But Amy. She’s fierce and a bit loud and she commands the attention of every room she’s in. at least she commanded my attention. The last time Amy looked at me like this I took this job and broke up with my fiancé. 

I want to save this restaurant. But I can’t keep doing things just to impress this pretty girl. Not when what she’s asking me to do has the power to break me.

If you love cooking reality shows and a sneak peek into professional kitchens and love a swoon worthy romance, then you need to read The Romance Recipe.

Amy Chambers: restaurant owner, micromanager, control freak. 

Amy will do anything to revive her ailing restaurant, including hiring a former reality-show finalist with good connections and a lot to prove. But her hopes that Sophie’s skills and celebrity status would bring her restaurant back from the brink of failure are beginning to wane…

Sophie Brunet: grump in the kitchen/sunshine in the streets, took thirty years to figure out she was queer. 

Sophie just wants to cook. She doesn’t want to constantly post on social media for her dead-in-the-water reality TV career, she doesn’t want to deal with Amy’s take-charge personality and she doesn’t want to think about what her attraction to her boss might mean…

Then, an opportunity: a new foodie TV show might provide the exposure they need. An uneasy truce is fine for starters, but making their dreams come true means making some personal and painful sacrifices and soon, there’s more than just the restaurant at stake.

This book is so good. I could have devoured it, but instead I portioned it out into small morsels so I could extend the pleasure. This book has it all: steamy scenes, amazing character development and wickedly amazing secondary characters. This is my first book by Ruby Barrett, an Ontario author, but it will not be my last. 

In The Romance Recipe we meet Sophie and Amy. Sophie is a sunshiney celebrity chef who was on a reality show who just wants to make good food. Everyone loves to be around Sophie. Amy is a grumpy restaurant owner who hired Sophie for her kitchen after watching her on the show. She’s attracted to Amy but as Amy was engaged to a guy at the beginning of the book she believes she’s hands off. I don’t always love a Sunshine/ Grumpy trope because sometimes it delves into a cliché of emotions. This is not the case with Amy and Sophie. Both main characters are so deeply nuanced and layered that part of the joy of reading their stories was watching the two of them look deeper at themselves and each other to explore their vulnerabilities and passions. The character development is off the charts here. It’s been a while since I’ve been so wowed by the internal character development in a story, and this one gives you two heart-wrenchingly honest and open main characters who are doing the work to be together and overcome their internal and external obstacles. Trust me, Ruby doesn’t make it easy for Sophie and Amy to get or stay together, and she demands that they work through their issues before she lets them get to a happy ending.

At the beginning of the book we discover that Sophie has realized she is bisexual and is looking to explore what her sexuality means. A large part of Sophie’s story is learning to trust her feelings and we discover alongside her what it’s like having a ‘first time’ as an adult who’s already had sexual partners. Amy has been out as a lesbian for a long time. Both explore what it means to have their identity changed and challenged throughout the story. One area to stress, however, is that Ruby doesn’t make them suffer. This isn’t a sad LGBTQ+ story, rather this is a joyful story with a happy ending. And so many good sexy scenes. Sophie and Amy have incredible sexual chemistry. Trust me, you will never look at the back of the car or a chef’s table in a restaurant the same way again. 

Finally, I just have to talk about the cast of secondary characters in The Romance Recipe: Ruby has built out an incredible friend group and support system for Amy and Sophie. There are of course a few people who cause conflict in their lives, but in general they have good people around them. I really enjoyed Sophie’s French Canadian mother whose main goal in life is to get her baby girl married. There are more characters who I’d love to learn more about their own love stories as well. We should all wish to have such supportive family members, friends and even ex-fiance’s in our lives. 

Thank you to Carina Press, an imprint of Harlequin for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.