Winner Bakes All, Book #2
Heat Factor: Tariq is waiting for marriage, and we’re going to respect that decision
Character Chemistry: They’ve got a cute grumpy-sunshine thing going on—when Paris can get out of his head
Plot: Paris and Tariq are both competing on Bake Expectations, and the internet casts Paris as the season’s villain.
Overall: Was this a difficult book for me to read? Yup, it sure was. Did I bad decision book club it anyway? Yup, I sure did.
I struggle with protagonists who are up in their heads and constantly second-guessing themselves and engaging in negative self-talk. I think this is because I am frequently up in my own head and would prefer to read about characters who are more externally focused. When these characters are the only perspective we’re getting in a romance, I find it even more challenging. And Paris Daillencourt is one of the most challenging characters I’ve read in a long time. Through the course of the book, he is diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, so he has a lot of anxious thoughts and moments where he just spirals and I found the story extremely stressful to read.
On the other hand, Alexis Hall is an incredibly talented writer. He writes messy characters who are struggling with their mental health with compassion and knows when to insert a bit of truly absurd comedy to lighten the mood (Tariq lives in a student flophouse with four Daves, and the scene where Paris meets them is utterly ludicrous while also being utterly believable because twenty-year-old men are gonna twenty-year-old man). The plot clips along at a good pace, and I was interested to see how the story would get resolved.
In terms of the romance, this book is firmly in the HFN category, and might fall into smut adjacent territory, depending on how much journey of self discovery you’re willing to entertain. This is Paris’s story, and while Tariq does get to grow too (and learn what it means to actually support a partner going through some mental health stuff), the real focus is on Paris learning some coping mechanisms so that he can be a better partner, friend, and person.
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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