Desert Isle Keeper
What a fun, refreshing slow-burn of a romance! Chef’s Kiss understands what joy cooking can bring, and it brings it to life through a union between grumpy and sunshine, that universally appealing combo. TJ Alexander has some real writing skills, and they deploy them perfectly.
Highly-strung Simone Larkspur is a busy pastry chef who lands her dream job in the test kitchen of a cookbook/magazine publisher called The Discerning Chef. The Discerning Chef has decided to follow Gourmet and other publishers into the video content world, which means Simone suddenly finds herself baking bread for a much wider audience than anticipated. This was not a part of her initial duties, and Simone is not good on video. At all. She fails pretty quickly and must grapple with trying to figure out how to do the video personality thing.
Trying to keep her perked up is Ray Lyton, who manages the test kitchen. Simone can’t stand Ray’s cheerfulness, and especially resents them when they best her at what she most wants to be successful at – being good at hosting a web series. It happens accidentally as Ray and their co-worker Petey make a video about homebrewed beverages for fun, and their channel becomes a viral success. Naturally, their bosses take note of Ray’s success and decide to add Ray to Simone’s the program to smooth over her rough edges. While working on a new program where she puts a gourmet spin on Ray’s old-fashioned recipes, Simone and Ray fall for one another. But when Ray comes out as nonbinary in the workplace, then has top surgery, they find themself grappling with a toxic environment and workplace harassment. Will they stay with The Discerning Chef or go?
The prose here is really delightful, and TJ Alexander’s work definitely stands out in a charming way that makes the love-hate tug between Ray and Simone feel all the more real and all the more enjoyable. The pacing feels a little uneven at times, but the slow-burn between Simone and Ray really works and easily invests the audience in their love story. And the food and cooking descriptions are out of this world fantastic.
Ray and Simone have that classic hate-you-then-I-love-you chemistry. She’s prickly and into perfection – she can’t even let go enough to let someone cook for her – while Ray is cheerful and quite confident in their abilities. Together, they’re unstoppable dynamos, but Simone must learn to trust, and to decide if people, or routine and work are more important. It takes a while, but she becomes an ally and learns how to stand up for her lover. The evil here is prejudice and transphobia, and the executives in the story serve it up heavily.
Chef’s Kiss is a delight and a hunk of sweetness worth serving up at any time of the day.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier