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Chef's Kiss

A Novel

Book #1 of Chef's Kiss

About The Book

Like a dish of comfort food you’ll want to devour.” —The Washington Post
“It’s hard to say which aspect of TJ Alexander’s novel is sweeter: the slow-burn romance or the drool-worthy desserts.” —Time

A high-strung pastry chef’s professional goals are interrupted by an unexpected career transition and the introduction of her wildly attractive nonbinary kitchen manager in this deliciously fresh and witty queer rom-com.

Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the 21st century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life.

To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. When Ray accidentally becomes a viral YouTube sensation with a series of homebrewing videos, their eccentric editor in chief forces Simone to work alongside the chipper upstart or else risk her beloved job. But the more they work together, the more Simone realizes her heart may be softening like butter for Ray.

Things get even more complicated when Ray comes out at work as nonbinary to mixed reactions—and Simone must choose between the career she fought so hard for and the person who just might take the cake (and her heart).

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Chapter 1
Eight unbaked loaves of sourdough sat on the test kitchen counter, and Simone was working on the ninth.

She had come into work before the sun was up just for this: the culmination of many weeks spent perfecting her no-knead recipe. Each batch of dough had a slightly different ratio of bread flour to whole wheat, or salt to water. The doughs had risen overnight, and now they were nearly ready for the decisive bake. Simone could feel her excitement building, and in the quiet of the test kitchen, which was empty at this early hour, she allowed herself a pleased hum. She gave the ninth and final batch of sourdough its third fold-and-turn, then placed it gently in a parchment-lined bowl, where it joined the lineup. She frowned, giving the bowl a slight nudge.

There. Now all nine bowls were perfectly aligned in a neat row of stainless steel to match the rest of the sterile industrial kitchen. She jotted down a quick note to herself so she could keep them all straight—they were arranged from most bread flour to least starting on her left—and tucked the note in her apron pocket. Soon she would find out which recipe was the best of the lot. They just needed one last short rise before they went into the oven.

A glance out the window told her the sun was rising, too. Simone took a moment to sip her coffee and watch the peaceful scene unfold outside. From the top floor of the West Village office building, she could see the tiny triangular park across the street, the burbling fountain in its center lined with sleepy pigeons.

She took another drink of coffee. It was good—dark and strong. No one else on staff had the patience and know-how to coax the test kitchen’s overly complicated espresso machine into producing it. Sometimes, she mused, hard work did pay off.

Though she was young—twenty-eight years old—Simone Larkspur had been aggressive in her career as a pastry chef, working long hours in restaurants of incrementally better quality and doggedly writing freelance articles for food and wine publications until she attained her dream job: recipe developer and writer for The Discerning Chef.

Most people had never heard of The Discerning Chef. It was a hybrid publishing company that put out a series of cookbooks and an eponymous magazine “since 1952,” as their logo proudly proclaimed. Their material was aimed, supposedly, at chefs—whether professional or amateur, The Discerning Chef could never seem to decide. Simone had been working there for nearly three years, and she took such pride in her job that she couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Simone was considering whether she had time to cook herself some breakfast when she heard the test kitchen’s swinging door creak open. She turned, wondering who else would be there so early, and found it was Delilah, the assistant to the editor in chief.

“She wants to see you,” Delilah said in a tone that managed to be both firm and sympathetic. Her crisp shift dress and box braids were as precise as her gesture in the direction of the executive office. “You can go straight in.”

“Me? But—” Simone gazed at her row of sourdough loaves. They needed to be scored and baked in about fifteen minutes. “Can I just—?”

“She’s waiting,” Delilah said, effectively destroying Simone’s hopes of finishing up her task before facing her boss’s boss. Delilah must have noticed the despair on Simone’s face, because she added, “Everyone in Editorial is taking a turn. You just happened to be the first one here this morning—and, well, every morning. No need to worry.”

In Simone’s experience, when someone said you shouldn’t worry, you should very much worry, and in fact, should clear your schedule to do nothing but. Still, if the big boss called, she couldn’t dither. She squared her shoulders, stood at her full height (which, honestly, was not very tall), and marched to the executive office.

She tapped at the cloudy glass door and cracked it open, popping her head in to find the woman herself at her desk: Pim Gladly, editor in chief of The Discerning Chef for over thirty-five years, a giant in the culinary world. She was an occasional judge on one of those cooking shows that tortures its poor contestants with impossible, nightmarish tasks. She’d made several hardened chefs cry on camera. She was actually a popular meme, used primarily for reactions that required unimpressed judgment, though she refused to learn what a meme was.

