The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver

Just give it one more chance, for me. 

Title - The Parisian Christmas Bake Off
Author - Jenny Oliver
Publication Date - 7th November 2014
Publisher - Carina UK
Format - Paperback (Provided via publisher)

The blurb

Welcome to the most celebrated patisserie competition in Paris _ ready, steady, bake!

Watching snowflakes settle on the Eiffel Tower, Rachel Smithson's cosy English village feels very far away - as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else beneath the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn't come to Paris to mope...

Super-chef Henri Salernes is searching for Paris's next patisserie apprentice - and Rachel is here to bake! With just one week to prove she can produce melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and perfect profiteroles, Rachel needs no distractions. 

But along with wafts of chocolate and sugar, there's a touch of Christmas magic in the air! And even though Rachel isn't looking for a fairy-tale romance... the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway... 

Becca's thoughts

Firstly, I would like to say a very special thank you to the wonderful publishers Carina UK for sending me my very own gorgeous paperback copy of The Parisian Christmas Bake Off in the post, all shiny and tempting in it's Christmassy wrapping papered glory. And of course, a MASSIVE thank you to Jenny Oliver. She is such a stunning writer, and just like I was after reading The Vintage Summer Wedding by Jenny, I was absolutely besotted with the story that she told me. This is the most perfect, exquisite Christmas story, and exactly the type of book that I would love to find beneath my Christmas tree (if, of course, I hadn't already read it, but I'd still love to find it all wrapped up, hidden beneath the branches)! 

In The Parisian Christmas Bake Off, the fabulous Jenny Oliver transports us to the twinkling, snowy, bustling streets of Paris, where Rachel Smithson, for the first time since her mother died, is baking. It's a huge step, no, a gigantic step for Rachel, because ever since that tragic time in her life, rather than bringing back fond memories, of which there were many, Rachel can only feel the heartache and none of the good. She's in Paris to compete for the position of becoming chef Henri Salernes' apprentice baker, and along with the other competitors, Rachel is lost within a puff of icing sugar! The competition begins to get heavy, the bakers begin to play nasty, and before she knows it, Rachel's long-ago passion is beginning to make itself known. 

There is not one single thing that I disliked about this book. Not one. I adored everything, from the bustling Parisian markets, to Chef Henri's angry, rude outbursts of instructions, to the sneakiness of the competitors when things begin to get serious, and to the very gorgeous, very sensual Philippe, who made my enjoyment of this book just that little bit sexier... 

Jenny's characters within The Parisian Christmas Bake Off were, as I knew they would, absolutely bloody fantastic. Her heroine, Rachel Smithson, was adorable, and how she manages to find herself in Paris rather than back in England where she teaches, was just pure comedy. To me, Rachel was the sort of person who had shelved her dreams because she didn't believe that there was even a teeny, tiny chance of that coming true. I got the impression that she'd locked up a box regarding baking and shoved it right to the dusty, dark corners of her mind, never to be opened again. As Rachel's past began to reveal itself, it became evident why. Rachel's mother had been the one who'd baked, who'd laughed and joked in the kitchen with with her daughter, and now, Rachel can't even knead dough to bake bread without a bitter-sweet flashback making itself known, and I felt like squishing Rachel up and squeezing her ever so tightly. It was clear, even though poor Rachel tried to hide it, that she still loved baking just as much as she had ever done. I wanted so badly for her to take that talent and passion and put it to good use, and thankfully, Rachel's unstoppable best-friend Jackie took care of that! *cheers for Jackie* When Jenny took me from England to Paris, I couldn't contain my excitement for a moment longer. It was like stepping out of a black and white movie into a vibrant, alive world, and I absolutely bloody loved it. Jenny's other characters, (and there were quite a number of them) were utterly endearing, even the nasty ones! There were the other competitors in the baking competition who I quickly grew to know and love; Marcel, Abby, Lacey... There was Jackie, Rachel's best-friend back in England, who was the one who got the snowball of an idea rolling and moved an Australia couple in Rachel's flat without Rachel's permission, ha ha! There were the children from the school where Rachel worked who were, quite simply, absolutely adorable! There was Rachel's opinionated grandmother who made me chuckle endlessly, there was Rachel's father who was still, quite obviously, grieving for his wife. And of course, there is no way on earth that I can forget Chef Henri Salernes who was quite the Gordan Ramsay wannabe. God, he made me laugh out loud so much, and there were numerous times where I actually felt awkward on Rachel's behalf! So many characters, and SO MUCH FUN TO BE HAD! Oh! And I almost forgot the lovely Chantal and Madame Charles, who I'm sure you'll love once you meet, too!  

Jenny's descriptions of Paris were enough to take me right there, and I mean right there. Right there as in I felt like I was strolling down the Parisian streets, snowflakes landing on my eyelashes, hands freezing cold and feet sopping wet (because I never have the appropriate shoes for snow). The markets that Jenny described were exhilarating, full of life and food and chatter, and I so wished that I could have been there, too, breathing it all in, taking in the sights and the smells, deeply inhaling the scents of every type of food in much the same way which handsome Mr Philippe did, and which, after watching Philippe do so, quickly became a habit of Rachel's too. With the snow falling, sometimes gently and prettily, other times pelting Rachel in the face, the scene was set beautifully. There were pubs with orange lights glowing from inside, mulled wine and numerous mentions of tantalisingly tasty morsels of food that immediately had me feeling hungry. I don't know how she does it, but Jenny Oliver hits the spot every single freaking time, and I'm always left wanting to face-plant the pages to somehow get inside of the wonderful worlds that she creates. 

Food played a major role in The Parisian Christmas Bake Off (obviously!) and I was not disappointed. The amount of times I had to get up and get some sort of snack was not even funny. This book made me so damn hungry I should have been about seven stone heavier by the time I'd finished it. The atmosphere when the bakers were baking for chef was absolutely addictive. I loved being in the kitchen with Rachel and the others, under Chef's fierce scrutiny and disapproving eye. It was like The Great British Bake Off but with a little added drama, a much scarier judge and a sparkle of romance too! From macaroons to scrumptious fresh loaves of bread, and from tarte tatins to soufflés, it was just fabulous! I loved being with the characters, seeing everything from their eyes and experiencing each of their senses along with them. Perfection between the front and back cover. 

The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver was out of this world. The gorgeous setting of Paris, the characters, the food, the snow, the baking, the chef, the romance... Gosh, it was a white flurry of excitement and delicious creations. I could happily re-read it all over again, right this very second. 

Becca's Books is rating The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver with nothing less than FIVE SCRUMPTIOUS CUPCAKES! Definitely one of my favourites this year, without a doubt, and I cannot wait to read The Little Christmas Kitchen. I need more of Jenny Oliver, and I need it now! Special thanks again to Carina UK and Jenny Oliver. The absolute perfect book to read and lose yourself with this Christmas.



1 comment :

  1. Looking forward to reading this one. I read The Little Christmas Kitchen and loved it! The only problem with her books is that they make me so hungry, she is great at describing all kinds of food :)