Hall, Alexis. Paris Daillencourt is About To Crumble. (Winner Bakes All, #2) Forever/Grand Central Publishing, 2022. 368 pp. ISBN 9781538703335 $15.99
Alexis Hall is sort of like the James Patterson of the romance genre: he pumps out a pretty decent bestseller every 4-6 months. In this one, Paris, a wealthy ball of anxiety, goes on a competitive baking show when his larger than life Glaswegian sex goddess roommate signs him up for it, where he meets Tariq a sweet Muslim man abstaining from sex until marriage. They embark on an relationship with an agreement to be honest with one another, but Tariq comes to the honest conclusion he cannot in fact handle Paris’s Parisienne-ness, and they split which prompts Paris to seek a diagnosis and get some professional help in managing his GAD.
Conversations about penises and consent; race, class, colonialism, and religion; celebrity, fame, and social media; and toxic masculinity and mental health are the chunky, hefty, salty peanut butter to the decadent chocolate that is the two weekly baking challenges. That’s not to say that part is going smoothly–except with every challenge Paris is sure he’s getting sent home and he wins the two in a row. The hosts are hilarious caricatures of the worst of competition cooking shows. I did squirm at jokes about Nazis, homophones, and anti-semites, but they were lambasting them, not supporting them. Tariq and Paris work through several misunderstandings and conflicts in very a healthy, mature, and realistic manner. The first half of the narrative is focused on the filming and the crumbling of Paris, while the second half is focused on the airing of the showing and rebuilding of Paris.
Sometimes I’m not sure if Hall is trying too hard or just truly over the top brilliant and funny, but the acknowledgements and book club questions at the end are as screamingly funny as other moments in the books, so I’m going with authentic, real deal. The dialogue is fast paced and whip smart, and Paris is so painfully awkward it’s not to be believed … except I DO know people like that. Hall puts the comedy in romantic comedy for sure. Some readers may find the humor and situations cringe-worthy but I know others will eat it up. Side note: Paris texts his absentee parents once a week, and they never reply; this added a poignant counterpoint to the shenanigans. The recipes at the end are a nice touch. And the cover art is pretty perfect: a rainbow layer cake that hints at the baking theme, the seven-episode art of the competition, the character complexities, the LGBTQIA+ cast, and the delicious story.
Perfect for fans of The Great British Bake-off or Rosaline Parker Takes the Cake (also by Hall) which has some of the best qualities of Paris Daillencourt—great foodie descriptions, warm relationships and quirkier characters—with the anxiety and penis jokes dialed back.
I received a free advance readers review copy of # from #NetGalley.