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Love & Coffee #1

But First, Coffee

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Ready to expand her coffee empire, Lana Bitterman does what any smart and fierce CEO would do— she decides to promote the highest selling barista in her company. Joe Coffee. But Joe Coffee isn’t just a handsome barista with a great name. He also inexplicably has an engineering degree from MIT and an almost-degree from Harvard Law.

The more Lana researches Joe, the deeper into his past she falls. And from the moment he walks into her office, she knows she wants him.

Not just as an employee.

As more.

But little does she know, Joe has more secrets than a few unexplained degrees. He’s there because he was sent there.

300 pages, ebook

First published September 10, 2018

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About the author

Sarah Darlington

22 books593 followers
Hi! I'm Sarah Darlington. I write contemporary romance books that are steamy, sexy, and sweet. I love creating book boyfriends you won’t soon forget, and the heroines who give them hell.

Subscribe to my newsletter for new release alerts: sarahdarlingtonauthor.com/cv

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 178 reviews
Profile Image for Natalie  ~ The Biblioholic.
2,502 reviews1,214 followers
September 10, 2018
The Blog Tour + Giveaway ➤ https://bit.ly/2O4aU5O

This was a dramatic story that seemed to be more about the minor character, Doug, than the main characters themselves. Joe and Lana were obviously supposed to be the focus of this book, but everything seemed to revolve around Doug that they kept feeling more like background characters. Doug was the puppetmaster while Joe and Lana were his marionettes. Because of this it was hard to really form a connection with what this story was supposed to be about or its characters. I couldn't get behind the relationship developing between the characters. I couldn't feel the chemistry. I couldn't find the spark. I spent a lot of time confused, finding myself forcing the issue, trying to figure out what I was supposed to understand. The entire subplot of blackmail and the attention Joe's sister received made this seem like two stories in one, with neither of them complete. Overall But First, Coffeee was sweet and easy, aside from the dramatics, and I think it may be an example of one of those stories that may not be for me, but would be amazing for others.
Profile Image for DJ Sakata.
3,036 reviews1,747 followers
September 9, 2018
Favorite Quotes:

Joe Coffee. His name sounded like a cartoon character from the 1990s.

I gave up on the possibility of love and romance years ago. My last encounter with a man had been a blind date, set up by my mother, where I drank too much wine and ended up crying on my date’s shoulder by the end of the night. Needless to say, I never heard from that guy again. Until I saw him, awkwardly enough, at my parents’ Christmas Eve party last year. He avoided me like I had a highly contagious flesh-eating virus while I ended the night trying not to get too drunk off the eggnog in my parents’ basement. The eggnog won that battle.

I was hanging out with the most gorgeous man on Earth, and I looked like someone had thrown me into the washing machine. Wasn’t that the way things always went? Wear your baggy sweatpants with holes in them onto an airplane, and you’ll be seated next to some hot celebrity. Wear your makeup and your best outfit, and you’ll be seated next to a grandma who needs your help giving herself an insulin shot halfway through the flight.

My Review:

For some reason, I was expecting a steamy NA romance, what I found was an engaging, well-crafted, and addictive novel of romantic/suspense with clever twists and turns and a smokin’ love story. The intriguing storylines were seductively laced with blackmail, corporate espionage, manipulation, coercion, guilt, long-held grudges, scheming, steamy sensuality, addiction, wry humor, and a blossoming and transformative romance. The enticing characters of Joe and his immature and irresponsible sister Kitty held questionable motives and veracity, yet they tantalized me. I felt conflicted in wanting to trust the alluring and captivating Joe as his complex issues and personality fascinated me.

Narrated from a dual POV, the writing was smartly plotted, easy to follow, well-paced, and continually plucked at my curiosity. I have read just a few of Ms. Darlington’s irresistible and titillating stories and have enjoyed each one. I definitely need to shuffle my overstuffed TBR to include more of them.
Profile Image for Danny.
790 reviews32 followers
September 12, 2018
First, let's just stop for a moment to admire this cover... It's just amazing! Totally addicting to keep looking at. Hahaha

Anyway... I was really glad to read a book where the male character, the hero, was not a self-centered jerk. Joe Coffee was a man that had a rough part of his life and he is traumatized in several aspects of his life because of that time of his life. He only wants to be seen more than a hot body. It was so interesting to read about a guy that had confidence and insecurities issues, it made me look at the subject in a whole different way.
Lana is a businesswoman that worked really hard to be where she is today. However, as everything in life, success comes with a price and loneliness was Lana's price. She is a headstrong, fierce woman that goes after what she wants. That was amazing to read, I always get a sense of pride in reading these females roles.

So, the encounter between Lana and Joe has different meanings for both of them. For her, it has to do with his school background and his geniuses, and a little to do with his handsomeness. For him, it all has to do with a darker situation, where he is not entirely honest with his interest in stay working for Lana.

