I had a really good time with this.
But also fuck Alain.
So this is a romance set in a famous British reality baking show, very much like The Great British Bake Off. Our heroine is Rosaline, a twenty-seven year old bisexual single mother of an eight year old daughter. Rosaline meant to become a doctor, but an unplanned pregnancy derailed that career choice and now she works in a shop, and bakes in her free time. The book actually starts on the first weekend Rosaline is set to be away from home at the baking competition, which I thought was super smart. We don’t need to see anything before that. She’s nervous, and unsure of herself. Her general attitude about herself going in is that she is constantly making the wrong decision. But this show is her chance to finally make something of herself and to gain some level of financial independence (she relies on her wealthy doctor parents quite a bit, and wishes she didn’t have to rely on them at all). If she just so happens to get involved with the smart, charming man she meets on the way to the show, well, that’s just a bonus.
Never trust a charmer.
I was warned going in by multiple people (foremost, our own Emmalita) that, a) Rosaline spends a significant portion of time with The Wrong Guy, and b) He’s a royal shit-stain of a human being. As a consequence, I spent a large portion of my time while reading this book really trying to figure out why Hall wrote it that way. Why have your main character spend so much time with such a dick weasel? ESPECIALLY since the alternative to the dick weasel is the loveliest cinnamon roll of a man ever to grace the pages of any romance novel. I’m honestly not sure I have a concrete reason yet, still mulling that over, but I do know that in the end I personally thought it was well worth it. I felt such a catharsis when that dillweed was out of the picture.
Other than Alain and one scene of excruciating secondhand embarrassment early on (if there had been more of it, this would be a very different review), this book was a pure pleasure. Hall has a real gift for dialogue. His writing is often extremely funny, while at the same time making the characters come to life. The baking show element gave me such a fierce craving to rewatch GBBO that I ended up binging all the way to the semifinals of the season American Netflix has labeled “Beginnings” almost immediately after I finished the book (it’s the season with James and John and Brendan and Manisha and Sarah-Jane; I don’t remember who wins, though, don’t spoil it for me!). And oh my god, there’s this character who might win the prize for most swears in a row, and most swears in a book. And there’s a huge payoff with her near the end when she goes after the dickweasel. It was so good.
One thing I really appreciated about this book is that it really took the time to develop Rosaline’s relationships with the other people in her life. With her daughter, Amelie, and her best friend Lauren (who is also her ex), her fellow contestants, her parents, etc. Her relationship with her parents and Amelie is just as important here as the dude she ends up smooching on. This book is also very, very funny. Ultimately, the main event in the story is Rosaline learning to trust her own instincts and not be afraid to lean in to the things she’s actually good at, rather than what somebody else thinks she should be doing. (There’s issues of class baked in here as well in a very British way. If this book had been written in America, it would have been very different, particularly where Harry, the cinnamon roll, is concerned.)
I will definitely be re-reading this one, and very much looking forward to the second book in the series. Hopefully for all of you who couldn’t deal with Alain to the point of DNFing, there will be no assholes with Narcissistic Personality Disorder to worry about.
CBR BINGO: Libations (lots of cakes and pastries inside the book, too! don’t read this while craving sweets)