Love & Other Disasters
Author: Anita Kelly
Publisher: Publisher (date)
Paperback, 384 pages
Romance, Adult Contemporary Romance
The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)
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.
I LOVED this book. Also, have some snacks on hand because all the cooking components can make a reader HUNGRY, haha. This is Anita Kelly’s full length novel debut and they absolutely hit it out of the park. They’ve also got a novella series centered around a queer karaoke bar – uh, yes please, you know I immediately went and bought book one as soon as I finished reading this book!
I love both leads, and Dahlia and London have such amazing chemistry. They are also both on journies of self-discovery and growth, Dahlia because she’s trying to find herself again after getting a divorce from her husband (who was her high-school sweetheart) and London because while they’re been out as non-binary for a while their TV debut as a non-binary person is a big, scary thing (and it forces some of their family to deal with the reality that person was in some denial about, as well). From the first moment Dahlia crashes into London, there are SPARKS FLYING. I just adore London so much – they’re a bit quiet and awkward and definitely the grumpy to Dahlia’s sunshine, especially at first. They both push each other outside of each others’ comfort zones, and often in doing so push themselves as well.
It felt a bit awkward sometimes reading they/them pronouns, but I think that’s just because I’m so used to seeing binary pronouns in media it took a chapter or two to re-orient my brain. I have a few non-binary friends so I’m used to SPEAKING with they/them pronouns, but not wasn’t used to reading them. After a few chapters it felt a lot more natural and comfortable – another example of how representation matters in all types of media! So all I can say is that if this is one of your first books with a non-binary MC and you’re struggling with their pronouns, try to sort of relax your mind a bit and let it happen, and it will become easier to read as you go on. I used to have to do the same thing whenever I read a book written in the present tense, until I started reading more of them. I still have to with books written in the third person present tense!
Speaking of tenses, Love & Other Disasters is written in the third person (limited) past tense and alternates between London and Dahlia’s POV. I really appreciate that we get to see inside the thoughts and motivations of both main characters (especially as there’s a bit of mutual pining happening, which is always SO MUCH more delicious when we get to see both sides of the forest!) In additional to the main characters being excellent, there are a lot of fun side characters. I would totally watch the heck out of Chef’s Special and would probably be #TeamLonlia or #TeamDahldon (or whatever their couple name would be, lol).
I believe this is the first of a three book contract with Forever, and I’m so excited to see what Anita Kelly brings next!!
An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher for review. All opinions are unbiased and my own.