Good food, queer love, and some classic romance tropes - all things that make me immediately swoon over a book. So is it any surprise that I picked up an ARC of T.J. Alexander’s upcoming novel Chef’s Choice when I had the chance? I think not.
Luna O’Shea is a proud trans woman with some of the best friends, a wonderful roommate, and a life she loves in New York City. None of these things is gonna help her bills get paid when she’s unexpectedly fired from her (pretty awful) job though. But then she meets Jean-Pierre, a French trans man who has more money than sense, who has a few hoops to jump through in order to prove to his celebrity chef grandfather that he is worthy to inherit his culinary empire. The pair enter into a fake dating arrangement and have to learn how to prepare a nine course culinary masterpiece made up of Jean-Pierre’s family’s world-renowned recipes. The problem? Neither knows the first thing about cooking. Oh, and those pesky feelings that crop up the longer they spend time together.
The perfect followup to T.J. Alexander’s wonderful debut Chef’s Kiss, this story is just as, if not more, fun than the first! Filled with jokes that made me laugh out loud and pop culture references that had me running to text my bestie (“You don’t even go here.”), I couldn’t help but be filled with joy while reading. In a time when the world is an absolute dumpster fire, this was 300+ pages of much needed escapism.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times - I love when a followup story gives us snippets of the book(s) that came before. We not only get that in this book, but we kind of get an actual continuation of it in a way. Though Luna and Jean-Pierre’s love story is at the forefront throughout, we are also able to follow some of the characters we fell in love with during the first book as they navigate their new normal and it’s a joy to behold.
And can we talk about the tropes?! I mean, if you love a good romance trope like I do, you’re going to love this book. Fake dating, grumpy/sunshine, forced proximity (kind of), only one bed, he falls first…I mean, really, does it get any better than a trope-filled queer romcom? You can tell me that you are tired of all the tropes until you’re blue in the face, I. Will. Not. Listen. Give me all the tropes, thanks. Oh, and did I mention the slow-burn romance? I'm not usually a fan of slow-burn, but paired with fake dating, it works so well because you can see them slowly start to fall as they act up the romance they supposedly already feel. Truly a superior trope pairing.
This story gave me a better understanding of some of the things that I take for granted as a cis person, which is something that I appreciate greatly. Though there were a lot of moments of queer joy, there were also a lot of teachable moments, both for the characters and the readers. In a world where trans people are constantly under attack, I believe that this story is a little ray of sunshine that serves as a reminder that there is joy to be had and love to be found as a trans person. It's also a reminder, to both trans and cis people, to find your community - everyone needs to have someone to talk to that will just understand.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will also be supporting indie bookstores like my local fave Linden Tree Books without whom this review would not be possible!