Her eyes found Simone from behind an overly large pair of eyeglasses framed in red ovals. “Ah. Simone.” Her gaze flicked down to her desk, where she seemed to consult a slip of paper. “Have a seat.” She waved her hand toward one of the leather chairs opposite.

Simone perched on the chair and faced Pim with what she hoped was an earnest, serious look on her face and not anxiety-riddled terror.

“What did you want to speak to me about, ma’am?” she asked.

Simone had only spoken to her editor in chief a handful of times, so tacking on the “ma’am” seemed prudent. Ms. Gladly tended to stay above the day-to-day workings of The Discerning Chef’s operations, taking a more macro-level view of the business. This meant that, for the most part, Pim Gladly only came into the office two or three days a week, with the rest of her time occupied by her house in the Hamptons, her various boards of directors, her judging panels, and her seven purebred, wire-haired dachshunds.

She gazed at Simone across the expanse of her cluttered desk and said, “We’re not making any money.”

Simone blinked. “Oh.” She waited for Ms. Gladly to continue, and when she didn’t, she ventured to say, “Well, TDC has always served a niche market, and as long as we continue to provide that market with quality work—”

Gladly shook her severe pageboy-styled head. She continued, her voice lilting between a mid-Atlantic accent and a quasi-British one. “No, Simone. Actually, if we continue on as we have, we will shut down by next year. No one is buying our books. No one is subscribing to our magazine. No one cares about The Discerning Chef these days, not when they have cable television and the internet. We are a dinosaur,” she said, lifting a paperweight from her desk and holding it aloft, “and if we do not act quickly, we are not going to be able to dodge the meteor.”

She brought the glass lump of the paperweight back down with a heavy thud, making everything on her desk—and Simone—jump.

Simone stared at her. Her dream job was disintegrating like so much grated Parmesan in a hot risotto. Though her stomach hurt at the prospect, her head was already calculating who would be most likely to hire her after The Discerning Chef folded. Gourmet? TasteBuzz? That guy from culinary school who always seemed to be opening a new bistro every six months? She could make some calls. She disliked the idea of going back to work in a restaurant kitchen, where the pay was low and the nights were long, but it would cover the rent until she found something more stable.

But then the portion of her brain not occupied in revising her resumé came up with a pressing question. She decided to ask it aloud. “Why are you telling me this, ma’am?”

“Because.” Pim Gladly stood from her desk and crossed over to the window, where she could fold her hands behind her tastefully khaki-jumpsuited back and gaze out on the little park opposite the office building. “It is now the mission of the entire Discerning Chef staff to get us out of this mess.” She whirled on Simone. “You’re all supposed to be the most clever, inventive minds in the business. Well, we’re going to need every bit of it. We must pivot, and pivot hard.”

Simone’s mouth opened, then closed, then opened, then thought better of it and snapped shut again.

Ms. Gladly cocked her head. “Come on,” she said. “Speak up. You clearly have something to say.”

“Right.” Simone cleared her throat. “It’s only—I’m not sure how you’d like me to pivot. I write recipes. I think they’re very good. That’s what I know how to do, and I’m not sure I can do it any differently.”

“They might be the best recipes ever devised in the history of the electric stove, my dear,” said Pim with a snort, “but if no one reads the damn things, it doesn’t matter how good they—or you—are.”

Simone flinched. She had found herself thinking on exactly this fact many times in the last few months as TDC’s subscription numbers dwindled, but it did not make it any less painful to hear it with her own ears. If a dish is created in the forest, and there’s no one around to attempt it themselves, is it really a recipe? Of course not. A recipe is only a recipe insofar as it is cooked, and Simone’s recipes, according to the sales of The Discerning Chef’s books and magazines, were not being made in any great numbers.

“Maybe this is something you should discuss with marketing and publicity,” Simone suggested. “It’s kind of their job? They might have ideas.”

Gladly waved a hand through the air, jangling the many metal bangles on her wrist. “Oh, them? I’ve fired them.”

Simone’s mouth fell open. “You what?”

“Fired them. It was only three people—four if you count the intern—which”—she tapped a finger to her chin—“I don’t think we paid her. Maybe we should have kept her on, now that I think of it.”

