Kiskeya Burgos left the tropical beaches of the Dominican Republic with a lot to prove. As a pastry chef on the come up, when she arrives in Scotland, she has one goal in mind: win the Holiday Baking Challenge. Winning is her opportunity to prove to her family, her former boss, and most importantly herself, she can make it in the culinary world. Kiskeya will stop at nothing to win , that is, if she can keep her eyes on the prize and off her infuriating teammate’s perfect lips.
Sully Morales, home cooking hustler, and self-proclaimed baking brujita lands in Scotland on a quest to find her purpose after spending years as her family’s caregiver. But now, with her home life back on track, it’s time for Sully to get reacquainted with her greatest love, baking. Winning the Holiday Baking Challenge is a no brainer if she can convince her grumpy AF baking partner that they make a great team both in and out of the kitchen before an unexpected betrayal ends their chance to attain culinary competition glory.
- Set in Scotland
- Great British Bake Off but Scottish and Dominicana queerness
- There’s only one bed
- Food porn
- Grumpy heroine
- Heroine thirsts after fellow Dominicana chef
- You’ll want a Coquito
- Bouquets of chili mangos and mistletoe
Listen. I am a whore for contemporary romances set in Scotland. I need more of them. This time there’s snow, an f/f romance, and Dominicana ownvoices involved. The stars aligned and Adriana Herrera came into existence to tell romance stories.
This is divinity.
Culture and Food
Kiskeya Burgos, our heroine, is from the Dominican Republic. She joins a holiday bake off so she can extend her visa in the United States. Black and brown immigrants have to go above and beyond to get the same rights. Sully Morales is also Dominican but she’s from the States. Kiskeya and Sully are complete opposites. Kiskeya is a masculine girl and Sully is feminine. They agree on one thing: they have the hots for each other.
Unlike Kiskeya, Sully embraces her culture. Sully’s open enthusiasm for Dominican culture makes Kiskeya miss her home. She’s a curmudgeon and tends to lash out when uncomfortable. Sully really pushes her buttons so it’s all super adorable.
We’re going to work magic with some mangos and coconuts. Bring the tropics to Scotland.
Dominicanas in a Scottish set romance is activism. The romance genre tends to section off BIPOC to America and makes Europe exclusive to white people. That’s changing but not nearly enough. Herrera’s decision to set this in Scotland is feminism. She’s making it known BIPOC exist in spaces white people excluded them from.
The heroines discuss Dominican culture in a place white people tell marginalized folks they aren’t supposed to be a part of. In America, black and brown immigrants face hatred because of the anti-immigration and racist rhetoric, impacting their right to exist and live in America. A similiar (but still different) rhetoric happens in the UK. Discussing whether to be too loud about their culture in a place that typically views marginalized people’s flavors as too loud is a message. Herrera is saying their right to express their culture or to exist in Europe is not loud or invasive. It’s their right.
I’m not going to downplay my culture for anyone.
Kiskeya feels pressured to downplay her culture. Her past experiences impacts the way she presents her food in the chef world. Whiteness is praised as art. The world often views marginalized cultures and their food as a lower status of art. Kiskeya is aware of how the western world sees her culture’s food. She also knows the difficulties of being an artist and adding in Dominican flavors to her food. The pressure of balancing respect for her culture and being an artist makes embracing her culture difficult.
Then walks in Sully and she wrecks this grumpy heroine. She is unabashedly Dominican. She uses flavors and love to heal our dear curmudgeon.
Did I talk about the food descriptions? Lets talk about how I drooled the entire time.
“We can put a little cayenne in it, make it like a Mexican hot chocolate.” Now, it was my turn at an eye roll. “That’s not Dominican.” “I know, but it’s got a hint of Latinx flavors. We can do a marshmallow nougat, crush it up, and roll it into the chocolate spread.”
The sex scenes are not the only things sexy about this book……..
And there are lots of sexytimes. Chefs definitely do the dirty talk.
Privilege and Power
Unlike some of the other people in the contest, Kiskeya and Sully are not privileged. One of the more interesting aspects of this story is the privileges white women receive when they enter the field of baking versus the lack of reception BIWOC receive. The BECCAS, so named because they both have the name Rebecca, are famous Instagram baker/influencers. They have citizenship, they have status, they have huge followings, and they have money. Kiskeya, on the other hand, does not have citizenship in either the UK or the U.S. She does not have money or the followers to grant her large opportunities like the Beccas. This championship could grant her opportunities that the Beccas would take for granted.
This is a critique on the privileges given to white women. White women can receive success for cute bakes, like cupcakes. White people can use the flavors of BIPOC and get credit for their artistry while the very people who come from those cultures are confined to the space of lowbrow cooks. BIWOC’s flavorful and original food doesn’t get nearly as much attention. Some reviewers may think the descriptions of the Beccas to be internal misogyny. It’s not. The Beccas names are not a coincidence. Becky is code for a white privileged woman. This is not a snide against feminine women but a discussion on the power imbalances between BIPOC and white women.
Some things I wanted more of or things I took issue with:
- I wish there had been more of an emphasis on atmosphere. There should have been way more snow and scenery descriptions.
- I dislike the trope in romance where the hero in m/f romances intentionally says something offensive or rude to the heroine in order to protect themselves from becoming too attached or close to them. This reminds me too much of the toxic tendencies of men. I don’t like the idea that an f/f romance is internalizing the toxic behaviors of men. I’m not saying queer women aren’t nuanced or complicated, but this trope is used to fight misogyny and toxic behaviors of men. It’s not something authors should be normalizing in romance.
- The antagonists in this novella are a little too mustache twirly. Antagonists, in my opinion, are much more interesting when they’re nuanced and complicated. There are so many interesting themes in this novella. Herrera could have explored the portrayal of antagonism a lot more than she did.
This novella has discussions on culture, privilege, and idenity while also having a sexy f/f romance at the center. It’s obvious you’re going to pick this up right?