Review: Love and Other Disasters by Anita Kelly


Title: Love & Other Disasters
Author: Anita Kelly
Date of publication: 18 Jan 2022
Genre: Contemporary romance, f/non-binary, cooking show

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My rating: 3.5 stars


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.

This a debut novel for Anita Kelly (they have some novellas previously released) and my first one of hers I read. Overall, it is a lovely romcom where a lot of things worked great for me, but I still had some issues here and there. 

This is a f/nb romance and it is not my place to comment on the non-binary rep, I can comment on what I liked/disliked about them as a romance character. I did like lot about London - their insecurities, their grumpiness. They came off as aloof and somewhat cold but we also see them being passionate about the things they cared about. They loved their family and this cause some major conflict regarding their acceptance for who they are. They were also passionate about cooking, their dream to make music. And Dahlia!

Dalhia was messed, recently divorced, almost broke, pinning all her dreams and hope on winning the cooking show. I appreciate that she wanted to follow her dreams  and she left her marriage when she realised her husband and her have different dreams. At the same time she also read immature to me, whiny, her constant I-don't-know-what-I-want mood was annoying. I wanted her to go for the things that made her happy and not complain so much about the difficulties in her life.

I really liked the romance, there is great chemistry between the MCs, lot of open discussion of body image, desire, sexuality, explicit consent. At the same time I had some issues. On the one hand the way London sexualised Dahlia all the time made me uncomfortable, it was on the verge of creepy, especially in the beginning when the two of them were not a couple yet. London acted like a macho alpha romance hero when it came to Dahlia and I was not a fan of that.  There are explicit sex scenes in this book which I mostly liked but the one involving the use of fruits in the bedroom was weird and didn't work for me at all. 

There was not a lot of conflict regarding the romance, the focus was more of families, personal goals in life and that was OK. There was a third-act break up which could have been handled better but I just went it. 

The cooking show was fun, presented in its complexity, lot of diverse participants, we get to see some of the behind-the-scene actions that is not very glamorous. 

All in all, this is an interesting debut with a good balance of funny and serious, still it is far from perfect.

CW: transphobia, misgendering, social anxiety, family rejection

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