This post contains a gifted item [review copy from Netgalley]
Thanks for joining me for another post! Today I’m sharing my spoiler free review of Cream and Punishment by Susannah Nix. We all know how much I love to write a (probably) too long romance review, so here we go again.
I do enjoy a second chance romance, can be particularly partial to a friends to lovers storyline and am a glutton for enemies to lovers specifically. So the fact this book contained all three? SOLD. If I’m being honest I hadn’t heard of this author before stumbling across this title on a Netgalley search binge one night, but after finishing this I would definitely be interested in checking out any of their future work.
Publisher: Haver Street Press
Genre: Adult romance
Length: 384 pages
Spice rating: 🌶🌶
She’s not just my ex-girlfriend. She’s my new coworker.
I knew Lucy Dillard was The One the first time I met her. Yes, I’m enough of a sap to believe in love at first sight. When I fell for Lucy, I fell hard. Everything was great between us—until the moment she dumped me.
Now I just want to forget about her. Instead, I’m stuck staring at her face all day. But I need this job, so I’ll find a way to be civil and professional. There’s just one small problem: I’m nowhere close to being over her.
First, we were lovers. Then enemies. Now we’re trying to be friends.
I didn’t set out to break Tanner King’s heart, but you know what they say about the road to hell.
I’ve got too many responsibilities and no room in my life for love. I can deal with Tanner’s resentment until he starts working at the desk directly across from mine. Obviously, a truce of some kind is required. We’re both grownups. We can handle this situation like professionals.
There’s only one thing threatening this fragile peace we’ve negotiated: all these inconvenient feelings I apparently still have for him.
Content warnings: emotional abuse, gaslighting, toxic relationships, death of a parent, mention of cancer
Read this if you like:
Second chance romances | Forced proximity | He falls first trope | Small town romance | Big families who are involved in each other’s lives | Men who quote classic literature
My review of Cream and Punishment
Lucy and Tanner, our main characters and exes, both have a strained relationship with their families. Lucy has been the carer and provider for both her mum and younger brother since their dad left, with their mum now being rather manipulative and unpredictable. Tanner’s father, the CEO of the family company he works for, has always made him feel like nothing he does is good enough. After a nightmare day in his latest role in the family business, Tanner is recruited by his sister to join Lucy’s team. Cue a whole lot of awkwardness…
Lucy is a hard worker, taking pride in her job and hoping that her efforts will be recognised and rewarded. Spending so much time at work and with so much responsibility at home, she’s exhausted and feels that she can’t commit to a relationship, hence their breakup.
“I wanted someone I could rely on, instead of always having to be the person everyone else relied on. I wanted someone who didn’t mind taking care of me when I needed it.“
After Tanner joins her team and fits in surprisingly well, Lucy can’t help but feel flustered and question his motives, while highly suspecting that the promotion she deserves will be handed to the boss’ son. Tanner, meanwhile, hasn’t considered this in the slightest and if anything, is trying to make the situation easier on Lucy and is trying his best to make the situation work for them both.
Yes, yes ok I love a grumpy alpha-hole love interest as much as the next person, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate a cinnamon roll hero too, and that’s exactly what we have with Tanner. Despite the manner in which the pair split up, Tanner is still thoughtful and caring. He never fell out of love with Lucy, and still cares for her. Whether he’s quoting poetry, Jane Austen or talking dirty, the man definitely has a way with words.
There is also some fab period positivity in this story which we love to see and I was clapping away to Tanner’s reaction to a rather unfortunate situation that Lucy finds herself in. I also loved the diverse and queer cast that featured throughout the story, and not just with a one liner to “tick a box”.
I do enjoy a good challenge of the old stereotype, and Susannah definitely wove this into the story. As I mentioned, Tanner is a wonderfully gentle and caring man, whereas Lucy is the provider for her family. Typically, we see these roles reversed in fiction and I’m always so happy when we move away from these outdated and, let’s be honest, incorrect views.
“I nearly fainted dead away in Tanner’s arms. The man had just quoted Mr. Darcy at me.”
There were so many cute moments in this story which made it super sweet, quite apt really given that the King family are in the ice cream business. The baking in the kitchen scene was one of my faves! Cream and Punishment was also a lil steamy. Perhaps not as much as some of my other recent reads, but I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
I loved that through this story, both Tanner and Lucy are so supportive of one another through their issues. Despite struggling with how much she has to take on at work and at home, Lucy is a great champion of Tanner’s and vice versa. The “grand gesture” at the end had me grinning from ear to ear!
There were times I did get a little frustrated, particularly where I felt the characters would have seriously benefited from having a serious conversation with one another when things got tough (a lengthy miscommunication trope isn’t my fave). Due to the deep family issues both of them have, there was a lot of growth and development throughout the book, so though it may have been hard to warm up to Lucy initially, I definitely came away with a ton of respect for her.
I know I have just said there is some miscommunication, but I want to note how much I loved the conversations the two did have. Even when things were rocky, they truly respected and cared about one another, with talks about how important each other’s feelings were, how no-one should feel pressured or obligated to reciprocate how the other felt, and that despite their situations that they were still privileged.
Cream and Punishment is part of a series, with each book featuring a different member of the King family. But, you can read them as standalones! This is the second in the series; I haven’t read the first and it didn’t hinder my experience. The book ends with an incident that sets up the next book which I would definitely be interested in picking up.
“We were a team, and together we were strong enough to take on the whole world. It wouldn’t always be easy, but nothing worth having ever was. What mattered was that we’d always be there to pick each other up.”
This was such a sweet lovers to “enemies” to colleagues to friends, back to lovers , (phew!) romance with such depth and tenderness; I’m so glad I picked this up.