When I first learned about the premise of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, I nearly burst from excitement.
A romantic comedy set during the filming of what is essentially The Great British Bake Off? Sign me all the way up.
Generally, when I’m that excited about a book, I preorder it right away, but I heard about this one so far in advance, that wasn’t an option yet. So, of course, it fell off my radar until one day I realized it had come out already!
I was impatient and bought the eBook so I could get it immediately. I’m regretting it now, because have you seen the cover? It is gorgeous. Alas, mistakes were made.
Gorgeous cover aside, let’s dig in to see whether this book earns a Hollywood Handshake or if it’s style over substance.
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The problem with hearing a book’s basic premise well in advance of any other plot details is that you can start whipping yourself into a meringue-like frenzy of assumptions.
I imagined Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake would be something light and airy. Standing in a tent with lovely pastel-colored mixers, falling in love slowly over the course of the show while producing increasingly impressive baked goods.
As soon as I started reading, I sensed it wasn’t going to be the book I expected.
The book is a great deal of fun, with a good sense of humor.
However, I’m afraid it brings in one of my least favorite love triangle tropes. The one where the protagonist is dating a complete jerk but for some reason they don’t realize it, and meanwhile a perfectly decent alternative strolls about in the background being nice and patient.
So background and so patient, in fact, that I probably wouldn’t have realized it was a love triangle at all if I hadn’t read about it in some of the pre-release reviews.
I disliked love interest number one almost immediately and spent a good portion of the book wondering when Rosaline would realize he was, in the vernacular of the book, a complete knobhead.
They fell in together quite quickly, without the sort of yearning preamble I personally prefer in a romance, which made me all the less likely to jump aboard that ship.
While I could understand why Rosaline felt drawn to love interest number one, I was… not pleased with having to go along as he became increasingly unlikeable and she continued to be with him. This one gets me probably because I’ve been in that kind of situation before and used up all my patience on, well, me.
I will say this felt much more true-to-life than a lot of romances for that reason. We do often see an attractive person who is interested in us and go for it without necessarily thinking it through. And we can dig our heels in and tell ourselves it’s a good idea even when we kind of realize it’s not.
It’s just that I don’t personally enjoy that particular flavor of reality in my love stories.
The Bake Expectations frame was a ton of fun, though I’ll admit less idyllic countryside tent and more realistic behind the scenes look at filming a TV show. Nevertheless, the jokes and nods to the show we all know it’s based on were fabulous and hilarious.
The cast of characters is quirky, well-rounded, and diverse, as well as just generally a ton of fun. I loved getting to know all the contestants and watching them all navigate the weirdness of baking while being filmed and answering questions without making it sound like they’re answering questions.
Frame story of reality TV aside, the world of the book feels real and vibrant and full of the same problems of modern life, like parenthood and classism, and bi-phobia.
Rosaline is a single mother who relies on her upper-class parents and ex-girlfriend to help raise her daughter. Her parents make it clear she’s fallen flat of their expectations, while ex-turned-best-friend Lauren’s constant presence means questions from strangers about her sexuality.
For some reason, I wasn’t expecting to confront these social issues on the page when I formed my imaginary picture of what this book would be. Ultimately, it makes the book stronger, if less of a sugary escapist delight. We don’t get to step outside our identities when we date any more than we do at any other point, so of course, race, class, and sexuality all come into play.
In all, while I’m glad I read this book, I wish I’d gone into it without so many expectations for a romance with a Great British Bake Off vibe.
This wasn’t the light, fluffy romp through the tent that I expected, and it never promised me it would be. I still enjoyed the reading experience overall, but I think I would’ve done better if I’d come in without quite so much anticipation.
In spite of my own personal hangups, I recommend this book to those who love a good bake, fans of queer romance, and fans of the Great British Bake Off. The protagonist is also a single mother, so if you like that in a romance, this will likely be a fit for you, as well.
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