Joe had this funny side to him, that we learn that is just his way of protecting himself.
"'On my resume, I could write... Skills: knowledge of useless law facts, makes a mean cup of coffee, and champion of bar games.' He ticked off his skills on his fingers."

Their relationship - if it can be called that - was filled with secrets, trouble, confidence issues, past traumas and several other problems that were just a thing between their increasing love. I really enjoyed reading this book, it was so well-developed and well-written. I can't wait to read the sequel, about Kitty's story. And that finale? Jesus!! It's a shattering news. Can't wait to read more.

Also, there was this thing in Lana's inner dialogue that I really related and it made me laugh.
"I was hanging out with the most gorgeous man on Earth, and I looked like someone had thrown me into the washing machine. Wasn't that the way things always went? Wear your baggy sweatpants with holes in them onto an airplane, and you'll be seated next to some hot celebrity. Wear your makeup and your best outfit, and you'll be seated next to a grandma who needs your help giving herself an insulin shop halfway the flight."

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book.
Profile Image for Angie.
1,052 reviews131 followers
September 9, 2018
"On my resume, I could write.... Skills: knowledge of useless law facts, makes a mean cup of coffee, and champion of bar games." --Joe Coffee

Hmm... 3.75 stars....

I have mixed feelings about this novel. I love Sarah as an author and have been betaing for her since her very first novel He Belong With Me four years ago, which I adored. And while I really enjoyed certain aspects, I found myself getting caught up on other points.

I loved the MCs themselves--Lana was a strong, no-nonsense businesswoman who worked hard for her success and knew how to dictate her life. Joe was such an interesting and unique character for our hero--he has ADHD, has suffered from drugs, alcohol and sex addiction, has trouble with sex and intimacy after an incident (which RARELY happens to heroes in contemporaries!), and just generally has a care-free and fuck-off attitude. His mannerisms and inner thoughts and past experiences were sooo interesting and captivating, I could not get enough.

So now on to what I disliked: I felt that the ending and conflicts were wrapped up too neatly and easily. The major conflict of the entire story--Lana's ex-friend Doug blackmailing Joe with his sister's sex tapes in order to spy on Lana--was solved in mere chapters simply BY TALKING TO HIM. Granted Doug ends up having another ace up his sleeve in order to threaten Lana with, but even that is solved quickly and seemed to be dragged out simply for more OTT drama. It just seemed too easy and brushed over that my angst-loving self was left hanging. I also felt we were left in the dark for too long about what Doug had over Kitty and Joe that allowed him to threaten Joe into submission. I wanted to know why Joe was being such a bi-polar jackass and bending over backwards for Doug, and the answer seemed to come too late.

Overall, I still enjoyed this novel, and it was great seeing Leo again! Its characters were unique and interesting even though the plot was choppy and lackluster at times. I'm interested to see how Sarah plans on redeeming Doug for the next novel and how he woos Kitty.

My Joe Coffee, the hipster barista and former law student...

*ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Carlene Inspired.
930 reviews243 followers
September 10, 2018
Find this review and others at Carlene Inspired.

3.75, but rounding up to a 4.

Lana Bitterman: creator of Java Bean and wearer of white pant suits.
Joe Coffee: handsome barista and recovered addict.
The two might've never met, Lana doesn't venture into her coffee shops, though she's heard of the handsome man and his ability to make a cup of coffee faster and better than anyone else. Her research shows he's capable and her mind says it's the right thing to do, so she promotes him unaware that he's being led by something other than the love of coffee. They have instant chemistry, but beneath the surface lacks another's hand, playing puppet master over their office romance and the fate of Java Bean.

Part suspense, part romance, and maybe a tiny bit humorous, But First, Coffee tells the story of Lana, Joe, their well selected last names, and the instant romance they fall into as they work side by side on the future of Java Bean. The two are drop dead gorgeous, so it was no surprise to me that they fall into one another, but they're also both fairly damaged by life's events and it's hard to predict how two damaged souls can work together to be one. They challenge one another and work through the loneliness, the shame, and the embarrassment as a team. I wish there had been more sincere conversation between them and there was so much going on that I never really felt like I understood them both completely, but they worked well together as a couple still. More than the romance though, this book tells the story of a crazed man and his desire to control all those who cross him. He likes the power and he believes he lost it years ago when Lana turned him down and went on to succeed on her own. He employs Joe to assist in destroying her and he might succeed, if the romance doesn't get in the way first.

Yes, the cover is absolutely outstanding, hello those abs, but the story inside is pretty good too. I loved the coffee chain idea, the incredibly successful heroine, and the difficult things the characters had to work through in order to find success. It's an entertaining, engaging read that will keep you guessing, that's for sure. But First, Coffee is my first Sarah Darlington book and I definitely don't think it'll be my last.

