‘Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble’ Made Me Crumble With Joy

Did I pick up Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble because I needed something fitting to read on my trip to Paris? Maybe. But I also didn’t want to miss a new Alexis Hall romance.

Set in the same universe as Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, this sweet queer romance gave me everything I was hoping for:

  • A cute and chaotic main character
  • A flamboyant, no-nonsense love interest 
  • The need to romanticise my life
  • Cravings for cake

Paris Daillencourt Is About to Crumble follows shy, anxious, talented Paris, as he enters Bake Expectations, a baking show much like Bake Off, where he can finally shine. Paris is the son of a famous couple, but despite his privilege, financial security, and excellent education, he’s incredibly self-deprecating and anxious.

When his flatmate signs him up for Bake Expectations, this is supposed to prove Paris how talented he is in the kitchen, and that he should have more confidence in himself. What the seemingly nice gesture ends up doing, however, is plunge our main character into a pit of anxiety which ends up complicating his life even more.

On the show, Paris meets (or, rather, hits in the face with a fridge door) attractive, confident, sparkly Tariq, a gay Muslim with a colourful personality. I loved Tariq from the first moment he entered the scene.

He’s the kind of grounded, self-aware character I always love to see in queer romance: a well-defined personality who stands out and helps bring the (usually) chaotic protagonist back down to earth.

We follow Paris and Tariq on their slightly messy romance, as they get used to each other, set boundaries, and try to work through their own struggles, while supporting the other to do the same. The baking show also comes with a striking cast of side-characters, in true Alexis Hall style, which help expand Paris’s too-controlled world and act as a training ground for him to face his anxiety.

Paris finds out pretty late in the story that he does, in fact, struggle with generalised anxiety. This is obvious to the reader from the beginning. Being in his head is exhausting, and I felt both represented but also enlightened by how his worried mind works.

I also struggle with anxiety, albeit not to that extent, and found it refreshing that Alexis Hall really committed to depicting the constant buzz in an anxious person’s mind, and how that can mess up their relationships, opportunities, or chances of success.

What I liked was how Tariq was committed to call Paris out when he was out of line (which was often), but still understanding and forgiving as long as Paris was honest about his feelings. The more common approach to mental health in books is complete support from the other characters, which can set some unrealistic expectations. 

In real life, even when someone struggles with their mental health and deserve sympathy, chances are we won’t get it every time. And it’s important to show that poor mental health can’t always be an excuse for hurtful behaviour.

Another interesting element was that Tariq — a practising Muslim — didn’t want to have sex before marriage, a trope I’ve never seen explored in romance before. I felt it was important to depict this religious preference, especially within a same-sex relationship.

Paris’s relationship to his parents was the real heart-breaker of this story. Throughout the book, we see how Paris texts his parents often to update them on what he’s up to: the competition, Tariq, and university. But his parents never text back.

The more texts he sends, the more doubtful you, as the reader, become that his parents really exist at all, which adds an interesting emotional layer to the reading experience. The more Paris reflects on his childhood or shares memories with Tariq, the more things start making sense: his parents, rich, famous and admired as they are, completely neglected him all his life, and at the point of the story, are entirely absent. Paris has to come to terms with this terrible reality.

I loved this book, it has everything that makes Alexis Hall’s romances so good: distinctive characters, laugh-out-loud humour, wide representation, and thought-provoking conversations. If you love queer romance (and cake), definitely pick this up.

Published by Eliza Lita

Founder and editor-in-chief: Coffee Time Reviews. Freelance writer and Higher Ed comms person.

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