Paris Daillencourt Is About To Crumble is a title and a half, and my first foray in Alexis Hall’s writing. I’m happy to write that I will definitely be coming back for seconds of this sweetness! The story is centered on Paris himself, an earnest but incredibly anxious young man whose only outlet is his home baking. Suddenly, this quaint world is turned upside down when his roommate Morag signs him up for a national baking show called Bake Expectations. Unsure if he even wants or deserves to be there, Paris resigns himself to giving it a shot, and is swept up in the vibrant world of reality TV, especially by fellow contestant Tariq.
First and foremost, this novel emphasis the com in romcom. It’s very funny! Consistently and wittily so. I snorted and giggled my way through this book, to the point of annoying my partner if I was reading it in the same room. But I couldn’t help it! The banter that Hall is creates is refreshing and British and honest. There are some talks between Paris and Tariq in particular that read indelibly real. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a novel feel genuine, as if the characters are your friends and you get to overhear their chats, but whatever the secret ingredient is, Hall adds it liberally to the mix.
Speaking of strong flavors, how many romance books have you read which describe the protagonist as awkward in some stripe? If your taste is anything like mine, probably quite a few! A lot of times though, this clumsiness is relegated to stumbling into the love interest’s broad chest, or just so happening to spill red wine across their formal wear (prompting some sparks flying over laundry later). Paris Daillencourt isn’t like that. He is truly, painfully awkward. Early in the novel, when attempting to discuss with Tariq the nuances in the latter’s major personal values (reconciling being devoutly Muslim and gay) Paris fumbles it. Hard. But not ridiculously so. Hall does a wonderful job marrying the foolish phrasing with an honest internal dialogue. You understand reading, what Paris is thinking and just how he manages to say the wrong things given his insecurities and fears. And, by also showing him suffering the consequences (Tariq is reasonably upset and ends the date), you create a genuine flaw in the character, something that holds him back and that he must overcome to complete his arc. It’s compelling, and is (no spoilers!) the major theme of the book.
Alexis Hall has found a charming niche, writing these stories centered around Bake Expectations. I only learned at the very end of Paris Daillencourt that there’s another novel set in the same universe! So, if you love earnest if awkward British stories with many a pastry, consider the two for one deal of this and Rosaline Plamer Takes the Cake, both available in WPL’s catalogue!