Free Shipping on Orders of $40 or More
The Boy with the Bookstore

The Boy with the Bookstore

by Sarah Echavarre Smith
The Boy with the Bookstore

The Boy with the Bookstore

by Sarah Echavarre Smith


Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Tuesday, April 4


When a baker meets the bookshop owner of her dreams, and he turns into her nemesis, they’ll both have to read between the lines to avoid a career-ending recipe for disaster.

Max Boyson looks good...from a distance. But up close and personal, the tattooed hottie Joelle Prima has been crushing on for the past year and half has turned into the prime example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by his delectable cover.
When she first learned about the massive renovation to the building they share, Joelle imagined that temporarily combining her Filipino bakery with Max’s neighboring bookstore would be the perfect opening chapter to their happily ever after. In her fantasies they fed each other bibingka and pandesal while discussing Jane Austen and cooing over her pet hamster, Pumpkin. Reality, quite different. Her gallant prince turned out to be a stubborn toad who snaps at her in front of customers, dries his wet clothes in her oven, and helps himself to the yummy pastries in her display case without asking.
But beneath Max’s grumpy glares, Joelle senses a rising heat—and a softening heart. And when they discover the real reason for the renovation, they’ll have to put both their business senses and their feelings for each other to the test.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593545980
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/06/2022
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 129,661
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sarah Echavarre Smith is a copywriter turned author who wants to make the world a lovelier place, one kissing story at a time. Her love of romance began when she was eight and she discovered her auntie's stash of romance novels. She's been hooked ever since. When she's not writing, you can find her hiking, eating chocolate, and perfecting her lumpia recipe. She lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and her adorable cat, Salem.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


When Max Boyson walks into my bakery, I almost drop the tray of croissants I'm holding and try not to pass out.

It's a daily occurrence for me. Because this is what I have to contend with when he strolls in at seven forty-five on the dot: His six-foot-two frame clad in a black leather jacket, worn jeans covering his long, muscular legs. He wears a knit beanie over that mass of light brown hair, and there's a healthy amount of scruff sheeting along a jawline sharp enough to cut diamonds.

He's a cross between a ridiculously handsome Instagram model and a biker.

And that smile. Oh my freaking god, that smile. Always a half smile. Always the right corner of his mouth quirked up like he's hiding a secret that he's dying to tell. Always deliciously wolfish.

But it's not just his looks. It's his whole demeanor. The way he walks into a room, posture straight, gaze focused and unbothered at the same time. He looms large but is also aware of himself. As physically imposing as he is, he's careful not to crowd anyone when he steps into the tiny space of my bakery. He holds the door for people when he walks in and out. And he always moves out of the way when there's a line. It's an easy confidence he possesses-something I've always ached to have.

He is the epitome of everything I find attractive in a man. And that pinnacle of hotness walks into my world every single morning, setting fire to my skin and turning my brain to mush.

I wish I weren't such an utter cliché. But I am.

I am the physical representation of the phrase "mousy shy girl." If you were to search that on Google Images, my photo would be the first to pop up.

I've got it all: wild hair that hits all the way to the middle of my back and hides my face when it's not pulled into a ponytail, thick-rimmed glasses, a penchant for biting my lip and stammering when I'm nervous, and the inability to maintain prolonged eye contact when a handsome guy looks my way.

That's pretty much what I've done every other day when Max walks in here and places his usual order of an ube latte-iced in the spring and summer, hot in the fall and winter-and a plain croissant, just before he strolls next door and opens his bookshop, Stacked, which occupies the store space next to mine in this brick building we both lease in the Jade District of Portland, Oregon.

It all happens like some slow-motion scene out of a movie. Max half smiles. I instantly forget that I often have a store full of customers to help. He makes casual conversation, asking me about the morning rush, what new pastries I've got on the menu that day, if the pigeons in the dumpster behind our building have dive-bombed me when I took out the trash. And like the unsophisticated and painfully awkward human that I am, I burn hot all across my cheeks and neck and chest. I giggle, then stammer my way through the conversation, all the while trying not to stare unblinkingly at him so I don't come off like a psycho.

And then he leaves, my heart resumes a steady beat, and I will myself to act like a normal human being again.

It's all very embarrassing, the fact that I devolve into a flustered teen every time I'm in his presence.

But not today.

No, no, no. Today marks something new. Today, I'm going to actually do something about my crush on Max Boyson that kicked off when he started renting out the space next to me a year and a half ago. I'm going to ask him out.

It's a daunting prospect for sure. We're technically work acquaintances and if he shoots me down, that's going to be awkward as hell. But during our daily chats, I could swear I feel a flirty edge from him. Like, he's pulling back from obviously flirting with me because he doesn't want to come off like a creep who's hitting on the woman who works next door to him. And I definitely appreciate that.

Or maybe he's just being a cordial neighbor.

