The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver is a stand-alone contemporary novel.
When Rachel finally realises that her relationship is going nowhere and the boyfriend is a complete waste of space, she begrudgingly head off to Paris for Christmas. Her friends have entered her into a competition to become famous chef Henri Salernes' apprentice. She really didn't want to go but finally figured that Paris might be good for her.
In one week Rachel must face her competition, an incredibly tough and mean chef and do the best baking she can ever imagine doing.
Let me start by saying I have never watched The Great British Bake Off and I know a lot of people will be drawn to this book because of that.
Protagonist Rachel is stuck in a bit of a rut. Her boyfriend is beyond terrible and she finally sees that. Her mum passed away not too long ago and she misses her terribly, as does the whole village of Nettleton where she lives. Rachel's mum was a fantastic baker and everyone knows that Rachel likes to cook and bake as well. Just before Christmas one of Rachel's friends lets her know that she's going to Paris (even though she says she doesn't want to) to take part in a baking competition.
Rachel is an easy character to like because from the beginning of the book you can see that she's been through a lot and just wants something better for herself. When she finds out about Paris and the competition she really doesn't want to do it and even once she arrives she's still unsure. I was rooting for Rachel from the minute she stepped foot in the competition kitchen. It was obvious that she wasn't very comfortable and she also didn't think she should be there compared with the other contestants.
Jenny Oliver shows a very different view of Paris in this book. There are some very magical scenes at famous landmarks but what I really loved about the book was the descriptions of hidden away streets, the patisserie and the magic of a view from Rachel's window. The Parisian Christmas Bake Off doesn't show the flashy side of Paris but instead it's all about the magic of secret finds and not knowing what to expect. Oliver's descriptions really are wonderful, not only of Paris but of the food being made during the competition. I felt as though I was there with Rachel.
My only real criticism with this one is the time scale. The book only barely covers Christmas in Paris and a lot happens during this time. Some things, especially the romance, seemed really rushed which meant I wasn't as invested in it as I could have been. I didn't get to know Philippe the love interest nearly enough in the short space of time and I really wanted to. I did 'get' the attraction to him but I really just wanted more.
Overall, The Parisian Christmas Bake Off is a lovely read with the magic of Christmas, Paris and baking but I wanted more from it.