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ARC Review: Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall

Publication Date: November 1, 2022

Synopsis:

From the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material comes a sweet and scrumptious romantic comedy about facing your insecurities, finding love, and baking it off, no matter what people say. 

Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. So when his roommate enters him in Bake Expectations, the nation’s favourite baking show, Paris is sure he’ll be the first one sent home.
 
But not only does he win week one’s challenge—he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan. Sure, he’s the competition, but he’s also cute and kind, with more confidence than Paris could ever hope to have. Still, neither his growing romance with Tariq nor his own impressive bakes can keep Paris’s fear of failure from spoiling his happiness. And when the show’s vicious fanbase confirms his worst anxieties, Paris’s confidence is torn apart quicker than tear-and-share bread.
 
But if Paris can find the strength to face his past, his future, and the chorus of hecklers that live in his brain, he’ll realize it’s the sweet things in life that he really deserves.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book took me longer to finish than any book (that I was actively reading) in recent memory. I started and finished several others before managing to finish this one and that is because it was incredibly emotionally difficult for me to read. I related to Paris too hard, you see, and so I spent most of the book cringing hard out of second-hand embarrassment.

This book is an incredibly accurate portrayal of mental illness – specifically anxiety that gets so bad it runs your life before you realize it. I’ve been there. Anxiety isn’t my only mental illness, but it has loomed very large in my life and so I felt everything Paris was feeling on a very visceral level.

Case-in-point: even though it was a struggle for me to read, I was wracked with anxiety and guilt the entire time because I love this author and I really did enjoy this book and had intended to finish and review it before publication and… well, it’s a month past publication date now so you can see how that’s going.

My thoughts at 50%: “I am making such painfully slow progress through this book and I feel so guilty about it because I’d meant to finish and review it, gods, weeks ago now. And the thing is, it’s not that I’m not enjoying it or something. It’s so so good. It’s funny and relatable and secondhand-embarassment-inducing because gods Paris is basically me. And it’s painful to see the worst of yourself in print. I love it.”

I am SO glad that Paris learned strategies to cope with his anxiety, as well as started medication for it. It’s so clear that he is so much better by the end. Still dealing with it, but actually dealing with it rather than flailing about and crying about everything and being terrified of everything and feeling guilty about everything. I also loved the group therapy sessions and the way Paris implements all the strategies for coping with his anxiety.

Tariq is adorable and while he certainly wasn’t perfect in their relationship I am glad for the way the book ended. They have the potential to be really, really good together, now that they both know where they stand and can really see each other.

I really enjoyed the reality baking show framework, and the other contestants were great. And the Daves. And Morag. Really, all the characters were such… individuals. They were 100% themselves and that is my favorite kind of character.

In some ways, I think it was good for me to read this. Because I can look back on my former (un-medicated and un-therapied) self and really see what went wrong in my relationships as I was growing up and all the ways my brain lied to me. Which is why it was SO important to see Paris getting better at realizing when his brain is lying and how to deal with it. We see his thoughts and the anxiety trying to take over and the way he can combat that (with effort).

I had no idea how much this book would affect me emotionally. I mean, intellectually I knew it involved anxiety, but I underestimated how difficult it would be. I have struggled with anxiety my whole life but have spent the last 15 years coming to terms with it and learning to manage it. My husband has only recently really begun that journey, as has my kid. Anxiety is practically another member of my family, in other words. And sometimes it’s hard to see something that is such a big part of your existence.

It’s had to see it, as in it’s almost invisible it’s so prevalent. But also hard to see it, as in it physically hurts to watch it play out and recognize how prevalent it is. Watching Paris apologize incessantly about things he really didn’t need to apologize for was a lot. I saw myself, and my husband, and my kid in that. Again the second-hand embarrassment was intense.

Even though this book was very much about Paris’ anxiety, it was also a funny story about a baking competition, and a relationship that had problems and obstacles but was also so incredibly sweet. I love Alexis Hall’s way with words, and his ability to create touching but also hilarious moments. His characters always feel so well-developed and real that they try to jump off the page, and this was no exception. I loved them all. (Except Catherine Parr and maybe Gretchen.)

I haven’t read the previous Bake Expectations book yet, but it didn’t impede my enjoyment of this story. I hope to get to it soon (and hope it’s not quite so emotionally difficult to read).

*Thanks to NetGalley and Forever for providing an early copy for review.

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