cover image A Sweet Mess

A Sweet Mess

Jayci Lee. St. Martin’s Griffin, $16.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-25062-110-8

Lee (Temporary Wife Temptation) whips up a sweet but uneven rom-com that plays out on the set of a cooking show. Baker Aubrey Choi has a one-night stand with Landon Kim without knowing he’s a food critic, and Landon pans Aubrey’s bakery without knowing she’s the owner after a mix-up leads him to choke on a gummy worm in a Bundt cake. To apologize for his hasty judgment and possibly business-ending review, Landon gets Aubrey a spot as a guest star on a cooking show. Landon and Aubrey must share a villa during filming, and despite their efforts to stay friends, neither can forget their one-night stand. Lee grounds this classic will-they-or-won’t-they in cultural specificity, but the facile use of common ethnic stereotypes (“When she smiled, her almond-shaped gray eyes tilted up in the corners, adding to her ethereal beauty,” she writes of Aubrey) will disappoint readers hoping for fresher characterization from #OwnVoices fare. Though the lavish descriptions of gourmet desserts are mouthwatering, the overwrought writing slows the pace and lessens the impact of key emotional moments. Foodies and rom-com readers not particular about their prose will gobble this down, but others may find it tough to swallow. Agent: Sarah Younger, Nancy Yost Literary. (July)