The marketing and publicity department hadn’t contained any fast friends of Simone’s, but she still spared a moment to feel sad for Patty, Nadine, and Jill (plus the intern whose name she’d never quite caught), who’d been so unceremoniously tossed down the garbage chute. Spine going stick-straight, Simone cleared her throat. “Ma’am, without a team of people dedicated to marketing or publicity, I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get out of the hole.”

“Those fossils put us in this hole,” Gladly said, returning to her chair and rapping her knuckles against her desk. Simone frowned; the dinosaur metaphor was coming apart at the seams. “We don’t need any more of that kind of help, thank you. It’s time to start fresh, a clean slate. Totally overhaul The Discerning Chef as something”—she wiggled her shoulders—“hip.”

Simone’s heart sank.

“Youthful,” Pim added.

Her stomach flipped.

“Urbane.”

She shut her eyes. This wasn’t happening. Please, she prayed silently, tell me this isn’t happening. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and opened her eyes. “Ma’am, I’m not sure I know how to make TDC… all of that.”

“Nonsense.” Gladly waved a hand in Simone’s direction, indicating, perhaps, her twenty-eight-year-old, overachieving, flour-dusted self. Her sensible cardigan with the little pop of personality in the enameled orchid pinned to the collar. Her glossy brown hair pulled into its sensible half-twist. Her millennial what-have-you. “You’re just the thing.”

Simone’s discomfort grew. “The thing for what?” she asked.

“Our new direction.” Pim Gladly held her hands up, making corners with her thumbs and forefingers, a little invisible screen in front of her. “I’d like you involved in our video-content initiative, Simone.”

“Videos?” Simone floundered. “But—”

“Yes, I know, it’s a wonderful opportunity for you,” said Gladly. “Likely more responsibility than you could have hoped for, but I am certain you will rise to the occasion and make us proud.”

“But, ma’am,” Simone choked out, “I’ve never made a video. I’m not a YouTube star. I don’t even know how to use Instagram!”

Gladly’s eyes narrowed. “Are you saying that perhaps you’re not up to the job?” She reached for a very expensive-looking pen on her desk and toyed with it. “That would be a shame.”

Simone imagined that pen signing a pink slip with her name on it. Would Pim Gladly really fire her over this? She’d never been fired before, not from any job, let alone her dream job. Her stomach dropped even further. She wasn’t sure she could bear that kind of shame. Her mom would be so disappointed. Her dad would probably be disappointed, too, if only to put on a united front, which had been the hallmark of her parents’ divorce.

“Of course that’s not what I’m saying,” she backtracked. “Only—this isn’t my wheelhouse. I studied at Le Cordon Bleu. I know food, and I know how to write about food. I don’t have any experience in, in”—she gestured helplessly—“video content.”

“Well, if that’s your only worry—”

“It’s not.”

Gladly kept talking as if Simone hadn’t spoken. “—then I have wonderful news. With all the money we’ve saved on marketing and publicity salaries, I was able to arrange for an expert to help train you and the rest of our video-ready chefs in the necessary particulars. He will also spearhead our rebranding and video launch.”

Simone’s brow furrowed. “But couldn’t I just—”

“No need to thank me! This is really going to put you on the fast track, my dear.” Gladly stood and held out her hand. Simone, dazed and unsure what else to do, stood and shook it. Gladly grinned. “Delilah will find some time to have you meet the new camera boy. Oh, and more importantly, our freshly minted director of social influence.”

“Social influence?” Simone echoed.

“Social. Influence.” The handshake ended with Simone’s fingers feeling rather numb. “Excellent catch-up, Simone. Thank you.”

Feeling very much like she was being dismissed, Simone walked out the door in a daze.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Chef’s Kiss includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q & A with author TJ Alexander. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Simone Larkspur is a perfectionist pastry expert with a dream job at The Discerning Chef, a venerable cookbook and cooking magazine publisher in New York City. All she wants to do is create the perfect loaf of sourdough and develop recipes, but when The Discerning Chef decides to bring their brand into the twenty-first century by pivoting to video, Simone is thrust into the spotlight and finds herself failing at something for the first time in her life. To make matters worse, Simone has to deal with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager, whose obnoxious cheer and outgoing personality are like oil to Simone’s water. Watch Simone learn about vulnerability, community, what it means to be seen, and what it means to see someone for who they really are.

