I’m here to represent all the people who like very specific things in their reading, and as soon as you know that very specific element is in a book, you’re ready to read it. It might be a trope, a character trait, a specific storyline, or something else, but it’s your “thing”. The thing that lights you up, sometimes for no apparent reason, and gives the story an immediate in with you.
My thing is books featuring protagonists who are bakers. I love bakers. It’s not even that I’m a baker myself, because though I can throw together a pan of incredible brownies and an occasional loaf of bread, I’m no baker. But give me a protagonist who’s a baker—especially if they own a bakery—and I’m going to read that book because I love bakers.
Until I agreed to write this post, I hadn’t given much thought to why I love main characters who are bakers, but I think it comes down to a few key things: one, I do love cupcakes and a well-made cupcake that has a moist cake portion (sorry for using the word moist) with excellent frosting is hard to find, so I think I see people who do it well as competent, and I like competent characters. But I also think that I see bakers as a form of caretaker, and that’s also appealing to me. Plus, there’s a certain fantasy element involved in the idea of knowing someone who makes incredible baked goods and showers her friends and family with them. A thing that’s missing from my own life, currently, I suppose!
And yes, I do love the Great British Bakeoff, why do you ask?
Weirdly, my thing for characters who are bakers doesn’t extend to other forms of culinary art. I don’t have similar feelings for chefs, or chocolatiers, or even distillers or brewmasters. This is specific to bakers and no substitute will do—much like in baking, which is a bit of an exact science.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to force you to only recommend books that feature bakers (though of course, I will take ALL the recs and I would love to here if you also love main characters who are bakers).
Instead, share your thing. What’s that one thing that will sell you a book nearly instantly, guaranteed. And what are some of your favorite books you’ve found with that thing?
I’m not sure if this book is still available for purchase, as I couldn’t find it on retail sites, but I’m still including it as a favorite because this collection of three romances, which starts with the dedication “This is for nonbinary cuties” and that center the romances around Graham’s Delicacies is such an inclusive and sweet romance that I hope you’ll be able to find it.
All 6 of the main characters are queer and inside the book you’ll find three romances that are warm, engaging and so happy-making that this is a book you’ll find lifting your mood and giving you that “good book” sigh. Just writing this post made me put this one back on my ereader so I could revisit that feeling that I look for in my romances!
Representation: Black, Latinx, Arab-American, Korean-American, bisexual, nonbinary, gay
Content warnings: misgendering, mention of parent death
Beard Science is my favorite of Penny Reid’s work due to main characters Jennifer and Cletus. Jennifer is the “Banana Cake Queen” and famous for her baking, but in particular her banana cake. Jennifer wants nothing more than to get out from under her unwanted title and she has no qualms about blackmailing Cletus—clever, interfering, and all-too-observant Cletus—to help her do so.
Beard Science serves as the springboard for a mystery series featuring Jennifer and Cletus.
Representation: cis, white, m/f couples, neurodiversity
Content Warnings: mentions of violence, toxic family, body shaming
While I admit that Jayci Lee’s debut book Temporary Wife Temptation still holds first place in my hear among her books, her writing is fantastic and A Sweet Mess checked my “bakers” box so of course I loved it.
Aubrey is a baker and bakery owner whose main focus is on her bakery, Comfort Zone, until she has a one-night stand with Landon Kim. A food critic whose review ripping apart Comfort Zone and Aubrey’s baking skills goes viral and nearly ruins her business. To save her reputation, Aubrey has to agree to go on Landon’s food competition show (another thing I love for real: food competition shows) and it’s up to Landon to show Aubrey he’ll stand by her side.
This book adorable and swoonworthy, but speaking of swoonworthy, I was super excited when Jayci Lee announced the sale of her book’s movie rights, which Daniel Dae Kim will be producing and starring in. I’m ready!
Representation: Korean-American, cis, m/f couple
Content warnings: Family abuse, toxic family
Freelance editor and author career coach Angela James (she/her) is a veteran of the fiction publishing industry and has enjoyed nearly 20 years of experience in her field. An expert on editing (and reading!) genre fiction, especially romance and mystery, Angela has edited hundreds of bestselling books and authors.
But, most of all, at heart, Angela is an avid romance reader who started reading romance at the precocious age of 9, when she “borrowed” her first Harlequin category romance from the brown paper grocery bag full that her mom kept next to her recliner. Romance has remained her one true love ever since that moment.