Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly
Reviewed by GGGinny
What I drank: slushy margaritas. It’s hot as hell here and a friend and I wanted to check out a new Mexican restaurant and the food was good and the drinks were pleasantly strong.
Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.
After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.
As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.
Drunk Overview: Dahlia and London are both contestants on a cooking show (that felt like a mish-mash of a number of shows rather than a blatant play on one… i’ve been reading a lot of cooking show based romances). Dahlia has left a mediocre marriage and is trying to figure out her next step. Meanwhile, London is non-binary, and entered on a lark, but is dealing with a family that isn’t wholly supportive.
Drunk Thoughts: There was a lot to love about this book.
- Starting with, I love the reality cooking show competition background for a tv show. It gives a nice concrete setting, with unnecessary stress levels that do a great job of heightening emotions in a way that feels expected (rather than shoe-horned in).
- Also the variety of competitions created fun scenarios for the different competitors to do well in.
- I will say, Dahlia felt a little manic pixie dream girl to me. Which was compounded by London’s viewpoint.
- She clearly had flaws, but oftentimes, they seemed to be the kind of flaws that are there so someone isn’t perfect but don’t actually need to be worked on.
- I mean, it happens a lot in movies of the “perfect” girl is super clumsy hahaha. Instead of being allowed to be a person with flaws.
- I LOVED the way this book introduced London. There are no descriptions that make it clear that this is someone who was AMAB/AFAB until you’re far enough in that you already have a good understanding of who they are in their own right.
- Their birth gender is mentioned later on (it would be hard not to in a non-pg romance novel to not mention specific parts), but by then it’s just a fact and didn’t change (my) opinions on who they were.
- The side cast was there to fill the archetypes. Both Dahlia and London have their confidants, there’s the clear villain (a woman who doesn’t respect London’s pronouns), and the cast of support characters in competition.
- My biggest complaint about the plot was that it kind of made the entire book about London being non-binary rather than that being a part of the book but not the point of it.
- Dahlia and London have this delightful romance where they bring out the bold in each other.
- But when it came back to it, London’s entire growth arc is about getting other people to accept who they were and cutting out those who wouldn’t bother.
- And while that’s an admirable story, I felt bad that London (who didn’t seemingly want that to be their personality) was mostly just focused on because of that…
- My other problem with this book was that London and Dahlia both have these plot lines about the great passions of their life, but those are never really shown. For someone who wanted to be a writer and someone who wanted to work on music, there never seemed to be conversations about books or music.
- I didn’t need it to be shouted from the sky, but even mentioning a playlist or a book title would have been helpful (it’s often mentioned that Dahlia had an unfinished book on a nightstand – but that didn’t seem like enough to me).
- Back to things I liked. I really enjoyed the arc that this book took both London and Dahlia on. Their issues were often tied up in family and passion and I loved the way the book handled the changes that would need to happen for them to have that growth.
- Without going into details, I especially loved London’s moment of taking control of a situation that had caused them problems. It was really well handled and it felt really powerful.
- Again, I was frustrated by the Lizzie/Leslie being a bigot and the way that seemed to color more of this than it should have.
- But I enjoyed the descriptions of the different competitions and foods.
- Which brings me to what I enjoyed about Dahlia’s story. She and London had similarties about how they needed to stop letting other people get in their way, and the way Dahlia found her way back to her love of cooking was really sweet!
What it Pairs With: White wine, something tasty enough to drink that could also be used to deglaze a pan and make whatever your making taste amazing!
Rating: I CLEARLY had some issues with this book, but this is also the first romance I can remember reading with a non-binary love interest, and I enjoyed so much of their story! 4/5