Chef’s Kiss

T.J. Alexander. Atria/Bestler, $17 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-982189-08-2

Opposites attract in Alexander’s outstanding debut rom-com. Simone Larkspur, a no-nonsense pastry chef and recipe writer for long-standing culinary outlet The Discerning Chef, is forced by her editor to pivot to video alongside Ray Lyton, her distractingly cheerful new kitchen manager who has a knack for accidental YouTube virality. When Ray comes out as nonbinary at work, the pair’s growing adoration for one another is put to the test as their coworkers draw lines, forcing Simone to decide which matters more—the culinary career she’s spent so long building, or the only person she’d ever be caught dead making eyes at on camera. Alexander accomplishes a masterful juggling act: the banter is snappy, the chemistry between Simone and Ray sings, the commentary on social media fame is poignant without ever verging on precious, and the exploration of Ray’s nonbinary identity within the structure of a romantic comedy hits exactly right. In particular, Alexander’s grasp of narrative payoff is expertly applied—this is a rom-com that manages to both subvert and embrace the tropes it’s working with, and the result is one of the most intricate and satisfying queer romances in years. Fans of Casey McQuiston will be wowed. Agent: Larissa Melo Pienkowski, Jill Grinberg Literary. (May)
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR
THE BEST NEW BOOKS
PW EDITORS’ PICKS FOR THE BEST NEW BOOKS