Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble
- Author: Alexis Hall
- Genre: Romance
- Publication Date: November 1, 2022
- Publisher: Forever
- Series: Winner Bakes All #2
Thank you to NetGalley and Forever for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
CONTENT WARNING: undiagnosed anxiety disorder (diagnosis is made during book), panic attack, religious and racial microaggressions, xenophobia, mention of bullying (off-page), online bullying, excessive profanity
From the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material comes a sweet and scrumptious romantic comedy about facing your insecurities, finding love, and baking it off, no matter what people say.
Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. So when his roommate enters him in Bake Expectations, the nation’s favourite baking show, Paris is sure he’ll be the first one sent home.
But not only does he win week one’s challenge—he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan. Sure, he’s the competition, but he’s also cute and kind, with more confidence than Paris could ever hope to have. Still, neither his growing romance with Tariq nor his own impressive bakes can keep Paris’s fear of failure from spoiling his happiness. And when the show’s vicious fanbase confirms his worst anxieties, Paris’s confidence is torn apart quicker than tear-and-share bread.
But if Paris can find the strength to face his past, his future, and the chorus of hecklers that live in his brain, he’ll realize it’s the sweet things in life that he really deserves.
I’ve only read one other book by Alexis Hall (A Lady for a Duke), which was a historical fiction, but I’ve heard people raving about Hall’s other books, so I jumped at the chance to read this book. And it honestly wasn’t quite what I was expecting … at all.
Let me start with some good stuff. Hall writes beautifully, and has a knack for really pulling readers directly into the head of a character. And that’s exactly what happened with this book. I was pulled right into Paris’s head, and while that’s an incredible skill, it also turned out to be one of the things that I liked least about this book. You might be asking why?
Let me continue to explain. As someone who spent a significant period of time working with people who had severe mental illness, I had Paris’s diagnosis nailed down early on in the book. And while Hall portrayed this so, so well, being in the head of someone with this kind of crippling anxiety is, honestly, exhausting. The circular and repetitive nature of his doom-spiraling thoughts was tough to get through for much of the story. But more importantly, it was hard for me to empathize with Paris when he could be such a jerk sometimes. He was self-centered for a lot of the book, and he was often hurtful to the people close to him, even if he didn’t mean to be. And he was completely blind to his privilege, often insisting that he wasn’t rich when all of the evidence was RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF HIM.
I turned out enjoying the side characters so much more than Paris. Tariq’s character was way more interesting to me, and I think that I would have found it more enjoyable to see some chapters from his POV, plus it would have helped break up the monotony of Paris’s constant anxiety. One of the coolest parts of the story was when Tariq explains how he personally reconciles the different aspects of himself, as a gay British Muslim man, who makes it a point to adhere to his religious beliefs. Even Morag, Paris’s roommate, made me laugh, with her personality that combined tough love with not caring what anyone thinks, and more than a little sass. And I would be slacking if I didn’t mention the hosts of the baking show, who were great—they provided comic relief, and I loved seeing what was going to happen next.
Overall, this was definitely not what I was expecting. While it’s billed as a sweet rom-com, it was more of a contemporary fiction, with some seriously heavy topics and a side of romance. Paris’s mental health took over the story to the extent that everything else was sidelined, and I was honestly praying for him to finally get some help. It wasn’t until the last 20% that Paris actually started making some changes and improving, and it was such a relief that he did actually grow during the story. I was also relieved to see Tariq make some changes, and grow through this experience, and the way it wrapped up was beautiful, although there was still one loose end that I was curious about by the end of the book. I’m still intrigued by the rest of this series, but in the future will probably do my best to stay away from books featuring a character with untreated anxiety that’s this bad, simply because it’s so stressful of an experience for me as a reader, although it makes me even more in awe of the people who go through this in reality on a daily basis.
Categories: Book Review