I deflate the slightest bit, then immediately straighten back up. No. None of that disparaging talk. I've done that enough my whole life. It's time to go against my play-it-safe personality and do something bold for a change.

Setting down the tray of croissants, I grip the edge of the metal countertop and flash a quick smile at Max when he strolls to the end of the line. I'm hyperfocused as I quickly transfer half of the croissants to the nearby display case before helping the next customer, who's a few people ahead of him. As I ring up orders and hand out pastries, I will myself to keep cool.

Breathe in for one, two, three . . . breathe out for four, five, six . . .

Yes, I'm aware of just how pathetic it is that I, a thirty-two-year-old woman, have to coach myself through a calming breathing exercise in preparation to ask a guy out. But it's no surprise given my dating history. I've only ever asked a guy out face-to-face once in my life . . . in high school. Yeah, I've asked men out since then, but it's only been a handful of times via dating app DMs. That's completely different from making direct eye contact with the ruggedly handsome and tatted-up bookstore owner I've been lusting after and saying the words "Hey, you wanna grab a drink sometime?"

Just the thought sends my nerves crackling, like a match falling into a box of fireworks. I swallow back the somersault in my stomach and greet the next customer, quietly counting down as Max inches closer and closer.

And then, finally, he's at the front of the line, just a foot away from me. I look past him and see that no one else is in line. That means I won't have to ask him out in front of an audience. Thank god.

Slowly, silently, I breathe in and take it as a sign that this moment was meant to happen. I muster every ounce of nerve I have and make eye contact with him while smiling.

"Joelle. Hey."

I will my eyes not to flutter. I love it when he says my name in that soft, low tone that's practically a growl.

"Hey, Max. How's your morning going?" If I could, I would high-five myself right now. My voice isn't one bit squeaky, like I assumed it would be. I sound cool and calm, not at all like the nerve-racked nerd that I actually am.

He tilts his head as he looks down at me, almost like he's intrigued. And there it is. That crooked half smile.

"Pretty damn good now that I've got your incredible coffee and pastries to power me through the day."

I bite back a humongous grin as I turn away to quickly prep his ube latte-hot, since it's almost the end of May and we haven't yet hit warm temperatures here in Stumptown.

"How's Pumpkin doing?"

I smile to myself at how almost every morning he comes in here he asks about my pet hamster, who I bring with me to work every day.

"She's good. Chilling on my desk right above the space heater, so she's pretty much in heaven."

His low chuckle makes me grin even wider.

I pluck a fresh croissant from the display case, tuck it into a paper wrapper, and slide both over the counter to him.

"How are Muffin and Doughnut?" I ask, trying my hardest not to squeal at the oh-so-cute names he picked out for his rescue pit bull mix and tuxedo cat. I would have never guessed that a guy who looks like a stereotypical bad boy would opt for such sweet pet names. But it's yet another endearing quality that lands in the column of "things that make Max Boyson insanely hot."

He thanks me as he hands over his credit card and I swipe it through the card reader. As he reaches his arm out, I get a glimpse of the black ink that peeks out from his jacket sleeve. It's a hint of that elaborate sleeve tattoo on his right arm, an intriguing mix of cursive script, several clusters of skulls, massive feather wings, and a stack of books.

I blink and recall just how delicious his tattoo looks when he's wearing a T-shirt or a tank top or a button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up along his forearms . . .

I swallow and focus back on his face as he speaks.

"They're good. Doughnut is still picking on Muffin most days. He's been stealing that new bed I bought her almost every night."

"Aww, really? Poor Muffin."

"It's hilarious to see a fourteen-pound house cat bully a seventy-pound pit bull. It's like neither of them are aware of their sizes."

I glance up at the door, thankful that no customers have walked in yet so that I'd have to stop our conversation and help them. Our chitchat is easy and pleasant, the perfect segue into my big ask. The nerves inside me slowly dissipate and I'm feeling surprisingly light.

Now to wait for the right moment to actually ask him out.

He sips his latte, complimenting the yummy nutty-vanilla flavor of the ube before taking a giant bite of his croissant. His eyes roll to the back of his head as he moans, and I nearly choke. I'm one thousand percent certain that I've never heard a sexier sound in my life.

I whirl back around to the baking tray and start blindly stacking more croissants into the display case instead of fainting at the mere sound of Max eating.

"Christ, is that good." He frowns at the croissant like he can't believe the taste of it.

I laugh. "You say that almost every morning."

He shrugs and tugs at his beanie. "Best croissant in Portland, hands down. My death row meal would be a pile of these babies, no question."

I burst into giggles, which makes Max laugh between bites.

"That's a bit morbid," I say, wrinkling my nose.

His smile doesn't budge. "It's true. Best way to go out, death by carbs."

I cover my mouth, I'm laughing so hard.

