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 knew I was going to like this book when a character mentioned the Child Catcher (from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) within the first few pages. A+ reference—that n’er do well has frightened several generations of children—why is he so creepy?
But I digress. This book has everything:
A precocious child: Rosaline’s daughter Amelie is intelligent and astute and adorable… so she clearly deserves to have some of the best lines in the book.
Baking: As the punny title suggests, a good portion of this book takes place during the filming of a fictional baking show called Bake Expectations. See, there’s another pun! There’s a lot you can learn about a person by watching them bake, which is probably why the Great British Baking Show.
A love triangle: I have a confession to make. I didn’t read the description before jumping into this book. I said to myself, “Bisexual single mum, baking show, meets a nice man? Sounds good, let’s go!” And then there’s a moment fairly early in the book when the polished and erudite Alain makes a disparaging remark about Harry. I actually said out loud, “Um, WTF?” Except I didn’t say W-T-F. I said the whole phrase. I don’t intend to paraphrase the whole book, but needless to say, Rosaline was a bit taken aback by the comment, but she second guesses herself. This is such a natural thing to do, and I don’t think we should fault her for not dropping Alain like a hot potato right then and there. Besides, if Rosaline had figured out that Alain was rubbish, there wouldn’t have been much of a book. This is what is referred to in the lit crit business as a “well developed character arc”.
But the enigmatic Harry proves to be much more than the stereotypical “lad” he appears to be. Not only is he a deft baker, but he’s a good and decent man. And Rosaline doesn’t know what to do with this knowledge because Alain is the sort of man she thinks she’s supposed to be with.
Or rather, he’s the sort of man her parents would want her to be with.
But then again, Alain is a snake.
Okay, I should stop talking about the book before I give everything away. I have yet to tell you who wins Bake Expectations, and you won’t pry it out of me, even if you ask nicely. But there’s something to be said for the fact that once again, Hall has managed to disregard conventions of the genre by having the protagonist spend a good portion of the book with someone she’s not meant to be with. And the lesson to be learned is that perhaps these conventions no longer need to be conventions; they’re not necessarily relevant anymore, as Hall proves so deftly.
Have I mentioned that this book is hilarious? Hall has such a knack for dialogue, and this book is no exception. I spent the majority of the book highlighting the best lines like I was studying for an exam, and laughing to myself.
Needless to say, I would absolutely recommend Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake. This book is sweet and tender and Rosaline is such a delightful protagonist. She’s just doing the best for herself and Amelie and doesn’t go onto the baking show to find love, so she’s just as surprised as the reader to find two eligible gentlemen interested in furthering their acquaintanceship with her. I am planning on buying my own copy of this book as well as the audiobook. Well done, Alexis!
I received an ARC of this book from Forever/NetGalley