Going into this book I was 100% ready to read a fun romantic comedy. That appeared to be how it was marketed/categorized and the cover is so colorful and fun. The first few pages seemed to match that expectation. But soon, it became apparent that experiencing the world through the eyes of Paris Daillencourt was anything but comedic. This poor guy had such crippling anxiety that even the most basic of tasks resulted in an epic brain spiral that often ended up with Paris being convinced he’d somehow be murdered. I’m a chronic overthinker and tend to hold myself back from a lot due to fear and anxiety but my experiences are nothing compared to what Paris had to deal with. I’m not going to lie, it was exhausting at times to be immersed in that headspace. But unlike Paris, when I got overwhelmed with it I had the luxury of stepping away from the book for a while to clear my mind. Knowing that it wasn’t as easy for someone afflicted with anxiety such as Paris to step back from it made me always pick the book back up, though. I felt I owed him to see it through and just hoped he finally managed to get the help he needed to learn to cope with it better. That whole journey is a plot point I won’t spoil for you. My main point here is that I’m not sure what the correct genre for this book should be, but I wouldn’t classify it as a romantic comedy. (Side note: I had the same feeling about Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake. That read more like Women’s Fiction than a Rom-Com.)
That’s not to say there isn’t some romance here. Paris’s roommate is the one who enters him to be a contestant on Bake Expectations in a possibly ill-advised plan to get him to deal with some of his hangups. It’s there where he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan – he seems to be everything Paris is not, flashy, confident, and put together. And Paris can’t understand why Tariq would even be interested in whatever mess he has to offer but Tariq is and they actually share some sweet moments. But these boys are young, I think Tariq was only 20 and I may have missed it if Paris’s age was mentioned but it was very close to that, and Paris’s undiagnosed mental health issues combined with Tariq’s inexperience in dealing with someone like that was pretty much a recipe for disaster. Again, I won’t spoil it for you with how it all turns out but it’s not your typical love story/romance. I think that was the point, though. If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect from my experience with an Alexis Hall romance it’s to not expect a cookie-cutter romance – and that’s not a bad thing! It keeps you on your toes, that’s for sure.
I will say, I did enjoy being back in the Bake Expectations world again, though! All our favorite judges, hosts, and producers were there in all their glory and we had a new batch of bakers to root for. In so much as there was comedy throughout this book, it often came from these characters. They provided some much-needed levity in what could otherwise be a very heavy and mentally exhausting story.
Overall, I did enjoy the book. My heart went out to Paris, sometimes my heart just plain broke for the poor guy (for ex: every time he texted his parents). I wanted him to get help and to learn to be happy with himself so he could ultimately be in a healthy relationship with someone else if that’s what he wanted. It was just a lot of work as a reader to get there!