Food and its affiliation to cultural pleasures like music and art is one thing; however, when love and romance are thrown into the mix, it can certainly spice things up. If you’re a fan of stories that explore culinary connections that also show just how much food and love go together like peanut butter and jelly, grab a snack and kick back with these picks.
A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Caña
There’s nothing like a little family interference and manipulation to get a relationship off the ground: Kamilah and Liam, whose families own a restaurant and a distillery, respectively, realize their grandfathers, who are also best friends, have been conspiring to get them to the altar. In her debut novel, Caña tells a humorous and heartfelt story about how these adversaries’ attempt to fool their elders with a fake engagement doesn’t exactly go how they planned.
Make it Sweet by Kristen Callihan
Emma’s once happy life suddenly takes a nosedive; between her television character being cut and catching her boyfriend sleeping another woman, a California vacation is definitely on the menu. At the resort, she meets Lucian, the owner’s handsome grandson whose heart is just as guarded as hers. They initially take extra efforts to avoid each other but thanks to a late-night skinny dip and the delivery of Lucian’s delectable desserts at her door, Emma begins to taste romance again.
So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park
When Jessie learns during a virtual meeting that she was laid off and then hears the sexist and culturally insensitive remarks about why she was let go, she angrily gives everyone a piece of her mind. She soon moves back to Tennessee to live with her supportive but meddlesome parents; while back home, she bumps into Daniel, her childhood rival who, on the surface, appears to have it all together. After deciding to relaunch her dormant Korean cooking YouTube channel, she reluctantly accepts Daniel’s assistance in getting it back off the ground; however, their working relationship brings on more challenges than she ever expected.
Idlewild by Jude Sierra
In a last attempt to revive Idlewild, the downtown Detroit gastropub he established with his late husband, Asher Schenck fires the current staff and starts anew. Among the new crew members is 23-year-old Tyler Heyward, a recent college graduate who is working to pay for medical school. Soon, sparks fly, and their business-turned-lovers relationship is tested by not only Asher’s grief but also by their contrasting backgrounds.
Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander
Simone Larkspur is living her best life with her dream job as a pastry expert at a top New York City cookbook publisher. When the publishing house retools their brand by going digital, Simone has a difficult time adjusting; in addition, she is forced to work with Ray Lyton, the new test kitchen manager and viral YouTube star whose disposition she despises. But the more time they spend together, Simone’s heart softens—while Ray’s revelation about his lifestyle complicates matters at the workplace, leaving her to choose between her heart and her career.
Digging Up Love by Chandra Blumberg
Alisha Blake whips up delicious desserts for her grandfather’s restaurant in a rural Illinois town; although she cherishes her relationship with her family, she yearns to take her talents to Chicago. Before she can pack her bags, a dinosaur bone is found in her grandparents’ backyard, which brings the career-minded paleontologist Quentin Harris into her life. He is dealing with a recent breakup and while this latest discovery is a nice distraction, he soon has eyes for Alisha. Blumberg’s debut novel is a tale of what happens when careers and ambition run parallel to falling in love.
Food Fight! by Thea Lambert
Chef Charlie is excited to be a contestant on Food Fight!, television’s newest cooking competition show. With both the chance to show off her talent as well as win a cash prize to pay off her food truck loan, her bubble bursts when she learns that Drew, her high school rival, is also competing. Lambert’s “all is fair in love and war” tale is the story of what happens when deception turns into desire.
Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliott
Sadie is a heavy hitter in Seattle’s culinary community who dreams of putting a modern twist on traditional Jewish recipes. After publicly splitting up with her super chef boss, she is sure her career is ruined—until she gets a spot on the upcoming season of her favorite show, Chef Supreme. On a flight to New York, she instantly bonds with her seatmate Luke but later tells him she’ll be off the grid for six weeks. After having dinner, they part ways; however, after arriving on set the next day, she is stunned to learn just who Luke really is…
The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden
Ten years ago, Lolly Blanchard grew accustomed to live giving her lemons: Her mother died suddenly, she broke up with her first love, and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family’s struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. As Lolly’s thirty-third birthday approaches and she reflects on abandoned goals and regrets, her worldly great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift—three lemon drops, each of which will give her a single day in a life that might have been hers. Surprising and empowering, each vivid re-lived experience helps Lolly realize that the magic of transforming her life isn’t in the past, but in having the courage to embrace her present.
Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton
Natalie Grayson truly has it all: She’s a top exec at a major advertising firm, has plenty of friends, a loving family, and no shortage of handsome hunks to hang out with. While her professional and personal life are solid, there is something else that keeps a smile on her face: cheese. Natalie’s favorite indulgence is her weekly farmer’s market visit and the chance to see her favorite turophile and creamery owner, Oscar Mendoza. He is mysterious and seemingly unaware but that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about becoming the big cheese in his world.
Donut Fall in Love by Jackie Lau
Ryan Kwok returns to Toronto after promoting his latest film, a rom-com flop that didn’t exactly win over any movie critics. After years of steady work and the sudden passing of his mother, he takes a much-needed break. Between trying to support his family and navigating a now-strained relationship with his dad, his regular dim sum dining companion, life is now very different for him. He soon meets Lindsay McLeod after he knocks over a couple dozen donuts at her bakery. Their instant attraction reaches a new level when Ryan signs up for the celebrity edition of Baking Fail, and he enlists Lindsay for baking lessons. The more time they spend baking and bonding, the hotter it gets in their kitchen.