From the first few pages of The Romance Recipe, it’s clear that author Ruby Barrett is writing more than just your average romance novel. The book opens with Amy, a restaurant owner, trying to do right by her staff at her latest venture, Amy & May’s. She pays her staff well, has a zero-tolerance harassment policy (which, honestly, is hard to come by in professional kitchens!), and if things go well financially, wants to offer her staff health insurance.
Amy’s head chef is Sophie, a former reality TV show contestant. Amy was so enamored by Sophie’s performance (and let’s be honest, Sophie herself) on “Pop-Up Kitchen” that one night after a strong Negroni, she emailed Sophie’s agent and asked if she would be interested in running her own kitchen. Crowds used to come to Amy & May’s to eat food prepared by a cooking show champ, but lately, tables have been empty, and the restaurant is struggling to stay afloat.
Amy’s crush on Sophie is belied by a grumpy exterior, one that Sophie matches. The pair butt heads often, arguing over what should land on the menu or if they should require guests to put down deposits in order to reserve tables. Beneath that anger, however, is the fact that they both care deeply about the success of Amy & May’s. Well, that, and the fact that they both want to rip the other’s clothes off.
Thankfully, Barrett doesn’t make us wait long for the simmering lust to boil into something more. We learn that Amy is a top with a soft side (dreamy!), and that Sophie, though relatively new to having sex with women, is determined to show Amy a good time. While the pair is insistent on keeping it relatively casual, their arrangement becomes more complicated when both Amy and Sophie develop feelings for each other — just in time for Sophie to make an appearance on another cooking show, which, by the way, is produced by her ex-fiancee.
The book alternates between Amy and Sophie’s perspectives, shedding light on both sides of this fledgling romance. We get to see the pair grow and change as a result of their time together. Amy navigates a challenging relationship with an emotionally abusive parent. Sophie takes up more space in the kitchen that is rightfully hers and even comes out as bi to her mother (who, by the way, takes it in stride, and only asks why her daughter hasn’t found someone to marry if she has “double the dating pool”). The character growth is half the magic of this novel, but the other half is how steamy it is. Seriously, Barrett is not kidding around — Amy and Sophie dance dangerously close to a health code violation!
As someone who, at one point, watched Top Chef religiously (entirely because of Kristen Kish), “The Romance Recipe” is my ideal beach read. It’s funny and fast-paced, with a healthy dose of yearning and a duo with palpable chemistry rounding it out.
The Romance Recipe is out now.
I’ve had my eye on this one (bi romance! pretty cover!) but haven’t committed because I don’t tend to like conflict-of-interest romances, especially where one partner is employed by the other. How is that handled in this?
excited for this one too! the world is a flaming dumpster fire but at least we’ve been getting a glut of amazing queer literature lately –
Right?! I’m really loving all of the good queer genre fiction coming out now.
i read this on a plane and v much enjoyed it! those two things aren’t really related but whenever i read a book in a single sitting it inevitably becomes ‘the plane book’ or ‘the mri waiting room book’
SAME. i have a whole mental shelf of “hurricane books” from couple of weeks i had no power after ida last year, and they all feel…heavy and humid in my memory.
We have really been blessed with queer food romances this year and I for one hope the trend continues!
truly the number of spins on “one or both of these characters enjoys cooking” we’ve gotten has been delightful!