ARC provided.
Profile Image for Michelle.
145 reviews3 followers
September 9, 2018
Chemistry, conspiracy, and coffee- Sarah Darlington stirred it all together into a spectacular brew I didn’t want to put down. (Too many coffee puns? Never.)

Ready to expand her burgeoning coffee empire, Lana Bitterman does what any smart and fierce CEO would do- she invites the highest selling barista in her company to help her in an office capacity. Because Joe Coffee isn’t just a handsome and charismatic barista with a great name, he’s also got a secret past that inexplicably involves an engineering degree from MIT and an almost-degree from Harvard Law.

But Joe’s got way more secrets than just where he went to school. He’s not just in the corporate offices of Java Beans to help Lana, he’s also there to spy on her. Joe doesn’t know why Doug Maddox has it out for Lana or how Doug managed to plant the right seeds to get her to promote Joe, but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he’s there to do Doug’s bidding. Because Doug has enough dirt on Joe’s sister to ruin her life. And Joe will do whatever it takes to protect the only family member he cares about, even if it means betraying the woman he’s starting to realize he has way more than just professional feelings for.

I went into But First, Coffee thinking it was going to be an office romance, which I’m already a fan of. But it ended up being so much more than that. It’s an office romance with intrigue and manipulation and so many secrets that Darlington does a great job of revealing at just the right times that the novel keeps its momentum throughout.

And there’s also way more angst (in a good way) than I was ever expecting. Joe has a lot darker past than I would have guessed, filled with addiction and poor decisions and a lot of hang ups about sex and trust, all of which Darlington did a good job of exploring. There were conversations regarding sexual assault and how consent is a two-way street that I thought were covered interestingly and tactfully, but without very feeling too much like an after-school-special.

While I felt like the emotional aspect of Joe and Lana’s relationship moved a little fast, I thought the attraction between the two of them was well written and their dynamic was really interesting, so I was still sucked into the romance and chemistry of it all. Both Lana and Joe could have very easily fallen into classic workplace romance tropes, I loved that instead they had multifaceted personalities that I was intrigued by. It made them feel like real people rather than just characters, which was super important as the story developed and more of their personal demons came into play.

The culmination of the book was wrapped up a bit too easily for my liking, especially considering all threats and angst that Doug put all the characters through, but I feel like some of that might be addressed and explained in the next book in the series, so I’m not too bent out of shape about it. Overall, it was a fun and easy read with characters that I really grew to love.

An ARC was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions on this book are my own.
Profile Image for Shannon.
2,330 reviews166 followers
September 9, 2018

Hang on just a minute while I grab myself a Venti Grande Double Shot Extra Whip Pumpkin Spice Latte. Just kidding, I don’t drink coffee! But that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying But First, Coffee by Sarah Darlington!

But First, Coffee is a little different from Sarah’s previous novels- not the normal sexy and angsty New Adult stories we’re used to seeing from her, although there is plenty of sexy and definitely some angst and drama. This book is more of a romantic suspense with mystery and intrigue woven in with the romance. When Lana hires Joe she doesn’t realize he has the potential to ruin everything she’s built. He’s keeping secrets from her that he can’t ever share, even as things between them develop way beyond that of boss and employee.

There is so much more to this book than what you see on the surface. I loved how Ms. Darlington was able to give us a sweet and sexy romance while also adding in the mystery of Joe’s past and what brought him to this point in his life. Lana and Joe are great characters. They’re both strong yet vulnerable and I loved seeing all sides to them. I really enjoyed the way this story played out, although I wish there had been more consequences at the end- but maybe that's coming? I'm excited for the next book in the series!
Profile Image for The_reading_foodie.
460 reviews15 followers
September 17, 2018
Lana Bitterman wants to expand her company so she promotes highest selling barista Joe Coffee. They mutually feel a chemistry but can they make it work when there are secrets between them?

It was ok for me. I felt like i liked the storyline but Joe and Lana's attraction was insta and I find myself wanting more from books. I am interested to see where Kitty, a minor character in this book, storyline will go
September 8, 2018
So, I’m going to be honest....I was drawn to this book by ummmmm.......well.....okay.....the cover!!!! What an amazing cover!!!! The title also drew me in because I love coffee!!!!

I loved the storyline and of course I loved Joe and Lana’s chemistry together. The intrigue/mystery drew me in as well, because who doesn’t love a good mystery with some romance????

This was my first book from Ms. Darlington and I look forward to reading more from her.

Reviewed by: Dana D.
Profile Image for Natasha.
500 reviews25 followers
August 25, 2018
Lana Bitterman started Java Beans from a she'd in her father's backyard. It was her baby. She spent her life working it from the ground up. She called in Joe a barista to hopefully talk business and give him a promotion. Joe, who is being blackmailed by Doug with evidence he has on Joe's sister Kitty. But the closer Joe gets to Lana, the more he falls. Joe is left wondering what to do. Help protect his sister, or protect the woman he is quickly develping feelings for? It's a no brainer- he needs to destroy Lana and all she loves... Even if it means he destroys a part of himself in the process. 

