Title: The Parisian Christmas Bake Off
Author: Jenny Oliver
Publisher: Carina UK
Publication Date: 22 October 2013 (UK) 7 November 2014 (US)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris – ready, steady, bake!
Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson’s cosy English village feels very far way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.
Because the search for Paris’s next patisserie apprentice is about to begin! And super-chef judge Henri Salernes is an infamously tough cookie. But Rachel isn’t about to let her confidence (or pastry) crumble. She’s got one week, mounds of melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and towers of perfect profiteroles to prove that she really is a star baker.
As well as clouds of flour, and wafts of chocolate and cinnamon, there’s definitely a touch of Christmas magic in the air… Rachel hasn’t come to Paris looking for a fairy-tale romance, but the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway…
Not even a dusting of icing sugar could make The Parisian Christmas Bake Off a more perfect Christmas treat!
I knew from the blurb and the front cover that I was going to love The Parisian Christmas Bake Off and I certainly wasn’t wrong. This is an entertaining novella full to the brim of baking, romance and Christmas festivities.Rachel Smithson, primary teacher in the small town of Nettleton, is having a difficult year until her friends, family, fellow teachers and student all pull together and arrange for her to go to Paris to compete in a competition to become an apprentice to top chef, Henri Salernes.
The plotline is great fun. Rachel puts all of her efforts into her baking however, with some very strong competition, does she have the skill and confidence to win the contest? I loved reading about each contestant and their attitudes towards the competition. The author creates a world around the competitors and the venue at the café, describing the baked goods in such a way that the smells and tastes in the kitchen jump from the page if a waft of delicious mouth-watering spices. Be warned, you will feel very hungry whilst reading this book!
The romance element of the story avoids becoming too predictable, with some twists and turns along the way which keeps the story interesting until the last page.
The story has an underlying deeper meaning regarding Rachel’s journey to acceptance of the events surrounding her dislike of Christmas, regaining her confidence and the rediscovery of her love of baking.
One big plus point for me were the descriptions of the wonderful setting in Paris, a city that I cannot wait to return to. I could imagine the characters walking along the snowy Parisian streets, the Champs Elysee in the distance, bicycles passing by, eating pain au chocolat and drinking strong coffee – an idyllic Christmas setting.
The characters quickly grew on me. Rachel starts out as quite a frustrating character, however I think that it due to her lack of self-belief. As the story progresses and her confidence increases, she becomes a sympathetic character. The additional characters - the competition competitors (Tony, Cheryl, Abby, Ali, Marcel, George and Lacey), Henri Salernes, Philippe, Chantal and Madame Charles – are all interesting and lend great support to the story. I think it was the cast of characters which drew me in the most to this festive tale.
About the Author
Jenny Oliver wrote her first book on holiday when she was ten years old. Illustrated with cut-out supermodels from her sister's Vogue, it was an epic, sweeping love story not so loosely based Dynasty.
Since then Jenny has gone on to get an English degree and a job in publishing that's taught her what it takes to write a novel (without the help of the supermodels). She wrote her first book The Parisian Christmas Bake Off on the beach in a notebook that would end up covered in sand each afternoon and damp from the sea. This time the inspiration was her addiction to macaroons, the belief she can cook them and an all-consuming love of Christmas. When the decorations go up in October, that's fine with her!
Follow her on Twitter @JenOliverBooks or go to the website jennyoliverbooks.com to find out more about Jenny, her books and read her blog!