Babe Vogel loves the town of Oar’s Rest—she’s grown up here all her life with her best friends Penny and Chad, loves her job at the café The Busy Bean, and can’t imagine anywhere she’d rather be.
But in the summer after graduation, everything is changing.
Not only have Penny and Chad broken up, but Babe’s ex-girlfriend is back in town and the new summer boy, Levi, and his charm are upheaving what Babe expected to be a quiet summer. Dealing with a fracturing friendship is hard enough without the added stress of a new romance and an old one in town.
Keeping her life together is hard, and Babe doesn’t know if she can do it without letting people go.
I’ve watched Small Town Hearts evolve over quite a few years, and the final product is *chef’s kiss* amazing.
It’s extremely atmospheric, filled with a cast of messy yet endearing characters, and featuring a swoony summer romance that leaves you wishing you had a summer romance too.
I’m so happy to finally be bringing my review your way, and I can’t gush enough about this book and how much I love it.
The character dynamics are complex and meaningful.
This is definitely my favorite part of the whole book, but Babe Vogel is not only such a relatable and enjoyable main character to read about, but her struggles are so so real.
I absolutely adore how Vale explores Babe’s relationship with her two best friends, Penny and Chad, and how their life-long friendship has changed in the summer after graduation. I really needed this, and I actually sent out a tweet looking for this exact friendship examination, and it totally slipped my mind that the after-high school friendship book I was looking for was RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. *facepalm*
Small Town Hearts examines friendship in such a meaningful way. A lot of people think that friendship problems end after high school, but they keep on going. And post-graduation (as well as leading up to graduation) is such a confusing time, because you’ve known these people your whole life and how does one maintain friendships when everything is changing so quickly.
I also really loved how Vale didn’t shy away from the nasty side of things—Penny manipulating Babe in the beginning, the nature between Penny, Chad, and Babe’s friendship when Penny & Chad were dating, and so much more. Things got intense in the way that Babe had to deal with all these things happening to their friendship that used to be very steady and dependable, and this book is so much more friendship-based than you might imagine on first glance.
Plus, even Babe’s budding friendship with her coworker Lucy and Lucy’s boyfriend Lorcan were still very present and contrasted well against what was going on with Chad and Penny, and I just really thought Vale did a good job of fleshing out all of the friendship dynamics.
I get hungry every time I read, and extremely nostalgic about beach towns.
You might think that contemporary novels don’t need strong world-building, but you are oh so wrong.
Small Town Hearts is basically steeped in so many delicious baked goods. I wish that this book had like, a second book coming out at the same time that was just a giant recipe book of all of the delicious foods mentioned—from Maine seafood to all the cookies and cakes and baked goods. I was absolutely drooling the whole way through.
The baked goods weren’t only delicious to read about, they also really added to the overall atmosphere of Oar’s Rest. It’s like another world, and Vale really captures the summer atmosphere really well. I’ve experienced that summer nostalgia on multiple occasions (in Florida, not Maine though) and Vale really shows how it’s almost like a completely different place than everyday life.
Picturesque and full of small town charm, Small Town Hearts really pulls out all the stops in building up a gorgeous world for the reader. I hope we get to read more books in Oar’s Rest one day, because I never want to leave.
Sandcastles and blueberry picking and small towns and lighthouses on hills. It’s like a vacation in a book.
The romance is sweet as sugar.
The other dynamic that Vale does so well after friendship is the romance. Oh, the romance.
I was swooning reading about Levi and Babe, and it was such a sweet journey. You’re left with the question of “What happens after summer?” as you get more and more invested in Babe & Levi’s romance (also, consent is sexy!! even for a kiss!)
It’s got enough tension for it not to be boring, while still sweet enough to keep this book low-stress, and I ship Babe and Levi so hard. Vale does a great job of working not only with just the emotional “do they click?” (spoiler: they do), but also all the physical barriers stopping them.
It might seem bittersweet, but I promise a happily ever after for all of you out there.
(Also, Babe is bi if you didn’t know and this is such a happy bi book I loooove.)
Overall, I can happily deem Small Town Hearts a favorite.
It’s great. You should read it.
Anyone who enjoys contemporary romances with really cute, sweet settings, a bunch of delicious baked goods, and a sweet cast of characters with complex dynamics should totally check it out. Hopefully, that means you.
Thank you so much to Lillie Vale for sending me a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review! Finally! It’s here girl, you did it ❤
Also, can I just point and leave this here and then run away? Me!!! In the acknowledgements!!! I’m sobbing!!!