown eyes which were a nice contrast against the soft color of her blond hair. A model, maybe? She had the height. Jamie was guessing five foot nine.

“Two percent would be fine,” the woman with the perfect lips said. She pursed them briefly and relaxed.

“Our default milk. Of the milks. The many. Perfect.” She grabbed for the cup on top of the stack, prepared to pop it into her hand—a move she’d made thousands of times. Yet this go-round, she bobbled the catch, corrected, and knocked the whole stack over. “Whoops. And down she goes.” Jamie laughed, but it was too much. “Let me just…” She dove to the floor, collected the cups, reformed the stack, and shot up to her feet again. “Tricky. Cups are.”

“I see that.” The woman was sweet enough to toss her a conservative laugh. She even showed joy like people in the movies. Restrained and perfect. Probably an actress.

“Well done.” “Anything else? A pastry? Doughnuts? People line up for those suckers.”

“Don’t tempt me. Just the coffee.”

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Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 978-1636795430

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Melissa Brayden Online


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