Will I ever stop reading Austen-inspired books? Probably not.
In A Taste for Love by Jennifer Yen, Liza has always had a passion for baking. She dreams of going to culinary school after graduating, but her mother wants her to have a better career. Not to mention a nice Asian boyfriend. But Liza doesn’t want to always bend to her mother’s will, especially since the boys her mother tries to set her up with aren’t that compatible with Liza. Then, as things gear up in the summer for the town’s youth baking competition, two cousins come to town. One of them, Ben, immediately hits it off with Liza’s best friend Grace. The other boy James, however, doesn’t have the best first impression. He’s prickly and rude, and even if he meets all the criteria Liza’s mother has for a good boyfriend, Liza isn’t interested. Really.
Listen, Pride and Prejudice rules, and so does The Great British Bake-Off. So combine these two things, and you have a recipe for making me interested in your book.
This is pretty cute! Liza is sweet and smart and skilled in the kitchen, and I liked her bond with her friends, especially Grace. Ben is a wonderful character, though he doesn’t have a lot of depth (though to be fair, neither does his Austen counterpart, sweet as he is). James, though, is given more complexity, though not as much as Darcy was originally. Still, he’s a decent love interest. And overall, the romance was nice, but didn’t delight me as much as the original. I think if this hadn’t been so up front about being a modernized P&P, I might not have been constantly comparing the two, which would have helped.
Where this book was really strong, though, was actually the parts that were less inspired by other works, mainly in the scenes revolving around Liza and her mother. Their relationship is the best written one in the book, exploring themes of respecting your elders but also being given enough support to forge one’s own path. I liked how they were able to eventually communicate and understand one another better, and that both were able to see the other’s side.
I also greatly enjoyed the baking competition, for the most part. The homage to Bake-Off was a lot of fun, and some of the recipes sounded really delicious. I thought aspects of it were a little unrealistic, particularly in terms of the whole thing being structured as an attempt to set Liza up with one of the boys, but it was still entertaining. And though we had the Wickham character stand-in drama unfold in close conjunction, it had a different ending than in P&P, dare I say better. I never thought we should have let Wickham get away with his actions in the original, and it’s nice to see that comeuppance here.
In the end, A Taste for Love is pretty predictable, at least for those who know its inspiration as well as I do. But it’s charming and fun, with decent characters and dialogue and chemistry. The familial relationships shine, and the passion for baking is a delight. It’s not the most complex or nuanced story, but sometimes you just want fluffy, light entertainment, and this is the perfect example of that.
Now excuse me while I go get boba tea, which I’ve been craving since Liza took her first sip.