Love at First Hate – Looking for the truth

The first full week of school has come and gone and, afterwards, the long Labour Day weekend, which had me reading and reading some more (duh!), finishing some books, but also indulging in some freebies that I got near the end of last week. I swear, freebie promotions will be the death of me. My TBR just exploded again.

However, I will make a confession: I deliberately delayed on finishing Love at First Hate, because I wanted to make it last. It was that good! Normally, this is the type of book that I read within a day or two, max three days if I’m super busy. I made it last double that because I wanted to savour it longer. I promise that it won’t happen again, first of all because I have quite too much on my plate with work and commitments, but most importantly because I will want to offer you the best ARC reviews.

What?! Yes, you read right: ARC reviews, because I am now part of the Laughing Hearts review team, and I cannot thank Angela and Denise enough for this new opportunity!

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But let’s talk about Molly and Cal, shall we! (Before Cal gets mad, although he really doesn’t like the spotlight.)

What the book is about

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Love at First Hate

Series: Bad Luck Club, book 1

Authors: A.R. Casella and Denise Grover Swank

Publisher: Laughing Heart Press

Date published: 12 August, 2021

Pages: 306


She wants his story. He wants his secrecy. Too bad he can’t stay away from her.


Blogging about bad dates used to be fun, but a girl can only take so much foolishness. So I broke up with my job.

Okay, full disclosure, I was fired. It’s a long, sordid tale, involving my sourdough starter—RIP, Fred!—and my ex-boss’s serious lack of humor.

Newly funemployed and in need of a break, I go to Asheville to dogsit for my sister…and stumble onto a scoop big enough to put my fake-dating days behind me forever.

Augusta Glower, local success story, wrote a bestseller about the self-help group she started. People think her system works, and copycat Bad Luck Clubs have sprung up nationwide. Something feels off, though, and a little poking around by yours truly suggests she stole the idea.

There’s one problem. I have to prove it, and the guy she ripped off—super-hot house flipper Caleb Reynolds—seems to…well, hate me. Which is too bad since his secrets aren’t the only thing I’d like to peel away.

* * *


Molly O’Shea is my worst nightmare.

Is she sexy as sin? Well…yeah. Does she smell like honeysuckle and trouble? No doubt. Is she determined to dig up my secrets with a backhoe? I’m pretty sure she got a two-week rental. But I’ll never talk. If the reason I started the club gets out, my whole life will implode.

So why is she so damn irresistible?

Unearthing a mystery… or several?

The premise of the book is that Molly O’Shea lost her blogger job in Seattle, just before returning to Asheville in order to dog-sit for her sister, Maisie, who is going on a babymoon with her husband, Jack. Shortly after arriving, she stumbles upon a book written about the Bad Luck Club, a group that seems mysterious to her, told in a way which seems, to Molly, a little off, thus setting her on a quest to find the truth about what really happened, how the club got started, and by whom.

A quest which has her meeting Cal Reynolds and becoming instantly attracted to him. Little does she know that Cal has secrets of his own, which he doesn’t want Molly to know, and thinking that their meeting was only a big scheme, his own attraction to her morphs into feelings of deep dislike, making him fight his attraction to her as much as she is fighting to find out the truth about the Bad Luck Club and its creation.

And her own growing feelings towards Cal, of course, and his secrets. All this with the participation of two corgis and a part hound.

Laughs and fun and an overall feel-good feeling

A.R. Casella and Denise Grover Swank proved, with Asheville Brewing, that they were a solid tandem of authors, and this new series only comforts this belief. Their characters are memorable (Tina and the margaritas, anyone?), the story is compelling and engaging, and we are treated to a whole gamut of emotions throughout the whole book, only leaving us wanting more.

On top of having a lot of laughter and ending up the book with a huge smile, because it really felt that good to read Molly’s and Cal’s story. And wanting to go to Bear’s Buns (yes, that’s how Cal’s father, Bear, named his bakery) and have a cuppa at Dottie’s Tea of Fortune.

Spin-off series

Those familiar with the Asheville Brewing series already know some of the characters involved in this new series, although they will play a more distant role, as in, we will see them, but they will never take centre stage. For instance, if Molly O’Shea is coming back to Asheville, it is because she was asked to take care of her sister Maisie’s dogs while she and her husband Jack go on a babymoon. (Maisie’s and Jack’s story is told in full in Getting Lucky, if you’re curious to get to know them. However, it is in no way mandatory!)

We also get to see my favourite character, Dottie Hendrickson, who now owns Tea of Fortune and who remains the special lady she’s always been (some call her eccentric, but I disagree; she’s just a very special lady). And those are only three of the characters (Maisie, Jack, and Dottie) whom the readers of the first series will recognise.

However, I will repeat: you do not need to have read Asheville Brewing to enjoy Love at First Hate and all the subsequent Bad Luck Club books (the second of the series, Jingle Bell Hell, Mary’s story, will come out in October and is available for pre-order). But I do recommend that you treat yourselves to it, because those books are really, really good!

This said, if you read Asheville Brewing, you will see that this new one is also quite different from the first, which is more “family friendly”. Not this one, where you will see some cursing and where there are a few sex scenes. If it’s not your bag, then I recommend you do not take the plunge, which will be your loss, because the first book is all sorts of awesome.

My verdict

A day after finishing reading Love at First Hate and writing about it still brings this huge smile upon my face, just like it did with each of Casella and Grover Swank’s books. I honestly can’t wait until October and Jingle Bell Hell to see all those characters again, dogs included!

A happy happy five stars!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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