Going into this book I fell in love with the hot cover, and was intruiged by the blurb. There was definitely more going on then a work place romance. 

Lana was all business. She lived and breathed Java Beans. When considering promoting Joe, she was taking a risk. He was just a barista to begin with, and she wasn't a risk taker. She planned out and analysed everything. 

Joe was hot, young, confident. But there was so much more to him. He had hidden secrets and mysteries- ones that Lana wanted to uncover. He had vulnerbilities. And was protective of people he cared about. 

Their romance moved quickly, and had hot and cold moments, when one or the other had insecurities come to light. But over all was a great read. 4⭐ out of 5⭐. 
Profile Image for Romance Schmomance (Malia) .
1,204 reviews98 followers
September 8, 2018


What an unexpected read this one turned out to be, but I loved it so much! This was a first time read from this author and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more by her. How do I even explain what I just read? It was such a different kind of romance story that I don't think I can say I've read before. It was somewhat of an office romance but on a whole different level. There was just so much more to it ... I'll probably be saying that one too many times.

We have Lana, the ever so fierce CEO of a super successful coffee empire, it was her baby with only starting from a food truck and it set off from there. But her work consumes her life up to the point where she's camping out underneath her desk when she works too late into the night. And that's where Joe Coffee came in, the top barista in her company that she wants to give a promotion to help with the business side of her company. One thing she wasn't expecting when they first meet was the instant draw she had towards him. Besides Joe's charismatic ways and charming looks, there's another reason he's in her office for an interview. He's being blackmailed. Besides the dirty undercover work that he's doing to help his sister out, there's something growing and instant between Lana and Joe. Neither one of them can understand nor what they should do with it. It's only so long that they'll be able to tiptoe around what they truly want, but what will happen in the wake of when the truth comes out?

So what made this more than any other office romance that I've read before? As much as I loved Lana and how fierce she was as a CEO, Joe captivated me with his painful and traumatic past. He definitely hasn't had it easy dealing with addiction and alcoholism, his life was spiraling out of control. Until one day where something extremely traumatic happened, he knew he had to make something better of his life. Once he shares it all with Lana, his character became much more real and raw. And definitely thought-provoking because I haven't seen something like his story in a book before. It's definitely one of those topics we are hearing about more and more, today. I love it when an author brings those elements into a story, it makes us stop and think, to hopefully understand the other side of the story, and to know that we shouldn't be silent about it. As tough as it can be to hear some of the stories, they always need to be heard.

As Lana learns more about Joe, she becomes so protective of him and is willing to do anything to shoulder some of his pain from the past. And I loved her utmost support towards him, even if he was holding a big secret from her.

There was seriously so much to love about their story, the emotions it emitted out of me combatting between both of these characters thoughts towards one another. Their constant internal war with why they shouldn't be attracted towards each other, it was rather cute and endearing. And of course, the steamy scenes are absolutely that, maybe one involving being pushed up against a food truck ;-) And some definite cute moments involving post-it notes! But I loved what Joe brought out of Lana, her life was very much a routine and she devoted every minute of her time to her company. Joe was definitely a great contribution to her company and you can see her relax a little bit, to finally pass some responsibility to someone else for once.

But First, Coffee threw some unexpected moments at me, but it flowed so effortlessly into the story. I devoured this book and would have definitely read it in one sitting if I wasn't so exhausted from chasing a 10-month-old all day. Highly recommend this book to everyone! I will say that I'm a bit surprised with who the next book in the Love & Coffee series, THAT hero has some major redeeming to do!

Absolutely loved this and easily added to my #RSFave list for the year!

Profile Image for Elsa Gomes (BookishAurora).
2,028 reviews261 followers
August 30, 2018
Rate: 3 / 5 stars

This book caught my attention with that sexy and enticing cover, and the blurb held my interest. But getting into this book you know right away that it is much more than an office romance. Joe Coffee does not have pure intentions and his job at Java Beans is nothing more than a set up. You see Joe is being blackmailed. with his sister's sex-tapes, by someone from Lana's past that wants to destroy her, and he is there in hopes to learn anything about her that will help in that destruction.
But once Joe and Lana meet sparks fly, the attraction between them makes them both act out of character. Lana puts her bitch boss face aside and Joe stops pretending to be an happy 24/7 kind of guy and starts being himself around Lana. Their relationship grows outside of the office, and while Joe is falling for Lana, he is putting his whole plan at risk and the blackmailer doesn't like that. Things are put to the test, risks become higher and feelings grow stronger. How will Joe get out of this mess? Will he chose to keep protecting his sister and hurt Lana and himself in the way, or will he find a solution to all their problems?

