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21 December 2015

The Parisian Christmas Bake Off (@JenOliverBooks)

You know you maybe read too many cozy mysteries when you keep waiting for someone to be knocked off in pretty much anything you read... especially with a title like The Parisian Christmas Bake Off.

Will someone get pushed off the Eiffel Tower? Succumb to poisoned meringue? Be knifed in the back with some fancy cutlery?

None of these happened here.

My first UK chick-lit since Bridget Jones entered my life almost twenty years ago (YIKES!!! TWENTY YEARS?!?), I absolutely loved loved LOVED this book. Even with no one getting snuffed.

Rachel Smithson is a primary school teacher in the cozy English village of Nettleton. Her friends (which basically means the entire village) surprise her by entering her in a baking competition in Paris with Chef Henri Salernes (think Gordon Ramsey with a French accent).  Rachel grew up in the village bakery helping her mother. She has since passed and Rachel's so emotionally beaten up over it still that she doesn't know if she has it in her to compete. She doesn't want to go. She doesn't think she has it in her. She does, though, because they're all excited for her and, mostly, it would be a good escape from Christmas.

She's not a fan of Christmas.

I get it. I lost my mom in 2003 and still have a hard time with a lot of holidays ... and with a lot of cooking and baking things that remind me of her. I'll probably never make a Metropolitan Cheesecake because she made the absolute best. My baked macaroni and cheese is never quite right. I get it.

Back to the book, though.

Rachel goes off to Paris where her best friend has arranged lodgings for her through AirBnB and things are immediately off to a rocky start. Her room is an old servants quarters in an attic. She immediately gets picked on and belittled by Chef Henri when the competition begins. There are personality conflicts and some sabotage going on between the contestants. And it's still Christmas everywhere she looks.

Things improve, though, with the help of her own growing confidence, some new friendships, and the support of her mom. Even though she's passed on, she's still with Rachel in her heart and mind.

I get it.

I laughed. I cried. I wanted to eat. I wanted to bake.

My son is getting interested in baking and cooking thanks to watching Food Network shows with me like Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen and Holiday Baking Championship. For Christmas he's planning on making chocolate peppermint brownies. Nothing will be from scratch and nothing will be Bake Off quality once done ... but it'll all be made with love and with my mom watching over us just like Rachel's mom was watching over her. If Jenny Oliver wasn't an ocean away I'd have us bake up an extra batch just to say "Thanks" for this book.

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