Charcoal and Hot Chocolate by Irene Rose
Ellie Baylor is painfully shy. She’s spent her entire life bottling her emotions and clinging to the highly religious buttoned-up values her parents demand of her, but she’s ready to break free. Enter River Daniels, an equally awkward but gentle art major who shares Ellie’s passion for art. Together they navigate the rocky terrain of new love while Ellie finds her own voice.
Charcoal and Hot Chocolate is a good story. It had all the elements I love in New Adult literature, including quirky best friends, parent drama, and smoldering love scenes, but I had a hard time getting into the story. Ellie is shy as a character, but it seemed to take a really long time for her to come out of her shell, and as a reader I was close to giving up. I’m glad I stuck with it because in the end the story is good and Ellie emerges as a likable lead character. I really liked River as a male love interest. He’s patient and kind with the incredibly tough-to-crack Ellie and makes for the perfect book boyfriend.
Even though the general storyline is generally good, the writing in the book isn’t completely polished. For example, the book switches between Ellie and River’s point of view, and at one point the author switches in the middle. It’s clearly just an oversight in editing, but it was distracting and caused me to go back and forth re-reading to see who’s point of view we were supposed to be in.
The other thing that is lacking is a feeling of any real tension or conflict in the story. Ellie likes River and River likes Ellie, so there’s not a lot to go on. Later in the novel there is a great storyline where Ellie’s best friend Sam goes to rehab for alcoholism and it was a great point of conflict and tension. I almost wish the book would have had this dynamic as its main focus because it was really very good. The love story left me wanting more.
In the end this book was good, but some of the writing quirks left me wanting a more polished piece of writing.