He peers around the front space of my bakery, which holds a half-dozen small tables. All of them are full with customers chowing down on their own carb-laden goodies.

"So tell me." He leans over the counter, the expression on his face taking on a conspiratorial edge. "What's your death row meal?"

I gaze up at him, relishing how he towers over me since he's nearly ten inches taller. The heat from his body skims over me, and I have to look down for a moment.

"Um, well. I haven't given it much thought."

He wags his eyebrow at me before he sips his latte. "Come on. Play with me a bit."

This time that flutter hits straight at the center of my chest. Okay, that is unquestionably a flirty comment. Yay!

When Max first moved in next door and started dropping by and showering me in half smiles and pleasant conversation, I was giddy. But when I saw him acting the same way around my mom, auntie, and apong, I felt decidedly less special. Clearly that's just his personality-gotta charm the neighbors. We share a tiny brick building, after all.

But that eyebrow wag he's blessed me with just now combined with the growled delivery of "play with me a bit" is a game changer. It's the green flag I need to boost the last reserves of my confidence to ask him out.

"This is going to sound weird, but hear me out: a homemade, fresh-from-the-oven baguette with roasted bone marrow."

He frowns like he's unsure of what I've just said, but the look in his eyes remains playful. "Gotta say, I wasn't expecting that."

I shrug, and pull on the strap of my apron. "I'm full of surprises."

That earns me a full-on grin.

"What's bone marrow taste like?" he asks. "I've never had it."

He's leaning even closer now. Our bodies are less than a foot apart and before I answer, I take a second to just soak in the moment. I'm openly, unquestionably flirting with Max Boyson while we talk about food.

Way to go, Joelle! Look at you being an adorable and sexy flirt! Combining your two biggest passions: food and the hot bookstore owner next door! You're seriously doing it!

"It's rich. And smooth. And thick. And fatty, but in a good way. Like butter, but with a deeper, fuller, nuttier flavor."

Max's inky black pupils start to dilate as he gazes down at me, his mouth cracked open, like he's hypnotized and intrigued at once. I cease breathing.

He clears his throat. "Damn . . ."

I nod quickly. "On hot, crusty bread, it is divine. You need to try it."

He nods right back, like he's in a trance. I'm in a trance too. I can't seem to stop looking at him as I wax poetic about one of my favorite food combinations.

"How is it served?" he asks, his voice between a groan and a growl. "The marrow, I mean."

I watch, mesmerized at the slow movement along his stubbled throat.

I swear I can feel my skin tingling as my internal temperature rises. Who knew talking about bone marrow could get me this worked up?

"Sometimes they cut the bone lengthwise and you can just scrape your knife along the hollow part of the bone and out comes the marrow," I say. "And sometimes they cut it into chunks and the marrow's in the middle, so you scrape out as much as you can, but there's almost always some left, so the best way to get it out is to just put the bone in your mouth and suck it out, really get your tongue in the hole and lick and . . ."

I trail off when I realize what I've said.

A few heads pivot in our direction from the nearby tables. They've clearly overheard me. I notice too that Max's brow is at his hairline at what I've said.

"Oh my god." I let out a flustered laugh. "Did I really just say that? 'Put it in your mouth' and 'suck it out' and 'get your tongue in the hole and lick' . . . Wow. I, um, that's not what I meant to . . ."

When Max's eyes go wide, that's when a tidal wave of internal panic unleashes inside me. "I mean, that's absolutely what you should do if you eat marrow. Just, like, suck out the marrow and tongue it out-that's what you need to do to get as much off the bone as possible. Sorry, I just made it sound weirdly sexual and awkward talking about sucking and tonguing and licking. I swear, that's absolutely not what I meant to imply . . ."

And now the entire bakery is staring at me. And Max is gawking at me like I’ve grown another head.

On the inside, I’ve deflated like a stabbed balloon. That’s it. My chance to ask out Max is officially blown to hell. I completely ruined the moment with my unintentional sexual innuendo.

I fight the invisible flames of embarrassment engulfing my cheeks and direct an apologetic smile at the tables.

“Um, our culinary chat got a bit impassioned. Apologies.”

People slowly turn away from me. And then I muster the last morsels of my now fleeting dignity to face Max. He remains wide-eyed, his mouth part-way open, shock clouding his entire expression.

“So um, yeah. Baguette and bone marrow would be my death row meal,” I quickly mumble.

I clear my throat and pray that the floorboards suddenly open up and swallow me whole so I can escape the utter mortification of this moment.

Max nods once, a dazed expression on his face. “Okay…”

For a few seconds we say nothing. And then he backs slowly away and forces a polite smile. “Have a good day then.”

With a shaky hand, I wave good-bye, then dart straight through the kitchen doors and crumple to the floor, cradling my face in my hands. And then I let out a groan.

“Real smooth, Joelle,” I mutter.

Customer Reviews

Explore More Items