First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts by Linda Budzinski, Melissa Maygrove, Sylvia Nay, Katie Klein, Michael di Gesu, Templeton Moss, S.E. White, Denise Covey, and Sammi Spizziri

Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press

Date of publication: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Anthology

Purchase Links: Amazon | Alibris | Indigo | Kobo | Apple Books

Goodreads Synopsis:

The sweetness of first love…

Could a fiercely independent cop’s heart be stolen by the guy who makes her favorite doughnuts? Will a maid who used deceit to snare a mail-order husband get a dose of her own medicine? Can her handsome neighbor rescue a modern-day “princess” from a tenacious ex-boyfriend? Can two strangers in a rideshare be honest enough to fall in love for real? Can you remember your first love? How about your second? Third? Fourth?

Featuring the talents of Linda Budzinski, Melissa Maygrove, Michael Di Gesu, Sylvia Ney, Katie Klein, Kim Elliott, Templeton Moss, S.E. White, Denise Covey, and Sammi Spizziri. Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these ten tales will touch your heart and rekindle lost feelings. Prepare to return to that first love…


First Line:

“You ever been in love, McAllister?”

The Art of Making Doughnuts by Linda Budzinski/First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts Anthology

I normally do not review anthologies. Because they are made up of short stories, I find them hard to review. But, there are exceptions, and First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts falls under that category.

The tricky thing about writing reviews of anthologies is that I need to be able to keep track of what short story I am reviewing. Sometimes the stories blur together for me, and I can’t tell them apart. But, in First Love (I am shortening the title for this review), the stories were different enough to keep my attention. They also did not blur together (because they were different). This alone made this anthology very pleasurable to read.

All of these authors are new to me authors. Based on what I have read in this book, I am looking forward to reading more works by them!!

Now, onto the review of the stories. I am going to do the reviews a little differently than usual. I hope you like them. Before I get into the reviews, I want to add that all of these stories are clean. There is no sex in any of them. There is kissing, but that’s the extent of it.


The Art of Making Doughnuts:

What I liked:

  1. I enjoyed the back and forth between Gina (aka Mac) and Pete (aka Gus). The sparks were immediate, even if Mac didn’t want them.
  2. I loved that Mac played hard to get. She made Pete work for that first date.
  3. I loved how nerdy both Mac and Pete were. Mac was a history/jigsaw nerd, and Pete was a history nerd. It was awesome to read.

What I didn’t like:

  1. Pete hiding who he was. Not a great way to start a relationship.
  2. Mac after she found out who Pete was. He did try to apologize, and she was like, “NFW
  3. How Pete explained why he hid his identity. I was like,Nope; you need to apologize, boyfriend” (which he did)

My Heart Approves

What I Liked:

  1. I liked that Addy took the time to get to know the servants and understood how hard it was for them to get ready for a party at the last notice.
  2. How friendly everyone was to Addy. They made her feel at home.
  3. John’s declaration of love (and his observations) at the end of the book.

What I Didn’t Like

  1. Addy pretending to be someone she wasn’t. I got why she did it, but I wondered how long it would last (and the answer to that…not very long).
  2. Addy resorting to becoming a mail-order bride. I know it was a thing in the 1860s, but I can’t imagine marrying a man unseen.
  3. Instalove. I know it was common for the era, but I don’t like Instalove. It just doesn’t ring true to me.

How to Save a Princess

What I Liked:

  1. I liked that Laurette was thirsting over her next-door neighbor, Harrison. The scenarios she ran through in her head at the beginning of the book were pretty funny.
  2. How she dealt with her ex, Josh. She was firm, and she didn’t cave (even though he was embarrassing her)
  3. How Harrison saved her. He was amazing, and I loved that he was quick thinking (the whole improv conversation had me in stitches).

