Every trip to Lovelight Farms and the chaotically delightful corners of Inglewild feels like a homecoming. And with every word thrusting the love story forward in B.K. Borison’s Mixed Signals, the very corners of the comforting tree farm become that much sweeter—literally. If you’re here without reading the book first, do yourself a favor and stock up on desserts because it’ll make the experience much better.
B.K. Borison’s Mixed Signals follows bakehouse owner Layla Dupree and croissant connoisseur Caleb Alvarez in an experimental arrangement to improve their dating skills. And while we know where it’s going, Borison does an enchanting job of keeping readers on their toes with surprising twists that make the story as deliciously refreshing as the first bite of your favorite desserts. It’s familiar, yes, but it somehow still feels new—like you’ve forgotten just how good it can taste, and every bite, like the story moving forward, continues to be intoxicating bliss.
While we knew that Caleb had a crush on Layla from In The Weeds, the terms and conditions in Mixed Signals add captivating layers we might never get over. You can’t quite decipher why Caleb thinks he’s bad at dating, and with Layla, the string of terrible relationships render her faithless. Her past results in a terrifying way to believe that many of us are likely all too familiar with. We either do it ourselves or know someone who settles for far less than they deserve because they don’t see themselves as the world does. Or, the other side of the coin, people settling because they’re afraid it’s all that’s in store for them. They settle because people in novels or movies are the only ones who end up in epic love stories.
The women in Borison’s novels are always so achingly relatable that they bring forward a rare understanding for readers through every character in the series. The women in Borison’s novels are always so achingly relatable that they bring forward a rare understanding for readers through every character in the series. And the vital part of Layla’s story is her admission to the darkness clouding her thoughts—the pieces of herself she wants so badly to give to another person, but she’s horrified by the prospect of what they’ll do with them. There’s also her treatment of the bakehouse and the pieces of her she sprinkles into everything she bakes. (Pieces that I especially understood as it’s the same thing I do with almost every review I write here at Marvelous Geeks.) We look at heroines like Layla and try to understand why they attempt to make crappy relationships work while knowing with a painful familiarity that it’s the optimism to want something that doesn’t fail that’s so innately human.
We want to be seen as we are, for the things we care about, and the pieces that we nurture. It’s the intensity of those desires at times that don’t allow us to realize that there are people who do indeed see our pieces. Caleb Alvarez really loves croissants, yes, but it’s Layla he comes to the bakery for, and every single time he walks in, Borison makes you feel his adoration pulsating through the words on the page. His desire to ensure that she gets what she wants, not because of the arrangement but because of his affection for her, is so intensely sweet that it merits key-smashing words for emphasis.
The warmth of Lovelight Farms and the town of Inglewild is now exponentially better with the Alvarez family introduced to us. We all know someone like his grandmother—someone who cares and encourages with unparalleled wit and heart. Whether she was on the page or we were told about her, it was a great comfort throughout. And the same can be said for the opportunity to get to know Ms. Beatrice and the secret she and Layla have carried through the years. To know that it was never a competition, but rather an unlikely partnership of sorts? Yes please.
But all that’s to say, there’s nothing, and I repeat, nothing, that gets me the way people rally to help someone else in a moment of distress. When the power goes out at the bakehouse, and all of Layla’s hard work is shot to hell in a few hours, the people of Inglewild prove how much they adore her by doing everything in their might to make the place presentable for the magazine interview. And this is precisely why small-town romance books are better than most because these bouts of human kindness do so much to remind us of the good that’s still left in the world. It doesn’t matter how often I read things like this; from the moment little ol’ me watched It’s A Wonderful Life, scenes like these have owned every crevice in my heart. And this scene in B.K. Borison’s Mixed Signals is one I won’t ever forget.
There’s also much to be said about the spicy scenes in this book and how much care went into creating hot, heavy, sticky, sweet, and remarkably vulnerable moments. Their first kiss alone had me heaving, and I should’ve known then that I wasn’t remotely prepared for when bodies collided.
Still, throughout the book, every time I thought I had an idea of where Borison was headed, she managed to surprise me. How their arrangement ends and how fears play a crucial role without being similar to Stella and Luka’s story was inherently well done. But it’s that final epilogue scene that I didn’t see coming because we don’t read about proposals happening as frequently, and as an absolute sap over these things, it’s always something I want more of—editing the terms of their arrangement to this kind of an upgrade? YES, PLEASE, times infinity. I want to see it all now, and thus, we must collectively rally to lovingly bully Borison into releasing every proposal scene.
In an unsurprising turn of events, B.K. Borison’s Mixed Signals, like the stories that have come before it, lands itself in the five-star category. Caleb and Laya joining the others in more future dates and shenanigans make the universe sweeter and more precious. The kind of sunshine and sunshine that brighten every space while leaping off the page to comfort readers too.