Publisher: Blue Latte House
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Received From: Review copy from the author
Six people and three love stories all in one bakery.
Jen goes to work, agonizes over college, and looks forward to the stolen moments in the kitchen, where she can watch Emilie bake love into every donut, cake, and brownie. Their delicate friendship takes a step towards a budding romance. But will Jen’s impulsiveness help their romance surviving its first hurdle?
James has never been kissed but he wants to, especially by Sam, who he can’t talk to without turning into a little jerk, and who is made of all the good stuff. Will James’ insecurity in his inexperience ever allow him to make the move to kiss the boy?
Alex won’t let some foodie with a video camera bash their beloved bakery, even if it means they have to be petty. Except they’re nowhere ready for Yujin, the one who got away, and the one attempting to woo them. Will Alex’s second impression of Yujin let them see the sincerity in the bashful king.
GENDER: nonbinary, cisgender
SEXUALITY: bisexual, homosexual, queer
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: biromantic, homoromantic, queer
PAIRING: F/ENBY, M/M, M/ENBY
TROPES: friends to lovers, height difference, coworkers to lovers, mutual pining, hate to love, second chance
TAGS: new adult, adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, anthology, ownvoices, existing relationship, fat characters, interracial relationship, Black characters, Latinx characters, Mexican characters, Arab characters, Persian characters, Korean characters, POC characters
WARNINGS: slurs, gendered slurs, mental illness (anxiety), anti-queerness, anti-queer family, sexual content, alcohol, vomiting, parental death mention, hospitalization mention, misgendering, semi-public play
This collection was exactly the fluffy fun that was promised! There’s a teensy bit more angst in these stories than there is in SOFT ON SOFT, with each short getting progressively angstier than the last, but it’s not overwhelming and they still deliver on the lovely softness that one has come to expect from an Em Ali book.
The first story, SACCHARINE, is a sugary sweet romance between Jen (she/her) and Emilie (they for the public; she for only certain people), and the two of them are so cute together! They go from friends to lovers in this short, exchanging flirtations at work and going on a super cute first date. In this one, I also enjoyed the glimpse into Jen’s home life, and the first glimpse of the strong bonds of friendship between all the employees of the bakery.
Then the second story, DELECTABLE, which ended up being my favorite of the three stories, is between Sam (he/him) and James (he/him), and it’s a lovely mutual pining story! The two of them are so clearly into each other it’s painful, and finally, they get together after months and months of pining. They’re so cute together and I enjoyed how seamlessly they fit into each other’s lives and made the other happy just by being there. Also, I liked the contrast of James’ family in this story to Jen’s in the first. James and his twin sister travel a bit of a bumpier road that Jen and her brother, but it was nice to see them ultimately come together and make peace with each other.
Finally, there’s RAVENOUS, the story for Alex (they/them) and Yujin (he/him), who start their story having a one night stand and then meet again months later when Alex confronts the foodie vlogger who gave Graham’s a negative review. Thus begins a journey in which Yujin tries to woo Alex and convince them to give him another chance. This short is the angstiest of the three as it employs a kind of enemies to lovers/hate to love situation as Alex stubbornly clings to their anger over the bad review, even as Yujin retracts the review and continually features the bakery on his vlog.
My only complaint with the book, which didn’t affect the rating at all, was the editing. The book could’ve used a couple more passes, because there were a few different issues that the editor should’ve caught and tried to correct–overuse of pronouns in scenes where multiple people have the same pronouns to the point where it got confusing to figure out who it was referring to; certain areas where the first and second half of a sentence (or paragraph) directly contradicted each other; places where an incorrect word was used and changed the overall meaning of the sentence; etc. While the book retains the distinctive voice that one recognizes as Em Ali’s writing style, the shoddy job of the editor was a bit to the book’s detriment.
Overall, though, I enjoyed reading this collection and I’m looking forward to whatever Ali puts out next!
Em Ali grew up on TV and K-pop like many her generation. She learned a lot about how to be a hermit and not interact with people but she’d love to hear from readers through email! maliwrites2 at gmail dot com or social media.