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Josh. He was one of the most annoying short story characters that I have read in a while.
  2. How Laurette initially dealt with Josh at the beginning of the story (including the story of their break-up)
  3. How Laurette didn’t take Harrison’s cues and almost ruined his rescue of her. I was internally beating my head off a wall and saying, “Laurette, you idiot, LISTEN to him.

My First Loves

What I Liked:

  1. The memories that Audrey and her boyfriend were remembering. They were so similar yet so different.
  2. It made me laugh and think about my relationship.
  3. Audrey having to sit through her boyfriend’s very poor memories of different girls at various points in his dating history.

What I Disliked:

  1. Audrey had to sit through her boyfriend’s memories and then correct him. I know I would have been a little peeved if that was me (considering all the other girls were her)
  2. Audrey having to tell her boyfriend nicely to be quiet at various points in the story. That irritated me.
  3. That was told in 2nd person. I just don’t like that writing style.

The Real Thing

What I Liked:

  1. Lola’s optimism about meeting Maxon for the first time.
  2. Jessalyn. She was the MVP of this story.
  3. Nando and his instant connection with Lola.

What I Disliked:

  1. Lola thinking that she had to hide who she was from Maxon.
  2. The Uber driver. The dude almost killed Nando and Lola during the ride to O’Hare Airport.
  3. Maxon. Uggh, he was so self-centered; it wasn’t even funny. I’m glad that Lola realized that.

Paper Faces

What I Liked:

  1. I haven’t read anything about the early 1900s (before the Wall Street Crash). So it was interesting to read what people were like back then.
  2. Helen’s loyalty to her family and friends….even when pressured to give up secrets.
  3. Helen working in what people at that time considered a man’s job (journalist).

What I Disliked:

  1. George pressuring Helen to find dirt on James and then throwing a fit when she refused to turn it over.
  2. James’s initial treatment of Helen at the beginning of the story. He was kind of a d-bag.
  3. How Helen’s cousin reacted when she heard what Helen found out. Back then, that was a big deal, but still. Grrr.

Oliver’s Girl

What I Liked

  1. Oliver’s relationship with his great-granddaughter. It was sweet to read.
  2. Oliver’s story about his first love with Francesca. It was adorable.
  3. The end. Oh my heart, I loved it

What I Disliked:

  1. Nothing. This story was one of the sweetest ones in the book.

Clyde and Coalesce

  1. Lizzie and Jane’s friendship. They were truly best friends, and I loved how they were always there for each other.
  2. The chemistry between Lizzie and Fitz. It was hot, hot, HOT!!
  3. The song at the end. I loved it!!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The band manager. He was a sourpuss who fed Charlie lies about Jane.
  2. How Charlie blew Jane off.
  3. Fitz and Lizzie’s confrontation. It needed to be done, but still, I didn’t like it.

Marmalade Sunset

What I Liked:

  1. Cora. She made the entire story.
  2. That it took place on the Greek Islands.
  3. The HEA.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The immediate backstory (Cora and Damon losing almost everyone they loved to COVID)
  2. Damon for the first half of the book. I get why he acted the way he did but still.
  3. What the author made me feel at the restaurant. I was ready to think one thing, and bam, a twist.

The Castle of Ohno

What I Liked:

  1. That Hippolyta took a chance. It is explained fairly early in the story but tied to the ending, so I can’t explain.
  2. Konrad. The author didn’t hide why he acted the way he did. Instead, it was explained (and it will be part of what I didn’t like). He was very damaged, and Hippolyta knew that.
  3. The ending.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Hippolyta’s backstory. I didn’t understand why she said she needed to escape. But the author did explain why at one point during the book.
  2. Konrad’s backstory. I was in tears reading it. A child with a deformity (he has a lobster hand…can’t remember what it is called) and who was sent to live alone. He lived with servants until he was 14/15 (might be younger), and then they took off. No wonder he acted the way he did!!
  3. The people of the village. They treated both Hippolyta and Konrad poorly. I didn’t like it.

I would recommend First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, mild language, and no sex.

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