But First Coffee was a lot different than what I was expecting. I thought this was going to be a cute and fun office romance but it was much more than that, it had a lot suspense and a tiny bit of angst. When it comes to the romance between Joe and Lana, it all happened too fast for me. I get the attraction and the lust but taking into account Joe's past and his fears and problems, it just all happened too god damn fast and at times it just became unrealistic and weird.

And the whole blackmail ordeal... well the guy had been after Lana for years and all of a sudden he gives his blackmail material way just like that. It was too god damn easy and honestly unrealistic too. Just no. And I mean Joe and Lana made him out to be a psycho and an horrible guy and then once every things comes to blows, he suddenly isn't that bad and wants to help Kitty and everything. That sudden change in his behavior...again not believable. It just didn't add up.. I mean he wanted to destroy Lana for years and now he just gave that up and decided to be a good guy for nothing.. hmm no.

The book was fun and I enjoyed Joe and Lana even despite how fast things progressed with them, but there were a lot of things not right with the suspense plot. It was just very unrealistic, like things were happening out of convenience for them. Oh let's make this revenge plot so they can meet and once the truth is all out there and they are okay let's just solve the issue without a problem.. hmm no. I didn't like that, it didn't feel right. But outside that the book was okay. If you're into romantic suspense and office romances and let's not forget COFFEE, then give this one a chance.

Oh and I really found the characters names hilarious. You'll see once you know them ahah.

➳ARC kindly provided by author, in exchange for an honest review.

➳ Order at: Amazon UKAmazon US

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Profile Image for Peggy M.
712 reviews8 followers
September 9, 2018
I received an ARC of this book and this is my voluntarily, honest review of it.

There are two things that I enjoy very much in life and that’s reading and drinking coffee. So you can imagine my delight when I read the title of this book and then the blurb. It sounded like a story especially writing for me.

This story managed to surprise me. I thought that I knew what this book was about and in a way I was right but what I didn’t expected was for the male character Joe Coffee to be so ‘complex’ and fascinating. He completely took me by surprise. I loved it!

Lana Bitterman is an ambitious woman and through hard work, luck and good decisions she’s now the owner of a big coffee business. But that success also has a down side. It has left her lonely and overworked. So when she hears about Joe Coffee (I love that name!), someone how isn’t only a great barista but also extremely smart, she decides to promote him to help her out with her work. But soon Lana discovers that Joe Coffee is dangerous for her. Because he makes her feel things that she haven’t felt in a long time. But could someone who’s a few years younger than her and popular feel something for her too?

Joe Coffee had a plan, get close to Lana Bitterman, get her to trust him and then get the information that he needs and be gone. The one thing he didn’t count on, was the chemistry between Lana and him. The feeling she gives him, like she can see the true ‘him’ deep inside.
The last thing he should have done was touch her or let her touch him because from that moment on, his plan changed forever.

The story started strong, it had my attention from the start. The story is told from both POV’s.
I liked the main character very much, they were the perfect match. Joe was more impulsive and energetic because of his ADHD and Lana was more thoughtful and calm. So they balanced each other in that. I like the little gestures in the story, like the little notes they wrote to each other. The writer also wrote about some difficult subjects, something that I didn’t expected from this book but it made that the story went from a light read to a more thoughtful read. I appreciated that very much.

What I, personally, did have a little problem with was the ‘bad’ guy in this story, Doug Maddox. Because even after finishing this book and after the explanation, I still didn’t really understand why he did what he did. What made that for me the story ended a little less strong than it started. But it still was a good story.

‘But first, coffee’ was a nice surprise and I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

Profile Image for Emily (Mrs B's Books).
1,548 reviews84 followers
September 4, 2018
**My thanks to the author for providing me with a free copy for an honest review**

This book contains romance, suspense happy endings and the openings into book two of the series.

Joe Coffee is being interviewed by Lana Bitterman the owner of Java Bean as he has a reputation in her company and she wants to promote him, however things are not quite what they seem.

The chemistry between the two right from the beginning has the flames leaping of the pages and even though he is a little younger it doesn't seem to matter and Joe finds himself telling Lana things that he really does not mean to let slip.

Both Joe and Lana work well together in both the bedroom and at work, however when a plot is uncovered and blackmailing is also revealed the pair work together to sort out the wrinkles and kinks in order to get their lives back on track.

I really loved this book and the opening into the next book with Joe's little sister.
Profile Image for Dana.
632 reviews50 followers
September 8, 2018
So, I’m going to be honest....I was drawn to this book by ummmmm.......well.....okay.....the cover!!!! What an amazing cover!!!! The title also drew me in because I love coffee!!!!

I loved the storyline and of course I loved Joe and Lana’s chemistry together. The intrigue/mystery drew me in as well, because who doesn’t love a good mystery with some romance????

This was my first book from Ms. Darlington and I look forward to reading more from her.
Profile Image for Kelly (the book hussy).
1,544 reviews44 followers
August 29, 2018
”I’ll be your risk, and you can be my safety.”

