For Butter or Worse, by Erin La Rosa

For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If only they could talk. Oh, wait… How non- and intentional miscommunication not only derails a decent story but an entire novel.

For Butter or Worse”? This amusingly cheesy title (and Helen Hoang’s prominent endorsement on the cover) made me read this. Sadly, it was mostly a waste of my reading time.

Chef Nina and restaurant chain owner Leo co-host a cooking show and don’t get along. Once she drops out of the show, Nina discovers she’s losing even more business than before and agrees to fake-date her “enemy” Leo. Leo is in a pretty similar situation and, thus, agrees to this charade as well.

At this point, I should have stopped. Fake-dating and enemies-to-lovers in one book? That’s a recipe for disaster but Erin La Rosa had to add a lot more ingredients to her novel and as its sole cook, she creates a hotchpotch of topics that are each highly relevant – and thoroughly neglected.

There’s, of course, the subject of sexism in the food industry. To be honest, I have next to no clue about the food industry but judging by the number of famous male chefs I know versus that of famous female ones, this seems fairly obvious.
It doesn’t really get explored in any meaningful way, though.

Let’s add anxiety and panic attacks to the mix – pretty much the only thing the novel has to say on the topic is that “the symptoms of a heart attack [are] virtually indistinguishable from those of a panic attack”.

We’re still not done yet because next to be added is “extreme burnout”. Thankfully, the author refrains from making any big assumptions on that one – apart from it being dealt with conclusively in a mere six therapy sessions…

Social media toxicity also had to be added, right next to toxic masculinity represented by the transgressive stereotypical ex-boyfriend. Stress eating and lots of other miscellaneous issues serve to further enrich this mess.

I could look past all that if the remainder of the story made up for it but, alas, there just isn’t enough of a story in this: They fake-date, they discover they harbour feelings for each other – and decide to keep silent about those feelings, sometimes actually expressing the exact opposite of what they feel and want from each other. I kept thinking “TALK TO EACH OTHER!” (Yes, in all-caps.)

It is so unbelievably annoying to me when authors resort to such simplistic devices: Both Nina and Leo can’t be teenagers anymore. They’ve each actually accomplished a lot. And, yet, they don’t talk.

Two out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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