By Anita Kelly
Narrator: Lindsey Dorcus
Publication Date: January 18, 2022
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Misgendering; enbyphobia; divorce; strained parental relationships
I had seen a handful of folks gushing over Love & Other Disasters on IG back when it was published, and fate would have my audiobook come in on the first day of Pride month! This delightful cooking show romance was a beautiful story of queer love.
London Parker is the first openly nonbinary contestant on the popular cooking show Chef’s Special. While they should be focused on cooking, they cannot help but keep thinking of Dahlia Woodson, the clumsy contestant at the bench in front of them who falls flat on her face during the first day of taping. Dahlia is planning to reinvent herself on Chef’s Special as she is coming out of a divorce and trying to figure out what the heck she wants to do with her life. She never expected to find love on the set of the show. As London and Dahlia spend more time together and get closer, their relationship heats up, and they have to figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.
First off, I need to give a major shout-out to Lindsey Dorcus, the fantastic narrator of the audiobook. Dorcus brought so much life and energy to this story. Her narrator made all the characters, not just our leads London and Dahlia, feel alive. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her tell this story, and her narration helped push the story forward. Her delivery was spot on, and I felt like I was listening to a play as I could picture these characters so vividly in my mind.
I’ve read a few cooking romances and they don’t always work for me. But I really enjoyed using Chef’s Special as the framing device for this story. The show reminded me of a general cooking version of Bake Off, and you knew it would be the thing that brings some tension to London and Dahlia’s relationship as the possibility of one of them leaving at any time hangs over them. I loved how this show also brought together these two people who likely wouldn’t have found each other otherwise. Dahlia and London are from very different backgrounds and walks of life, but the show and their love of cooking brings them together.
I adored that this book was a friends-to-lover story. London and Dahlia had an instant connection, but they had time to get to know each other on a deeper level and explore their feelings before jumping into a full-blown romance. The story hits all the right notes when it comes to falling in love. This was the first queer relationship for Dahlia and the first time London had been with anyone since coming out as non-binary and watching them navigate their feelings and pursue that together warmed my heart. The romance was both tender and spicy, though I still don’t know how I feel about that scene with the fruit. They do go through a bit of a breakup thanks to the nature of a competitive cooking show and Dahlia panicking about the seriousness of their relationship, but the two of them were miserable apart and I couldn’t wait for their reunion. I’m happy to say Dahlia makes a great grand romantic gesture at the end to show how much she cares for London, and, by the end of the story, I had a smile on my face as I loved watching these two get their happily ever after together.
When it comes to London and Dahlia as characters, I loved that both of them weren’t perfect. They both had flaws that made them feel human. They balanced each other out as Dahlia was more fly by the seat of your pants while London was more a meticulous planner. They both bring some baggage to their relationship, as Dahlia had issues with her self-worth brought on by her divorce while London has problems with their dad not accepting them as nonbinary. I will admit that I would have liked to explore Dahlia’s issues and how it was tied up in her relationship with her mom a bit more. I felt like London’s struggles with their father were much thought out and explored more in-depth than Dahlia’s issues.
Also, I loved Anita Kelly’s writing! They managed to weave humor into the story seamlessly – I found myself laughing out loud at some scenes, including the cow milking scene. I loved that Kelly could perfectly balance the cooking scenes with the romance – one didn’t seem to dominate the other, as sometimes happens with cooking romances. The dialogue flowed naturally, and the plot’s pacing was spot on. This was the first book I’ve ever read from Kelly, but I hope it won’t be the last.
Overall, this was a charming queer romance that I devoured in a few hours! The story left me feeling warm and fuzzy inside as I adored watching London and Dahlia fall in love and find their happiness together. I highly recommend checking out the audiobook of this as Lindsey Dorcus truly brought so much extra life to this story and I fell in love with her portrayals of these characters.