Love the thrill of Chopped Teen? Kids Baking Championship? Throw those together with some of the cutest elements of romance tropes and you’ve got Stephanie Kate Strohm’s latest novel, LOVE A LA MODE.
Embracing one of my favorite genres of television, this book was fun to read, from the name dropping of famous chefs, restaurants, and shows to the look at what a culinary high school might look like for our cast of characters from across the globe). Foodie and romance fans alike may well find something to enjoy in Strohm’s novel that has the earmarks of these classic shows and tropes but with its own spark that takes place in one of the most iconic/romantic/food-centric cities in the world: Paris.
Title: LOVE A LA MODE
Author: Stephanie Kate Strohm
Pub. Date: November 27, 2018
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Take two American teen chefs, add one heaping cup of Paris, toss in a pinch of romance, and stir. …
Rosie Radeke firmly believes that happiness can be found at the bottom of a mixing bowl. But she never expected that she, a random nobody from East Liberty, Ohio, would be accepted to celebrity chef Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, the most prestigious cooking program for teens in the entire world. Life in Paris, however, isn’t all cream puffs and crepes. Faced with a challenging curriculum and a nightmare professor, Rosie begins to doubt her dishes.
Henry Yi grew up in his dad’s restaurant in Chicago, and his lifelong love affair with food landed him a coveted spot in Chef Laurent’s school. He quickly connects with Rosie, but academic pressure from home and his jealousy over Rosie’s growing friendship with gorgeous bad-boy baker Bodie Tal makes Henry lash out and push his dream girl away.
Desperate to prove themselves, Rosie and Henry cook like never before while sparks fly between them. But as they reach their breaking points, they wonder whether they have what it takes to become real chefs.
Perfect for lovers of Chopped Teen Tournament and Kids Baking Championship, as well as anyone who dreams of a romantic trip to France, Love la Mode follows Rosie and Henry as they fall in love with food, with Paris, and ultimately, with each other.
Rating: 4 Stars
I wanted to read this book because I love cooking shows, whether they’re made for an American audience or a British one (there’s a distinct difference, let me tell you). Having read one of Stephanie’s books before (Prince in Disguise, my 5 star review here), I knew the writing would likely be good. Stephanie’s got a feel for writing a nice cast of characters and sweet moments for them, particularly those that end up in romantic situations.
Rosie and Henry, the central couple of Love a la Mode, certainly have some of those: their meet-cute on the plane, certain scenic locales around Paris, and so on. Their early interactions are some of the best in the book, before the hectic nature of not only school, but this particular school and plot points/developments get in their way.
Rosie had, by far, the best depth of anyone in the book and it was lovely getting to know her, not only as an enthusiastic pastry chef but as someone particularly close to her family. Her joy working with flour and butter and sugar came through whenever she was around these ingredients, working its way off the page and to the reader.
Henry didn’t have quite the same spark for me. There was a lot of energy he put into assuring his mother that he wanted nothing more than to work in a restaurant, but like his teacher Chef Martinet said about his cooking, I never sensed him in his food (unlike with Rosie).
Whatever other good elements Henry had, such as friendliness or enthusiasm, there were some traits that rubbed me the wrong way. The miscommunication between him and Rosie was one thing, almost understandable in its own way. His jealousy regarding her and Bodie Tal, another student at the Ecole, was another. It felt like too much, the assumptions he was making stretching beyond the bounds of reasonableness. Some of the thoughts he had felt rather possessive, which was odd especially considering a) he and Rosie weren’t in a relationship at the time and b) there’s never any understanding between them of any sort. His reaction to her interacting with Bodie, therefore, wore away at the goodwill that had been built up toward him in the previous chapters.
There were other elements of characterization regarding the rest of the cast that felt a little lacking. The other students didn’t have as much depth as I would’ve liked. The feel I got from them was that they were reserved, almost like they were being kept back for a spin-off or sequel. I’m all for continuing to see these people, especially Priya and Hampus, but not at the expense of their appearance in this book suffering.
One other facet I did like was that while there were potential stereotypes of high-school dramas in the mix (Clara as the mean girl, Bodi at the bad boy teen star), they didn’t play to expectations. It would’ve been easy to see nasty personality aspects pop up and they could’ve felt tired or they could’ve been done well, but by going in a different direction, the author gave Love a la Mode a freshness that I enjoyed.
Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of It’s Not Me, It’s You; The Taming of the Drew; Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink; Confederates Don’t Wear Couture and the upcoming The Date to Save and Prince in Disguise (Fall 2017). She grew up on the Connecticut coast, where a steady diet of Little House on the Prairie turned her into a history nerd at an early age. After graduating with a joint major in theater and history from Middlebury College, she acted her way around the country, performing in more than 25 states.
Although she was born in New York, she currently lives in Chicago, and doesn’t discriminate against any type of pizza. When she’s not writing, she loves baking, walking her dog Lorelei, taking dance cardio classes too seriously, and playing board games with her husband. Photo credit: Melissa Lynn
3 winners will win a signed finished copy of LOVE A LA MODE (US Only)
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I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.