Quick read with some drama and suspense. I have mixed feelings with this one. I liked Lana and Joe together. Joe’s backstory was a bit hard for me to believe. But it added to his vulnerability with Lana, which was nice.

The storyline with Doug is confusing. Doug is the “villain” in the story. All the drama and suspense didn’t end up going anywhere and I was left scratching my head by the end of the book.

Overall, it was entertaining. Easy to read. I just wished the story and characters were better fleshed out.

ARC provided for an honest review
Profile Image for Books with Brittany.
127 reviews4 followers
September 1, 2018
I should probably start this off saying I do not drink coffee lol!!
"He's young. He's confident. He's cocky." That one sentence told me everything I needed to know about Joe Coffee!! You can feel the love from the first chapter, the characters may didn't know it but I DID! Who can turn down drama, love with some hot sex scenes, and suspense?! I have one problem, I NEED book 2 NOW!!
Profile Image for Leanne.
535 reviews45 followers
August 26, 2018
This is a really nice, light, quick read with just a little hint of suspense and drama thrown in.

It is a wonderfully written book, with some great characters, although i did feel they maybe could have done with a bit more developping, they are a bit bland. I did like how the usual stereotypes have been flipped and the woman is the rich, powerful CEO. I also really liked the relationships, particularly that of Joe and Lana, they really do work perfectly together and it's heartwarming to read.
The situation with Doug towards the end, for me is a little weird. Im not totally sure that it feels like a satisfactory result. From the way he was described, i was expecting more tension, maybe something a bit more fiery.
The open ended conclusion to the Doug and Kitty storyline has really left me wanting more and i will definitely be keeping my eye out for her story.
Profile Image for Isha Coleman.
6,989 reviews135 followers
August 26, 2018
Darlington gives coffee and conspiracy, a cute makeover. Who knew the business of coffee brewing was so cutthroat? But First, Coffee goes from light and fluffy to sweetly romantic and intensely suspenseful. Lana is the brains behind Java Beans, a thriving business that specializes in coffee. Joe is a barista that enjoys his job. Not all is sweet in the world of coffee and Joe could find himself on the losing end. His heart or protecting his sister. Which will he choose? The twists are plentiful, but so is the emotion.
Profile Image for Sona Via.
169 reviews22 followers
August 31, 2018
Coffee shop--check
great romance possibility ----check
vulnerable hero--check
wonderful heroine--check
hot and filthy sex-- sex
great story with twists--check
100% smutt satisfaction--check

It is one of the rare romances where we have a hot dude with severe traumatic experience and super vulnerable side that needs healing. Yes yes yes and yes.

Highly recommending!!!!!
Profile Image for Anne Z..
554 reviews33 followers
September 7, 2018
My first book by Sarah Darlington and most definitely NOT the last. I am officially a fan!

All characters had charm and were original. There was plenty of chemistry, charm, drama and unexpected moments to keep you on your toes.

Loved It!

Full review coming soon!
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Profile Image for Weronika -  Little Steamy Reads.
636 reviews102 followers
September 10, 2018
Coffee- what an amazing invention. With a cup of this magical drink you are able to overcome a bad mood, forget about bad weather and wake up to life.

Lana Bitterman is a woman of success. She runs a company that produces and sells coffee, which she created from scratch. In order to further develop her company, she decides to promote a barista working in her company - after all, who knows the coffee better than the person who serves it?

And here comes Joe Coffee (I love the variation on the hero's name!). The enigma man. Open and funny in the open. Alone with Lana, very mysterious and withdrawn.

„It seemed like Joe had twenty different shades to his personality and each day I met a new one”

The chemistry between these two is simply amazing! From the very first moment, they feel their mutual attraction. Unfortunately, both of them try to fight it. Lana is Joe’s boss, and besides, she is not a woman who chases after guys. Her priority is her work and there is no time for distraction. Joe, in turn, has a different problem - his past has made a really good number on him and Joe has a problem with opening up to women. There is also another problem - he is being blackmailed by a friend from his past to spy on Lena and help him destroy her company.
Joe has no idea what role the man plays in Lana's past or what she did to him to earn his hatred, but apart from infatuation, Joe also feels a protective instinct towards her. In the same way as in relation to his sister, who is in fact the cause of all the situation with blackmail. Based on this, we can confidently say that Joe is an incredibly loyal and caring person.
Push and pull is amazing. Both are convinced that they shouldn’t do anything with mutual attraction, but desire is stronger.

"If you're not careful, I might just fall in love with you"

Joe is the first man for whom Lana wants to take a chance.
Lana, in turn, is the first woman since the turning point in Joe's life, to who he wants to get closer.
But in order to be together, Joe must take a risk and confess to Lana the truth about blackmail and hope she will forgive him. He must also think about how to solve the issue of said blackmail.

