Winner Bakes All, Book #1
Heat Factor: There’s a decent amount of mediocre sex, and then some spectacular sex.
Character Chemistry: Well…it’s complicated.
Plot: Love at the Great British Bake Off!!!!! (Obviously Alexis Hall is not looking for a lawsuit, so the name was changed and it’s not in a tent.)
Overall: I was feeling a bit anxious about where this was going in the first chunk of the book, but ended up loving it.
I have a confession to make: I had not read the blurb when I picked up this book. I knew the heroine was a bisexual woman, and that she entered the GBBO, er, Bake Expectations. I was therefore feeling very nervous around Week 2 of the competition, because it seemed like maybe the hero was an enormous wanker. If you would like a similar reading experience, please stop reading this review.
I have another confession to make: I didn’t read Boyfriend Material. I know everyone loved it. Erin reviewed it here at TSR, and she still talks about how much she loved it but…eh. It never called to me. I have read Glitterland, and it was so amazing that I forced Erin and Ingrid to also read it. So I can’t speak to Boyfriend Material comparisons, but this book reminded me a good bit of Glitterland, except it’s much less raw. For better or worse.
Final confession: Reviewers who are categorically stating that this is NOT a romance novel, but rather Women’s Fiction (the horror!!!!) need to chill out, because the genre is not so fucking calcified that a book that has an unconventional courtship arc and centers the growth of the heroine but still has a clear HEA has to be categorized as something other than romance. Does Mariana Zapata write romance? Yes? Then this is one too, thanks. As you can see, I’m a bit irritated about this.
Ok, but back to Rosaline Palmer. Single mum, perpetual disappointment to her fancy doctor parents, has qualified as a participant on this season of GBBO. En route for her first weekend at the fancy country house, she has an epic train SNAFU, and is stranded in the countryside—with another contestant. An attractive, male contestant, with whom she trades witty banter. What a meet-cute! Too bad Rosaline lies to him to make herself sound more fancy and important, and then immediately regrets it. However, since Rosaline does NOT lie to the other contestants once they arrive at the fancy country house, Alain quickly finds out.
Here’s where the nerves came in: Alain was kinda overly pissy about Rosaline’s deception. And he snarked on the other contestants in a mean-spirited way, but it seemed like Rosaline liked it? I was very not sold on Alain as our romantic lead, but figured, hey, maybe he’ll get better.
He doesn’t. Alain is a complete and utter and unredeemed wanker.
Luckily, he’s not actually the romantic lead, even though Rosaline spends a solid chunk of the book dating him (or rather, boning him with vague feelings of forced enthusiasm).
Enter Harry, another contestant. He and Rosaline get off to a rocky start, because, let’s be real, Rosaline has some snobbery. Harry says “ain’t” and doesn’t know that Rosaline is a minor character in Romeo and Juliet and is an electrician and, oh yes, he’s a stone cold hottie. Harry is also my first ever book boyfriend. I never understood the term, but NOW I DO. (He and Rosaline have excellent chemistry, by the way, once they actually start spending time together and develop a sweet friendship that eventually morphs into romance once Rosaline kicks the wanker to the curb.)
I’m getting long-winded, so I’ll try to wrap this up.
Anyways, so here’s your warning #1: If you don’t like love triangles, you probably shouldn’t read this book.
Warning #2: Rosaline is not exactly a likeable heroine. I have a soft spot for unlikeable heroines, but other readers may find her to be off-putting. She aggressively stands up for herself—sometimes. Which means that sometimes she’s too much, but sometimes she’s not saying what desperately needs to be said. She is frequently consumed with self-doubt. She self-sabotages because she desperately wants Alain to like her because he’s the “right kind of person,” and is pretty blind to his wanker-dom. (Look, everyone makes bad dating decisions sometimes. Ask me how I know.)
Warning #3: Rosaline sometimes gets a bit preachy about gender socialization and consent and bisexuality.
If none of these things are dealbreakers for you, then I highly recommend this book. Hall is an extremely witty writer. The tiny details about the baking show are so recognizably GBBO, complete with bad puns, which is super fun. The supporting cast is amazing, especially Rosaline’s daughter Amelie, who is in no way a plot moppet, and does things like tell her mom all about sarcastic fringeheads.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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