Buy Love à la Mode
Regular price $9.99
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers / Disney-Hyperion / Listening Library
Format: Paperback / eBook / Audiobook
Narrator: Stephanie Kate Strohm, the author
Reviewer: Melissa on May 30, 2020
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
From the moment I saw the cute cover and read the synopsis on the Libby App, I really wanted to love Love à la Mode by Stephanie Kate Strohm. To be fair, there are many things I did love about it, but overall, the relationship that develops between Henry and Rosie really started to irk me after awhile. I love books about cooking and food, I loved Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and the other companion novels in the series to which this book is compared, and I’ve watched a bunch of food competitions, like Chopped, so I was really predisposed to love this story.
From the beginning I was into it. I’m not the kind of person who is put off by insta-like or insta-love in a novel, so even when Henry thought to himself that he shouldn’t tell Rosie he might love her while they were still on the plane where they met, I didn’t mind. Early in their relationship, I was also happy as well with the way things developed between them…the misunderstandings, initially, such as when Henry wanted to kiss her and Rosie thought he was going to kiss her, but then it didn’t happen…I was totally on-board.
Miscommunication is something that I’ve come to expect in a lot of romance novels, especially with teen characters because they’re just figuring out how to talk to people of the opposites sex and how relationships work in general. For Rosie and Henry, though, miscommunication became more like a complete lack of communication—he never told her what he was going through, which just creates distance between them.
If that’s all it was, I would’ve still been patient with the novel. Unfortunately, Henry is plagued by bad moods and exhaustion because of the pressure his mom is pushing on him to do well in the academic classes at Denis Laurent’s school in Paris, including pushing him to do extra math packets three times a week, and he takes it out on Rosie. Over and over. Rosie, understandably doesn’t understand why he was behaving this way and assumes that maybe he wasn’t really wasn’t into her. Further, Henry makes assumptions all the time, like Rosie has a crush on Bodie Tall, the semi-celebrity and son of a celebrity chef, and repeatedly gets angry with her whenever they interact with one another, acting like a jealous fool. Sometimes he just takes off without saying hi to Rosie and only talks with her when she forces the issue, but he usually says something not very nice out of anger at these moments. To me, there are a lot of red flags in this relationship, which they can possibly get over by actually communicating, but in the book, I think it’s unclear whether they are able to do so.
The worst part what when Rosie is asked to stay after class to talk to Chef. Priya, her roommate, told her to come upstairs asap, but when Rosie heard the worst thing she could imagine from her teacher and Bodie happened to be outside the class and knew what was going on, Rosie agrees to go to the Boulangerie with him…but only after she cusses him out for eavesdropping on her private conversation. Why did Priya tell her to come upstairs? Well, Henry had planned a special date that she missed when she went off campus because he never actually asked her out. He assumed that her girlfriends Priya and Yumi would help her get ready and then they’d go to the restaurant on time. He’s actually mad when she arrives because 1) she was with Bodie, and 2) they missed the reservation that she didn’t even know about. I can see keeping the destination of the date a secret, but to keep the entire date a secret, not ask her out, and not get consent to ensure that she’d actually want to go out with him and then get mad when she wasn’t there at the prescribed time is a prime example of toxic behaviour. Even though he apologizes for his behaviour, I’m not sure I believe that he’s a changed buy. The book ends too soon after this point to really know for sure. He may have given up his jealousy about Bodie, but what about when there’s someone other guy with whom Rosie starts being friends? What about when he’s stressed about something—has he really learned to ask for help instead of bottling it up? I just don’t know.
Beyond the romance, there are a lot of things I loved about Love à la Mode. The dynamics of the friend group that Rosie and Henry have at the École, especially Rosie’s relationship with Priya and Yumi, was great. Some of the girls at the school, like Clara, are super toxic and obviously jealous of the attention Bodie pays toward Rosie. However, Priya is delighted that she’s got a nice roommate who also has four siblings, and as their friendship develops, she’s the one who tells Rosie that Bodie had been flirting with her, even though Rosie doesn’t see it and Priya actually has a crush on Bodie. Moreover, once Rosie tells Priya and Yumi about what had been happening between her and Henry, Yumi is the first to point out that Henry’s inability to ask for help with his school stress is an example of toxic masculinity and says she hopes Henry is really worth it. She does help Rosie offer him a grand gesture, but she is also there to call bullshit on things when necessary.
I also loved the way that the author—who happens to be the narrator of the audiobook as well—describes things in Paris through both Henry and Rosie’s eyes. In particular, Rosie’s interest in and excitement for seeing the international difference in candy bars and magazine covers in France is something that I understood. Seeing all the things that are the same, but slightly different is really cool when you’re outside of your country for the first time. Also Henry’s description of his first visit to the Boulangerie gave me visions of my first visits to an amazing boulangerie in Montréal called Première Moisson, though I didn’t pick up six pastries for myself. Similarly, my first visit to a Creperie in Montréal was somewhat like the posse’s visit to one on their first weekend in Paris, though my French is much better than most of their’s. The ability to bring you to places—that’s pretty powerful stuff for an author.
I’ve skated around it, but a book like this can only work if it had a delightful array of food, pastries, and desserts, and Love à la Mode has that in spades. As I was reading, I kept a list of the many foods they ate—some I’ve had, many that I haven’t tried myself as a longtime vegetarian. Overall, it was a real feast for the senses.
While there is a lot that I enjoyed about this book, I’m just not on-board with Henry and Rosie’s relationship because I don’t think his repeated behaviour should be romanticized and I think that Rosie lets him off to easily. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Definitely check it out if the city of love and food are two of your fave things!
Buy Love à la Mode today for a great price!