For me the characters are a perfect match. He’s impulsive, full of energy. She’s a little bit timid, calm, collected. They complement each other perfectly.

“This thing we have going on, that we’ve started, it really is a perfect balance. I’ll be your risk, and you can be my safety”

It was a really good read. Perfect story to dive into with a hot cup of coffee on a lazy afternoon :)
A huge plus for dual POV - I really like books in which both sides are allowed to speak! The only downside for me was a small amount of information about the backgrounds of Lana and Joe (before his self-destructive path).

Do I recommend this book? Hell yes! If you want a great and little angsty story with twists and some hot and steamy scenes – But First, Coffee is a book for you!

*ARC provided by the author. Thank you very much!
Profile Image for Fhina.
308 reviews80 followers
September 11, 2018
ARC kindly provided by the author. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

I really, really enjoyed this books (just as much as I enjoyed previous work by Sarah). It's an easy going and light read.
Our main characters are the charismatic Joe Coffee - a barista gone Vice President of Growth and Development - and his boss and CEO of Java Beans, Lana Bitterman - hell a girl boss.

He is sexy, tempting and sweat, trying to please Lana. Soon taking a lot of own responsibility, having Lanas back and not shying away from being upfront honest with her. But does he really only wants the best for the company? After all, he has a dark past and there's a reason he escaped New York to live in Portland...

"My dad once told me that I need to toughen up because my heart would always be my biggest downfall, and dammit if my old man hadn't been one-hundred and ten percent accurate."

She's the tough businesswoman, who would go beyond everything and further for her baby Java Beans. She hires Joe Coffee because after conducting some research, she's impressed by his resume and knows, that's the man she needs to push her business further. She starts to trust him soon and giving him the lead in a new project just some days after he started his new position. But there might be reasons she shouldn't trust him after...

"I was a grown ass woman. Beautiful men did not make my knees week."

But what happens if their past is catching up with them?

I liked that our main characters, they are nice and especially Joe Coffee will now forever hold a place in my heart. The that we learn more about the characters and their past made them complex and likeable. The relationship between them is lovely, however, move really quickly and to a level that seems not real. The HEA is nice but unexpected

All in all, I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars because it's still such a lovely read! PS: Another character we meet is Kitty, Joe's little sister. I didn't really like her in this book but I'm curious how she will develop in the next book that will tell her story!
September 14, 2018

Disclaimer: An eARC was provided via the Author as part of the Bookstagram Tour. The Thoughts, opinions & feelings expressed in the review are therefore, my own.

This is my first book by Ms. Darlington – and I am honestly in two minds about this one.

But First, Coffee is all about coffee
(which honestly, is my lifeline) & the main reason why I actually signed up for the bookstagram tour. This book is an older woman / younger man romance; for those who would like to know.

I adored the hero & heroine as individuals – Lana is strong, successful businesswoman who has worked hard for her life and knows exactly what she wants in her personal and professional life. But it was Joe Coffee (YES COFFEE!) who had my interest right from the start – he is a young prodigy who has had his brush with drugs, alcohol and sex, leading to addiction. Uniquely, he also has had issues with sex after a traumatic incident (so different from the usual, only heroines could be traumatized due to a sexual incident).

Both Lana and Joe are brilliant individually; and I honestly liked them both together as well; but their relationship was overshadowed by the apparent villain of the story – Doug. I could go on about their interactions; but that would mean spoilers.

I also, honestly do not like over the top drama in my stories – I am okay with angst, but unnecessary drama? No thank you very much. Yet I am giving this book 4 Stars for the writing style; and I am honestly quite intrigued with the sneak peak into the next book about Doug – yes I am something of a hoe for villains; sue me. Wait, no don’t – I don’t think my bank balance, after buying books will be able to handle it!

For more reviews visit For The Love of Fictional Worlds :)
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Profile Image for A Book Obsessed Brit.
547 reviews60 followers
August 27, 2018
My first novel by Sarah Darlington and I am a self confessed cover whore, so of course this book had me on reveal day! Once I read the blurb it gave me the impression this was something a little different to the normal workplace romance, to see the heroine as the CEO and the hero as her employee was a refreshing change.

The story centres around our Heroine Lana Bitterman, the 30 year old CEO of Java Beans, a coffee franchise she has built from the ground up. Lana is an insecure and very lonely woman on the inside; but feels she has to maintain her stern, crisp, clean, devoted businesswoman façade wherever she goes to keep her company expanding.

Joe Coffee is a 24 year old barista working at one of Lana's stores. He has made quite the name for himself as an excellent employee, with charm, efficiency and good looks that don't harm when working front of house. After some background research on Joe, Lana decides to make an offer to Joe that will place him in charge of the company's branch development. Joe accepts the offer; but it here we learn Joe has his own reasons for taking the job.

