Recommended Read, Review

Review: The Romance Recipe by Ruby Barrett (2022)

Heat Factor: Sex, then denying it has any meaning.

Character Chemistry: They have alllllll the feelings.

Plot: Amy keeps making decisions for everyone else.

Overall: Look, this is a sexy, bi-awakening, f-f chef story. How could I not love it?

Illustrated cover marketing strikes again! While this book isn’t being promoted as a rom-com, I must admit that I expected something pretty light-hearted and upbeat based on the extremely adorable cover, and this book is definitely not light-hearted and upbeat. Before you start worrying, I wouldn’t say most of the content is particularly heavy (there are some obligatory toxic parents); rather, this is an emotional romance with a good dose of angst.

The basic premise of the book is that Amy owns a struggling restaurant; Sophie is the head chef. Before working for Amy, Sophie did a stint of reality TV—and her minor celebrity is part of the reason Amy hired her. But things aren’t quite clicking for them at work. This is partially because Amy is a control freak who refuses to listen to anyone else’s advice, and partially because Amy and Sophie are so distracted by their attraction to each other that they haven’t figured out a good working relationship. Also, it turns out that Sophie hates being a minor celebrity; she just wants to make good food. (Her anxiety about her social media presence, though not a major plot point, was a throughline that I appreciated.)

Sophie and Amy admit their physical attraction pretty early on. But that doesn’t mean everything is smooth sailing. Oh no. There’s a lot of then “playing it cool” with each other. You know, one saying “Oh, this is just casual” because she thinks that’s what the other person wants; the other person feeling hurt, but then doing the exact same thing. There’s a lot of push and pull that some readers may find frustrating, but that I, surprisingly, didn’t. Yes, all of their problems could have been solved by open and honest conversation, but open and honest conversation can be hard and scary, especially if you’re emotionally constipated (Amy) or unsure of yourself (Sophie). For me, Barrett handled the dynamic between Amy and Sophie really well as they figured out their relationship, while also struggling with the damage caused by their own bad impulses (Amy makes decisions for others, Sophie sometimes makes herself small). However, I acknowledge that some readers may find this dynamic of Amy and Sophie being all up in their feelings frustrating.

One of the most poignant scenes in the book takes place over breakfast. See, Amy loves breakfast. She came up as a chef, but doesn’t really cook these days—except for elaborate breakfast for herself every morning. She imagines cooking breakfast with Sophie. She realizes she loves Sophie because the feeling she gets around Sophie is the same feeling she gets when she’s sitting with her many houseplants eating pancakes in the soft morning light of her apartment. Imagine Amy’s disappointment when Sophie sleeps over for the first time—and reveals that she doesn’t eat breakfast. (As a fellow breakfast eater who is horrified at the thought of skipping the most important meal of the day, I can only say: Amy, I feel your pain.) They still cook lemon ricotta pancakes together, but Sophie skedaddles and Amy eats her beautiful stack of pancakes alone. I bring up this scene because it so perfectly encapsulates the problem with falling in love: that the reality doesn’t always match the ideal image you have in your mind, and in that jarring moment you can hold on to the ideal, or you can adjust. This scene also perfectly encapsulates Amy’s struggle to let go of control in the face of changing circumstances.

A final note: don’t read this book hungry. As I was reading, all I wanted to do was eat poutine while wearing a parka on a snowy day, which sadly is not going to happen for me any time soon since it’s approximately a thousand degrees outside where I live.

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.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Looking for something similar?

Women in the kitchen

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