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It's getting hot in here: How cooking-inspired romance novels are bringing some spice to the kitchen

A couple preparing a colorful meal. (Getty Images)
A couple preparing a colorful meal. (Getty Images)

Romance authors are turning up the heat with a new trend of cooking-inspired love stories.

Chef’s Kiss,” “For Butter or Worse,” and “Donut Fall In Love” are just a handful of the recent and upcoming romance titles that publishers hope will get readers’ taste buds tingling and hearts pounding.

Bettina Makalintal, senior reporter for Eater, says cooking inspired romance novels are a natural extension of a society enamored with food.

“I think it really speaks to sort of the broader cultural interest in food,” Makalintal says. “There’s so many food shows and food movies. And so I think that’s sort of reflecting in romance novels as well.”

Cooking is also deeply intertwined with the way our culture thinks about romance and wooing — even our dates are mostly set over food.

“I think you always remember really memorable restaurant dinners, for example, or a time that you cook something really nice together is something that really stands out as being a new experience that you did together,” Makalintal says. “It’s something that resonates because it is so multi-sensory.”

The buffet of food-themed romance novels also introduces diversity to a genre that historically lacks and sorely needs it.

“A lot of these books were also telling stories about different types of immigrants or different cultural groups that I hadn’t necessarily seen in romance before,” Makalintal observes. “I think food becomes a really obvious and sort of welcoming entry point for telling these stories that maybe you hadn’t thought about this sort of culture’s cuisine before. But it becomes really interesting to read about people cooking and eating it and enjoying it.”

But are we reaching an over saturation of food-inspired romance? Or, like dessert, is there always room for more?

Makalintal says that while the trend likely isn’t going anywhere, it may change recipes.

“We are perhaps approaching saturation on the food competition premise because so many of those came out in the past few years,” she says. “I think that we’re possibly going to see maybe some sort of transition of the food-themed romance story into different venues.”

“For example, I saw a book that’s coming out next year about restaurant critics that are enemies to lovers … But I think we’ll continue to see food stories in the romance niche.”

Bettina Makalintal recommends

  • Chef’s Kiss” by TJ Alexander, a love story between a high-strung pastry chef and her attractive nonbinary kitchen manager set a test kitchen.
  • Accidentally Engaged” by Farah Heron, in which a bread-obsessed baker becomes neighbors with the very man her family is trying to set her up with.

Kalyani Saxena, producer and resident romance bookworm, recommends

  • Battle Royal” by Lucy Park, a grumpy/sunshine romance between two rival chefs facing off for the ultimate gig. (Bonus: It’s inspired by “The Great British Bake Off.”)

Kalyani Saxena produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Saxena also adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.