We are introduced to the underlying storyline of blackmail and Joe's struggle to decide who to protect between his Sister Kitty or Lana, the woman he has been hired to destroy. As the story develops Joe and Lana begin to have feelings for each other, their chemistry is cute and endearing. Joe is surprisingly willing to open up to Lana and shares his demons, which add yet another dimension to his character, as well as the over arching storyline.

I found Lana and Joe's chemistry sweet and believable, I liked how vulnerable and lonely Lana really is. Joe is a multifaceted man with his ADHD making his thought processes and responses a little different from what we are used. I found that to be refreshing and gave Joe an edge,adding a little element of unpredictability.

Secondary Characters Doug and Kitty were essential to the plot line. Doug a very unlikeable man with a surprising sense of morals where one woman is concerned - who knew?! Kitty is Joe's younger sister, struggling with her own addiction issues, she is the reason Joe is being blackmailed to begin with. The relationship between Kitty and Joe is lovely to read; but she is somewhat of a spoiled brat and very Marmite. What I did like about her was her sass and her tenacity especially towards to end of the book, the teaser for But First, Whiskey left me feeling very curious indeed.

Overall I made short work of this novel, the story held my attention, the character dynamics and nuances kept it fresh for me. I was satisfied with how it played out and really enjoyed Joe and Lana working through their own stumbling blocks to help heal the others along the way. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Book 2 in this series.
Profile Image for Michelle Abascal Monroy.
336 reviews34 followers
September 4, 2018
But first, Coffee by Sarah Darlington is a book that when you read the blurb looks like an office romance but once you start reading it you know is more than that!! First we have Joe and Lana our couple that let me tell you the thing that it most capture my attention was that the heorine was older than our hero, but i have to confess that reading the book i couldnt notice that so much, because once you read this book and know the characters you will understand that they have really different personalities one of them is a bit shy and the other is like more social with people.

This book is about discover that you can find love in the last place you expect, thats what happen with these characters that they find each other working together but also Joe has another intentions behind to work with Lana that are related to her little sister, but then Joe discover that the things you plan not always happens the way you want and he will have a some problems to show Lana that he loves her and at the same time help his sister.

If you want to know the whole story you NEED to read this book as soon as is live, because this is a quick and light read that has romance, drama and suspense... so if you love to read those things this is your book.

Congratulations Sarah for this really good book!
Profile Image for Joy Novel Thoughts.
573 reviews63 followers
September 12, 2018
But First, Coffee was a cute book low on the angst, although it had potential for more fall out than there was, and I read it all in one day.

I think what I really adored the most about this story was Joe. He was a breath of fresh air hero! In fact, he's the complete opposite of the the jerk alpha heroes I've read lately and I couldn't get enough of him. He was sweet and romantic and tender. And goodness I just want to hug him!

Lana was a little more difficult to figure out, I liked her well enough, but she was supposed to be a career driven woman who spent all of her time at her office, sleeping under her desk, but I never felt like she was actually doing any work.

But First, Coffee was a fun, flirty read that dealt with lots of sexual harassment issues any many different facets without diving too deep into them. As I reading But First, Coffee, I really enjoyed it but as I'm sitting here the next day I'm realizing there were several things that I found issue with.

If you want to take this story at face value it is a light and fun read with a sexy, delicious hero that you won't be able to resist. So, if you want deep you will probably be annoyed, but if you want light you will be delighted!
September 3, 2018
Check out this review and others at
Newsletter : http://eepurl.com/brwkPv

I received this book from the author for an honest review.

I love Sarah’s books and sign up to review them when I get the forms. Something about the way she writes and her kinda but not really insta-love….dude its romance and I like it.

So Joe and Lana……ok when I read the blurb of the book I thought it was gonna be like the movie You got mail. Remember that movie in the 90’s with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks…I mean Joe is watching Lana to undermine her and all that jazz…..so I was all in with the book.

But I think I got so much more in the book. There is a lot of chemistry, lust and ANGST people. Sarah is the queen of angst. Have you read her other series??? OMG so good!! The story was a great book with blackmail to save our sister but falling for your target. We soon discover many layers of Joe and Lana plus the other characters, Kitty and Doug. We see the main couple falling in love while trying to figure out what to do and also looking ahead to Kitty’s book. Maybe the spoiled brat will soon learn a thing or two about love.
Profile Image for Amazeballs Book Addicts.
2,797 reviews242 followers
September 9, 2018
I loved this one. It's a must one click. All of the characters are interesting. Lana is the CEO of Java Beans. She's thought of as a tough boss. She's strong but she's also sweet. Joe Coffee is barista for one of her coffee shops. He's sexy and smart. He's kind of a little mystery and has a past. He's being blackmailing by Doug to help him take Lana down. Things don't go to plan when Joe and Lana actually meet. There is so much chemistry from these two. Joe opens up to her about things he hasn't told other people. My heart melted for these two. I loved them together. As I was reading along and they where connecting so well, I was also worried about what would happen when the truth come out.
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