The Dating Dare (2021)

by Jayci Lee
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250621122
Publication: August 3, 2021
Series: A Sweet Mess #2

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

The Dating Dare is the second installment of Lee’s A Sweet Mess series, this time with Seth, Landon’s younger brother, and Tara, Aubrey’s best friend, in a variation of a dating contract. Seth and Tara are wary of relationships and, after a hefty amount of drinking, embark on a 4-date only dare with promises to not fall in love with each other. It makes a lot of sense because neither is particularly looking for anything long-term, and Seth is moving to Paris at the end of the month.

There’s a reason why the adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” is a familiar one. This isn’t to say that an opinion can never change–just think about Darcy’s opinion of Elizabeth and vice versa–but that first meeting can surely set the tone and mood for what’s to come.  I never overcame my first impression of Tara and Seth and how forced their first interaction appeared. The confrontation happened then jumped to the dare so quickly that I didn’t find it believable. Eventually, lust and the sexual chemistry are established–Lee infuses it well into their dates and nondates–and spices up the pages, but I couldn’t get over that first impression that something was missing from their relationship. I was never fully convinced they could fall in love with each other.

It was difficult to fully grasp what kind of individuals Tara and Seth were because most of their interactions were with each other and them thinking of each other. At first, it seemed like Tara would be outspoken and stick up for herself but beyond what happens at the beginning when Tara confronts Seth, there isn’t much follow-through. The limited conversations with her brothers try to showcase what kind of person Tara is, but it would have been more meaningful if it was action and descriptions, not just dialogue. Pieces of Tara’s and Seth’s pasts are also divulged throughout the book, explaining why they are both averse to relationships, and used to create some mystery, but I think it would have worked better to be provided the information earlier. Trying to work through one another’s past relationships would have brought more depth to their relationship, helping to illustrate why they would work well together.

The book lacks a sense of place, jumping from one scene of them together to the next scene of them together without much detail into their surroundings. I’ve never been to Weldon and would like to “see” what it’s like there, but I couldn’t envision the town through the book. For instance, Tara’s family owns Weldon Brewery, and she’s in there from time to time but I don’t learn much about it. Similarly, I don’t know much about Tara’s family or the other people residing there. I wanted to meet the residents and be an audience to conversations and interactions outside of Tara and Seth together, but people only popped in and out occasionally to serve as backboards and props as if life did not exist outside of the leads. My suspicion is the town might have a better introduction in the first book, which I haven’t read. Even if that is the case, it doesn’t negate that there should be descriptions in this second installment as well, especially when it’s written very much as a standalone.

I expected a bit more from the book, but it wasn’t a letdown.  Although Lee doesn’t include much detail about the town, there are beautiful descriptions when Seth captures images on his camera. I felt Seth’s love for his art and how important photography was to him. These moments were likely some of my favorites because there was so much detail; I could see and feel what was happening. I wish more of the book included descriptions like this. While my initial impressions of their relationship set the tone for my first reading of the book, it’s certainly possible I might have the urge to pick it up again. A second reading could make a better impression, but I’m not exactly ready to give it another go just yet.

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