Sunday 15 August 2021

#CBR13 Book 30: "Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake" by Alexis Hall

Page count: 449 pages
Rating: 4 stars

CBR13 Bingo: Libations (the whole setting of the book is a televised baking show, so there are a lot of both sweet and savoury baked treats in the story and featured on the cover)

Official book description:
Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory.  Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.

I'm not the first Cannonballer to review this title, and I doubt I will be the last. Last year, I read and absolutely adored Hall's Boyfriend Material. It got me out of a reading slump and I loved both the two protagonists and all of the supporting cast around them. My rather high expectations of this book were somewhat tempered when fellow romance reviewer, Emmalita, read an ARC of the book and admitted to not being able to finish the novel. Naturally, that made me a bit wary, but the reasons she gave for not being comfortable with the contents are not things that necessarily upset me. 

Nevertheless, I went into the book with lowered expectations, and that might have been good because Rosaline Palmer is a very different book from Boyfriend Material. The first one is a straight-up romantic comedy, complete with a lot of the tropes we expect from that genre. In this book, there is absolutely romance, but the heroine does spend basically the whole first half of the book with the wrong guy, so to speak and the primary plotline in the book is more about Rosaline's journey of self-discovery and self-determination than it is about her finding lasting romance.

As a huge fan of the Great British Bake Off (or Great British Baking Show, as it is known in the US), the fake baking reality show, complete with esteemed judges, snarky hosts, foul-mouthed and ill-tempered producers and all manner of baking shenanigans was absolutely an added bonus. The fact that Hall is apparently going to write more Bake Off-inspired romances delights me to no end.  

One of Hall's strengths, I find, is how well he writes not only his protagonists but makes all the supporting characters feel real and essential as well. Rosaline's daughter could well have been an annoying plot moppet in less skilled hands (seriously, so many writers just don't know how to include realistic children, and should just refrain from including them in their books). Lauren, Rosaline's ex and now best friend was also great (as were the appearances of Lauren's current girlfriend when she occasionally popped up). The various other baking show contestants felt very real, and even Rosaline's demanding and occasionally overbearing parents felt very realistic. 

If you don't find self-centred, narcissistic, and emotionally manipulative love interests an instant turn-off (be assured that he is not Rosaline's HEA, and she gets a lovely guy when she just wakes up and stops second-guessing herself), and are OK with this romance being a lot more slow-burn than Oliver and Luc's, this is a fun book, especially for those of us who want more GBBO. 

Judging a book by its cover: Possibly in keeping with the central story of this book being Rosaline finding herself and discovering what she wants to do with her future, rather than the romance, this cover doesn't feature any male love interest, only our heroine herself, with a number of delicious baked goods and baking utensils floating in the air around her. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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