Discussion Questions

1. At moments of stress, Simone turns to baking. She thinks to herself, “It was therapeutic . . . She imagined the bowl held all her frustrations. The expectations of the digital world. The fact that the rug had been pulled out from under her feet overnight” (p. 32). What about baking is so therapeutic for Simone and why? How does it influence the way she interacts with the world?

2. Simone and Ray are like oil and water in many ways. Although this makes them approach life quite differently, it also makes them very well suited to each other in a classic example of opposites attracting. Describe each characters’ qualities and why their differences make them a strong couple.

3. Simone notes that Ray signals their queerness with a pride bracelet and reflects on her own: “Simone, who had considered the matter very seriously before deciding at age ten that she must be bisexual, didn’t care to make a fuss about it” (p. 14), and “unmentioned-in-polite-company bisexuality” (p. 19) has long been part of her identity. Despite her self-awareness around her bisexuality developing at a young age, why do you think Simone is private (or even protective) about it into adulthood?

4. Chase describes his vision for the upcoming video project as “Practical. Lucrative. Scalable. Uniformity” (p. 26). Do any of these concepts seem to align with Simone’s personality and vision for TDC? Which ones do, and which ones don’t? What about Chase makes him someone Simone clashes with at work?

5. Simone shares with us the “second rule of the Larkspur-O’Shea household”: “Pay Luna in Tasty Food and Baked Goods for Emotional Labor Including but Not Limited to Discussion of Trans Issues” (p. 48). What about Luna’s emotional (and intellectual) labor warrants some type of compensation from Simone? How does it differ from other kinds of emotional labor between friends?

6. “I understand you are a friendly person. Please extend the same understanding to me when I say I am only interested in work when I am in the test kitchen. You are my colleague, and that’s it.” What do you think of Simone’s delivery of this message to Ray on page 53? Why do you think she said it this way, and would you have said it similarly or differently?

7. There are many wonderful secondary characters in Chef’s Kiss. Who did you most enjoy seeing interact with Ray and Simone, and how did they help you get to know our main couple better? Are any of them characters you’d like to see star in their own rom-com? What about them made you enjoy their presence so much in the novel?

8. “Maybe it was just laziness, not wanting to bother with any milk” (p. 69), Simone thinks as she tries to reason why Ray would give her a black coffee, exactly the way she likes. Why does she assume the worst about them at this point in the novel?

9. “Ray is not a fluke” (p. 98), Simone asserts to Pim Gladly when Chase reduces Ray’s online success to luck. Why does Simone feel empowered to defend them in this moment?

10. In Chapter 16, Ray comes out to Simone. Describe the circumstances that led to them coming out. [1] What responsibility do the people at TDC hold in putting Ray in that position? What could have been done to avoid this?

11. Which of the dishes and baked goods described in the novel would you most like to try? What techniques does TJ Alexander use to make the food sound enticing and delicious? Are there any recipes you plan to try making yourself?

12. We only see the beginnings of Ray and Simone’s romance—what do you think their relationship will look like in the upcoming years? How do you think they will grow and create a life together?

13. “It has come to our attention that certain individuals are pushing the boundaries of professionalism . . . forc[ing] personal intimate details of their lives onto their coworkers. This is harassment . . .” What is uniquely prejudiced but also inaccurate about this email from TDC’s HR department concerning Ray on page 177?

14. While Chef’s Kiss tackles big, important topics, such as gender and sexual identity, workplace discrimination, and allyship, it is also a very funny novel. What were your favorite funny lines? Was there one character in particular who made you laugh most? In what ways do characters use humor to get through challenging moments, and how do their senses of humor help you understand them better?

15. TJ Alexander said they want to write novels about queer joy. In what ways is this a joyful novel?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Reflect on Simone’s response to Ray’s coming out. In what ways was Simone supportive of Ray? Consider researching nonbinary and trans allyship on the websites of organizations like the Trevor Project or GLAAD and discuss what you learned about how to support people in your life who may come out to you.

2. Come up with the perfect three- or five-course meal to symbolize the journey of Ray and Simone.

3. “That part where they made the women sing and then the men . . . I hate that there wasn’t a place for Ray to sing” (p. 164–65), Simone tells Luna. Think about the ways in which our society defaults to the gender binary. What are everyday, simple ways to challenge this binary and make space for nonbinary people?

A Conversation with TJ Alexander

Q: How did you develop Simone and Ray as characters? Were you inspired by people you know or were they completely imagined?

