Author: Alexis Hall
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.
If you love The Great British Bake Off (UK)/The Great British Baking Show (US) (“Bake Off”), then you will absolutely adore this novel. It is pretty much three stories in one as there is the Bake Off portion where the contestants are on-site each weekend for filming, there is the romance element, and there is a nice character growth journey for the MC, Rosaline Palmer. In this story, the reader follows Rosaline’s experience as a contestant on Bake Expectations. Each section of the novel is one week in the competition where there is the brief time before and after the contestants are on-site and then there is the two actual baking challenges for the week. Similar to the actual show, Bread Week was my absolute favorite and I loved how it was written in this story!
Rosaline Palmer is a 27-year-old stationary shop worker. She dropped out of school on her path to being a doctor after she became pregnant at 19. She is also bisexual, which becomes a playing factor in the story and is well-written into the main story. She is a character that I both liked and disliked, but still rooted for overall. She had so many good qualities, but I think it was how some of her traits and conversations were written that did not gel as well with me. The information itself was fantastic, but it was written more as preachy instead of being naturally informative.
The very first moment Alain, a fellow contestant and a landscape architect, and Rosaline interacted, I absolutely could not stand him, and so it was very difficult to continue to read at times once the two of them develop a relationship. For me, there were zero redeeming qualities, although I can see why others might find some good traits. As I did not like his character, I almost found myself dreading reading about his parts and hoped that Rosaline would see the light and move away from him. When she was away from him and around either the other contestants or Lauren and her daughter, it was a much more enjoyable story for me. It definitely took a lot of talent on the author’s part as I do not outright characters usually, so I commend the author for being among the few that made me hate a character.
Luckily, there is another potential love interest that catches her eye that she becomes friends with, Harry, the electrician. Although he is written as being the “hot one” on the baking show, I love that he was a contender at least to catch Rosaline’s attention. He is a working class more gruff man that usually is not a featured love interest. I loved that he was written this way as the middle class typically is not written into romance stories in favor of more “flashy” careers. In addition, he is written as the tougher guy who does not always know how to express his feelings and he is dealing with his own anxiety issues. I loved his interactions with Rosaline and the other contestants. As a whole, the contestants were all fun as I liked the comraderies they had on and off camera. As the book states, it is one reason why a lot of viewers like this show as it is not as cutthroat as other similar shows.
Overall, this novel was very fun and a lot different than I expected. I thought it would be a more straight romance story within a baking show setting. It felt more women’s fiction as Rosaline was on her journey to grow and realize her potential and worth. This was not a bad thing, though, as I rooted for her to find happiness. I loved her eight-year-old daughter, Amelie, and, of course, her best friend Lauren. Rosaline is a flawed character that is barely making ends meet in her daily life, but she will do whatever it takes to give her daughter a great life. She does not always make the best decisions, but she tries to learn from her mistakes. Her journey of self-discovery was nice, but there were moments where I wished she would realize some things sooner so I would have more time to enjoy it before moving on to other growths. This was still a very fun story and I will definitely continue reading Alexis Hall novels in the future!
**I want to give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Forever (Grand Central Publishing), for a review copy of this very entertaining novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**