Book Review: The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver

 Author: Jenny Oliver
 Publisher: Carina
 RRP: £7.99
 Amazon Price: Paperback £7.19   or Kindle £1.99
  A Page of Love Rating:
Book Description:
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 way – as, thankfully, does her commitment-phobic ex, probably already kissing someone else under the mistletoe. But Rachel hasn’t come to Paris to mope she’s come to bake. Hard.  Because the search for Paris’s next patisserie apprentice is about to begin! And super-chef judge Henri Salernes is an infamously tough cookie. But Rachel isn’t about to let her confidence (or pastry) crumble. She’s got one week, mounds of melt-in-the-mouth macaroons and towers of perfect profiteroles to prove that she really is a star baker.  As well as clouds of flour, and wafts of chocolate and cinnamon, there’s definitely a touch of Christmas magic in the air… Rachel hasn’t come to Paris looking for a fairy-tale romance, but the city of love might gift-wrap her one anyway…  Not even a dusting of icing sugar could make The Parisian Christmas Bake Off a more perfect Christmas treat!

Dawn's Thoughts: 

Oh my Christmas was saved!!! I thought that I had found ALL the puddings worth reading this festive season, and I was starting to feel glum and had that "is it really all over?" feeling in the pit of my stomach. But thank goodness for Jenny Oliver and her masterpiece The Parisian Christmas Bake Off!

I devoured this book in less than 24 hours as I literally - COULD. NOT. PUT. IT. DOWN. I just don't know what my hands are going to do now!

The book begins with a scene that is familiar to me - the nativity being rehearsed in the school hall and the teachers hoping they can pull it out of the bag... even if One Direction are going to be making an appearance... But one of the teachers, Rachel, has recently lost her mother and Christmas is going to be a painful time, understandably. The fellow staff rally round and with the help of the adorable children announce to Rachel (Miss Smithson) that she is going to PARIS for Christmas, and she is going to be having baking lessons as part of a competition with the one and only Super-Chef; Henri Salernes.

At first, Rachel is adamant that she is not going... but then the children of her class hold up a banner for her, and who can say no to them? (I know I couldn't... I've been in a similar situation myself, and it's just impossible I tell you!). She doesn't think she can cope with baking again, not without her Mum, and her father is still grieving. Her grandmother (who would love it if she called her Julie and not Gran!) urges her to go, and so, she finds herself catching the Eurostar to Paris.

When Rachel turns up for her first day of the competition training with Henri, it seems that he has a touch of Gordon Ramsay in him when it comes to his temper... but he used to be so famous, with his brother and they collected Michelin stars... until they lost them all and no one really knew why. Still, Rachel knew the basics... her mother had taught her, her mother had had her very own bakery. But somehow, Rachel and Henri don't seem to hit it off, well not in the way she'd like to. He doesn't seem to understand why baking is special for her. Or why it's difficult for her.

There are others in the competition... Abby, Marcel, Ali, Lacey, George, and Tony. Soon they all become friends, but one has to remember... it's a competition and surely friends wouldn't play dirty would they? Or would they? When soufflé's fall, and over whisking occurs, flour gets everywhere, and chocolate éclairs from Henri's patisserie downstairs is the only answer, will Rachel run back to England, or will she stick it out in Paris, and give it one more try... for her Mum?

While she decides, she bumps into the most handsome guy you have ever seen... I should know... he's been in my dreams for YEARS! I thought he was Italian, I've always thought he would be Italian, but it turns out he's French.... Oh, I'm going off track aren't I? Sorry.

Anyway, Rachel bumps into this handsome French guy, dark hair, a 1940s vibe about him, wool coat, smart suit, .... oh damn,.. I'm drooling again! Philippe is his name... Philippe... such a heroic name don't you think, passionate, sensual.... Philippe... I could say his name all day... Damn, I'm channelling Miranda again... can you guess who's been watching more Miranda over the festive season? Miranda would LOVE Philippe.

Well, Philippe, I fell in love with him, and Rachel has a soft spot for him too... he's handsome in a non obvious way. Apparently. Ahem. :)  Well, it seems that Philippe is Henri's brother... yes, the brother whom Henri used to be famous for co-owning a restaurant with. But Philippe doesn't cook anymore. He revolutionised the way we cook, but he doesn't cook anymore. Why? Well he does tell Rachel, but you'll have to find out for yourself!

I loved the chemistry between Rachel and Philippe, even if Marcel did play dirty with the females in the baking competition.... but Abby did it for the girls when she got pay back for herself and Rachel. In fact, Abby gave me my favourite quote of the YEAR with;

"C'est tres petit. Tres, tres petit. Oui. Comprende?" she sneered, brandishing her little inch long pickled cucumber.

Oh I laughed and laughed for a good time with that one. Don't you just adore the French language? I know it's reignited a passion for it in me, and I actually really would love to visit Paris in time for Christmas... maybe one day I will and I'll do it with Rachel and Philippe in mind.  

Anyway, the competition slowly comes to an end, before you know it, there are two contestants left, and it's the BAKE OFF! One wins, and gets to be Henri's apprentice for a month, and the other... well doesn't get nagged so much! But one thing that does happen, is that Rachel discovers that everyone back home in her village have got together and managed to get her an abandoned shop and are determined for her to open it up as a new bakery... they even get stuck in bringing down ceilings, chandeliers, discovering tile flooring and putting together a Parisian inspired décor that will remind Rachel of her time in Paris. I can promise you it looks amazing and breath-takingly stunning! I've seen it! in my mind... and it is a treat!  But when everyone turns up for the grand opening, will the one person Rachel want be there actually be there and if not, will she ever see them again?

I honestly, absolutely LOVED this book, and had to give it an OFFICIAL Page of Love 5 heart rating! I would love to read more about Rachel and Philippe, (obvious reasons right?) and I'd love to lose the weight I gained whilst reading it.... seriously I HAD to devour chocolate éclairs, and cake and gorgeous pastry whilst reading it... it was only right to get into the Parisian Bakery atmosphere... it had to be done, and this book HAS to be read, so scoot... go on, head to the bookstore, amazon, get it in paperback, get it on your kindle.... and go read it... with a delicious treat of course. And don't blame me for the weight you gain!

Oh, is that Pains au Chocolat I see? ......

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