A: If Ray and Simone were inspired by anyone, it was myself. It truly felt like I was splitting my own personality into two halves and giving them both their own lives. On the surface, I’m a pretty outgoing person and I want to make people laugh, but inside I can be anxious and distrustful, so creating Ray and Simone was an exercise in getting those two halves to talk to each other. I think a lot of people feel similarly about their personalities, and there’s often a feeling of disconnect associated with it, but Ray and Simone were my way of coming to terms with the idea that those two aspects of personality are actually complementary. They don’t have to fight all the time. They can work together and protect each other. Welcome to my therapy session, y’all!

Q: Why did you decide to make food a central theme of the novel?

A: Because I’m constantly thinking about food. I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch already, and I just finished breakfast. Food is a basic necessity, but it’s the only one that feels fun to me. Also, is there anything more wonderful than feeding the people you care about? It’s just a lovely expression of love; it’s a great shorthand.

Q: Galettes! Tropical fruit cheesecake! Chocolate trifles! How did you come up with the recipes and the food in the book?

A: Confession: I am not a gourmet cook. When I cook or bake at home, it’s usually really simple stuff. But like most people who watch baking competition shows, I’ve become a real armchair quarterback. You look at the recipes super-talented and creative people have come up with on TV and you think, “Hm, should have added a crunchy element.” Like, who am I? So the recipes in Chef’s Kiss were born out of a combination of classic family recipes that I’ve made a thousand times and those moments where I thought with much hubris I could improve a champion baker’s cake. Dreaming up food I would make if I had the skills is definitely my favorite pastime.

Q: Why did you decide on a romance between a nonbinary person and a cisgender person? What about this dynamic is unique and something you were excited to explore on the page?

A: When I started writing Chef’s Kiss, there were a few (very few) nonbinary side characters in mainstream media, but I had never seen someone like me in a starring role being loved and in love. That’s not a good feeling. So I knew I wanted to write about a nonbinary love interest. I decided to pair them with a cisgender person so that the story would act as a kind of love letter to the cis folks in my life who were there for me when I came out. Some of the most tender moments between Ray and Simone involve conversations very similar to ones I had with friends and family who really wanted to be supportive and were terrified of making mistakes because they love me and don’t want to hurt me. I was incredibly lucky to experience that—not just the acceptance (which should be standard issue) but the give-and-take of compassion—and I wanted to show readers how magical that can be.

Q: What are your hopes for queer, trans, and nonbinary representation? In romance, literature, and beyond!

A: Oh, we plan on stealing everything cis people have and claiming it for ourselves. Ha-ha, just kidding! (Or am I?) But honestly, LGBTQ+ folks have not been allowed to be the heroes in our own stories for far too long. I’m tired of seeing one throwaway line that teases some microscopic hint of queerness. I’m tired of scraps. I want to see our queerness enlarged, in full color, as huge and complicated and beautiful as we are in reality. I want to see every trope, every genre queered to hell and back. We deserve it.

Q: Do you have any hopes for what trans/nonbinary readers will take away from this? And for cisgender (queer or straight) readers?

A: I hope trans/nonbinary folks who need to hear it will read this story and understand that they are loved and loveable. Our experiences are all so vastly different, so a trans or nonbinary reader may not see themselves in Ray, and that’s okay. But if this book reminds trans/nonbinary folks in some small way of their immense, gorgeous power, I will consider it a win. For cisgender readers, I hope they see that it’s not really about getting pronouns right every time (although that would be nice) or saying the correct thing every time (although, again, that would be nice!); it’s about seeing trans and nonbinary people as worthy of love and respect and acting accordingly as best you can. That includes standing up for us however you are able, in small ways and big ones. Also, we’re very hot. I hope that gets through to cis folks.

Q: It was difficult reading about the bigotry and injustice Ray faces in their workplace. Was it difficult writing about it?

A: Uh, yeah. That part really sucked. But I didn’t want to ignore the fact that, in a toxic environment, that stuff happens all the time. When Ray comes out, they are saying “I am sharing this piece of myself and I am not ashamed” and ill-intentioned people around them use that tiny point of vulnerability and twist it around to essentially say, “You should be” just so they can achieve their own goals. And it’s cloaked in all this passive-aggressive pseudo-concern, which is the worst part, because it really is just garden-variety bigotry in a new hat. We’re seeing this play out on a national scale with anti-trans legislation across the country right now in 2022. But as hard as it was to write about, I needed to see the people who care about Ray come to their defense and stand by them. We all need to see that.

