Contemporary Literature · Romance

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake

I read my first book by Hall, Boyfriend Material, last year and I freaking LOVED it. I wrote a spectacularly gushing review. It was so good – the writing/dialogue especially. So, despite the fact that, to be honest, this one didn’t sound quite as much up my alley (as far as set-up), I went ahead and added myself to the library waitlist for it as soon as I could. Because I can be talked into enjoying reading almost anything if the writing is solid. And let me just say, I made the right call. 

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall

Rosaline Palmer is a single-mother whose main support system(s) are her impossible-to-please parents and a spiky (in the interpersonal relationship sense) ex-girlfriend. Having dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie, she’s barely (as in, definitely leaning on her very financially stable parents) making ends meet with her job in a local shop. As a sort of desperate attempt to turn things around, she applies for and gets a spot on the nationally-beloved baking show Bake Expectations. Winning the prize money would be life-changing, and Rosaline does love baking. Things start out pretty rocky for her, if we’re being honest, but she does (right away) meet Alain Pope, the sort of self-possessed, well-off, successful man her parents approve of. And he seems really interested in her. But as the competition progresses and Rosaline makes friends with some of the other contestants, including shy electrician Harry Dobson, she starts to realize that, although her dreams for herself look different than her parents dreams for her (and very different than Alain’s dreams for her)…that’s ok. In fact, it’s better than ok, and she has the right to follow her own heart and her own plan for her own life. 

“There was, Rosaline thought, something captivating in hearing somebody talk about their passions – it felt intimate, like they were giving you access to some slightly tender part of themselves.”

Alright people, the first and primary and most passionate point I have to make here at the start of this review is OMG Hall has absolutely cemented my unwavering hype in his writing. It’s perfect. It’s fast and sarcastic and witty, from the descriptions to the dialogue (oh goodness the dialogue – we all know I’m a sucked for great back-and-forth) and I basically inhaled this novel in a single 4-hour sitting because I couldn’t imagine putting it down for a single second (which, for the record, also happened last year when I listened to Boyfriend Material). Like, I’m not really a baking show person and that’s the entire plot (I mean, minus the romance, of course), and I was still riveted to the story. Just…GAH. As a small extra note there, I really loved the little epilogue/ending with the “where they are now” for the contestants on the show to close out the book. It was a spot-on little touch. 

“There was, Rosaline thought, something captivating in hearing somebody talk about their passions – it felt intimate, like they were giving you access to some slightly tender part of themselves.”

Secondarily to that, and only by a small margin, was the way he wrote Rosaline’s sexuality. I have been loving the bisexual MC movement in romance (I see you, Dani Brown and RWARB), but also just in general. I feel like I’d have been able to figure myself out much earlier if this literature had existed years ago, but that’s besides the point. I’m glad it’s at least here now. So yea, Rosaline’s bisexuality plays a major role throughout the novel, in the way others react to her when they find out. Ranging from full acceptance to denial to the (incredibly dangerous) bisexual-as-promiscusous trope and more, Hall does a phenomenal job representing the way a bi person moves through and experiences life and relationships, the good and the iffy and the horrible. There were frustrating moments (like Rosaline’s early encounter with her daughter’s teacher – which, btw, is an entire argument for teaching openly about LGBTQ+ in schools at an early age, given and won, in record time), difficult moments (like most of the ones involving Rosaline’s parents), wonderful moments (like most of Harry’s reactions, tbh), and the literal worst (like, real fear/trauma/sexual assault – on that note, content warning there).

“No one can have everything. You’ve just got to figure out what matters. And then not let stuff what don’t matter get in the way of stuff what does.”  

As a follow-up to the content warning point, there are a few other things to beware of before reading this book as well. I have to say, I had a real love-hate reaction to a couple of the relationships in this book because they were terrible, but also, Hall wrote them flawlessly. First, Rosaline with her parents. His depiction of the way parental and societal expectations can so devastatingly mess up what you think you’re looking for and lead you to unhealthy relationships/choices as a result. Second, Rosaline and Alain. The way he showed the slide into an unhealthy relationship, the incremental-ness and nuance to it that makes it so hard to see happening in real time, is spectacularly realistically written and terrifying to read. Altogether, the amount of gaslighting Rosaline endures is heart-wrenching (and made me cheer for her success and standing up for herself – her life and goals and daughter – all the harder).

“Or maybe even wasn’t the point at all and you didn’t have to keep a constant record of who owed what to whom. Because most people, at least more people you wanted in your life, wouldn’t be out to use it against you anyway. It was a strange thought, but a comforting one.

To end on a happier note, I loved the way Rosaline and her daughter were together (Amelie’s quirky 8-year-old self was a highlight of the read for me) and Anvita’s personality was just wonderful added fun. Also Harry’s quiet humor and openness and steadiness, as well as the way he slowly showed his own vulnerabilities, was cozy and heartwarming. I also truly loved the overall message of the novel: that your everything/enough is different than everyone else’s. And that’s more than alright. Harry’s guidance as Rosaline figures that out for herself and then follows through on it (vehemently, in the best way) had me internally cheering. Her final conversation with her mother, about the privilege of having choices means making those choices for yourself, was really profound and hit me deeply.

While I don’t think I’m fan-girling this one like I did for Boyfriend Material, I still enjoyed every second of Hall’s mesmerizingly smart, funny, sarcastic story-telling. This book tackles some really tough topics, but also has so much heart and humor (and mouth-watering baked goods), and you can count me in for reading the next in this reality tv baking show romance series when it comes out!

One thought on “Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake

  1. I LOVED Boyfriend Material and I have this one to hopefully read ASAP, so I’m really excited that you loved it so much. And I’m happy to hear that the dialogue is done so well because that was something I loved about BM.

    Liked by 1 person

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