Q: What’s next? Another romance novel? A sequel?

A: Oh, wouldn’t that be fun!? [winky face] Listen, the good people at Atria/Simon & Schuster told me I could keep writing about queer folks kissing, so I will keep writing about queer folks kissing. Everyone say, “Thank you, Atria/Simon & Schuster!” I’m serious about queering every genre and trope. I want to write about queer people kissing in historical fancy clothes and queer people kissing in space and queer people kissing on beaches while the sun sets. Queer people kissing and cracking jokes: that’s what’s next.

I don't know if I am comfortable with framing coming out as either/or. I think readers would lose some of the nuances about it if that were the case. The follow up questions stand well enough on their own, I think.

About The Author

Photograph by Demi Y. Guo

TJ Alexander, the critically acclaimed author of Chef’s Kiss, is an amateur baker and author who writes about queer love. Originally from Florida, they received their MA in writing and publishing from Emerson College in Boston. They live in New York City with their wife and various houseplants.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books (May 3, 2022)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982189082

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Raves and Reviews

"CHEF'S KISS is a luscious dessert of a novel, a romantic comedy as classic as it is modern, as satisfying as it is groundbreaking."

– Camille Perri, author of WHEN KATIE MET CASSIDY

"I want to give this book the biggest hug! CHEF'S KISS is an utter delight, filled with sumptuous food, and adorable banter. This is the first time I've read a book with a nonbinary love interest, and I was cheering for Ray and Simone the entire time. At times, it can be heart-wrenching, but above all it is the ultimate feel-good read, something I will be recommending to everyone!"

 

– Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of DIAL A FOR AUNTIES

"Sweet and so deliciously written! This charming foodie romance is brimming with delectable baking and memorable characters. Simone and Ray’s connection started out a bit grumpy/sunshine, but with a pinch of kindness, a dash of mutual support, and a heavy splash of acceptance, their relationship baked up into a sweet treat that is sure to melt your heart! An enjoyable debut!"

– Farah Heron, Author of ACCIDENTALLY ENGAGED and TAHIRA IN BLOOM

"With its adorable grumpy-sunshine pairing, plenty of pining, and sumptuous descriptions of food, CHEF'S KISS is a sweet treat of a romantic comedy. But beyond the delicious recipes and the playful banter between the charming leads is a story about the sometimes difficult realities of the queer experience, and Alexander effortlessly tackles heavier topics without ever losing sight of queer joy and the happily ever after these characters deserve!"

– Alison Cochrun, author of THE CHARM OFFENSIVE and KISS HER ONCE FOR ME

"A truly delightful debut, as queer as it is sweet. Cheerful Ray and prickly Simone are a match made in a test kitchen. This tasty, modern rom-com celebrates loving fiercely, living authentically, and eating well."

– Georgia Clark, author of IT HAD TO BE YOU

"One of the most intricate and satisfying queer romances in years. Fans of Casey McQuiston will be wowed."

– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"It’s hard to say what’s sweeter: the slow-burn romance or the drool-worthy descriptions of decadent desserts."

– Time.com

“Swoon-worthy… Readers who enjoyed the adventures in romances like Alexis Hall’s ROSALINE PALMER TAKES THE CAKE and Adriana Herrera’s MANGOES AND MISTLETOE will likely eat this one up too.” 

– Library Journal

“Delicious… Alexander whips up a delectable couple with Ray and Simone; they are each on their own journeys for self-awareness and self-confidence, which they gratifyingly achieve on an individual level. Alexander’s romance confronts workplace discrimination, internal biases, and issues like transphobia and misgendering with ease. Baked to perfection.”

– Kirkus Reviews

*May's Top Rom-Com Reads*

– USA Today

"Tender, sweet, and hot."

– Amanda Elliot, author of SADIE ON A PLATE, for The Nerd Daily

*Highly Anticipated LGBTQ+ Romance Novels Releasing in 2022*

– Buzzfeed

"2022 might be the year of queer foodie romances."

– Autostraddle, "Queer and Feminist Books Coming Out Spring 2022"

"A cute, romantic tale . . . For fans of The Charm Offensive and Red, White, and Royal Blue."

– LibraryReads, May 2022 Top Ten Picks

"This sweet contemporary Own-Voices romance by a nonbinary author is recommended."

– Booklist

"If you followed the rise and fall of Bon Appetit video, this should be on your TBR."

– BookRiot, "19 Must-Read Queer Books Out in May"

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