I received free e-ARCs of Food For Love by C Fonseca and Contract for Love by Alison Grey directly from the publisher in return for review consideration; my opinion and the content of this review have not been affected by this. Food for Love and Contract for Love are lesbian romance novels published by Ylva Publishing in the UK on 5th September 2018.
Below is the Goodreads synopsis of Food for Love:
When Jessica Harris flies home to Australia to sort out her late brother’s estate, the last thing she wants to face is his altruistic investment—an eatery on the rural Bellarine Peninsula.
The injured British/Indian elite cyclist just wants to settle up, move on, get rehab, and certainly not have to deal with the restaurant’s beautiful owner and artisan foodie, Lillian McAllister, or her sweet, four-year-old daughter.
In order to win, Jessica’s disciplined life is dedicated to controlling her emotions, and she isn’t sure she’d survive letting her walls down now.
A lesbian romance about how nourishment is so much more than the food we eat.
And the Goodreads synopsis for Contract for Love:
Single mom Sherry lives in a trailer park with her six-year-old son Jake, trying to make ends meet as a waitress.
Madison’s life couldn’t be more different. She’s been raised by her rich grandmother, and her only goals are partying and bedding women.
When her grandmother threatens to disinherit her if she doesn’t clean up her act, Madison has to find a way to convince her she’s changed.
After a chance encounter with Sherry, Madison comes up with a crazy idea that will rock both of their worlds: she wants to hire Sherry to play her fake girlfriend.
First off, Food for Love. This is a quiet book, but one that’s full of heart. Set largely in Australia, this is a book all about family in all forms, and about how what you do affects who you are. I really enjoyed both of the main characters. Jessica, with her difficult family relationships and the ongoing physical problems caused by her crash, is quiet and self-contained. Lillian, who’s surrounded by family and close friends, is more outgoing, but struggles with the sudden appearance of a new person in her life. They compliment each other well, and the development of their relationship feels organic and realistic.
There are great secondary characters in this book as well, and they help to give a feeling of two very human people with support networks, trying to do the best they can for themselves and the people around them. The conflict within the story is well handled, again feeling very realistic, and I found myself truly rooting for Jessica and Lillian, but also believing that there was the potential for them not to be able to work through their issues, and to go their separate ways. For me, even with a romance novel where a HEA is usually a given, I want to believe that the characters genuinely have to work through their problems to find the HEA, rather than it just being given to them.
The Australian setting is wonderful. Fonseca really brings the restaurant and the surrounding countryside to life, making the reader feel like they’re there experiencing everything with the characters. And I would definitely suggest having snacks alongside when you start on this book, as there are plenty of gorgeous food descriptions which, if you’re anything like me, will make you hungry!! Overall, this was a book that I really enjoyed, with realistic characters and relationships, and a great setting.
Moving onto Contract for Love, this was sadly a less enjoyable book for me. Fake dating is a trope I love, but I think it has to be handled carefully to really make it work. For me, I felt like the power dynamic between the two characters wasn’t addressed carefully enough, and I ended up feeling uncomfortable for much of the book.
Sherry and Madison felt, to me, like very ‘paint by numbers’ characters. Sherry’s poor and uneducated, but rich in heart and with a few close friends and family members she can rely on. Madison’s the privileged rich girl, swanning her way through life with little responsibility and not feeling bad about it, convinced money will get her anything she wants. For me, there wasn’t anything to make these characters seem like anything other than a collection of characteristics culled from similar storylines.
Grey tries to tackle a number of difficult issues in this book – privilege, poverty, family relationships, homophobia – but with there being so many, I felt like none of them was truly covered in enough depth. Problems are uncovered and acknowledged, but characters seem to move past them with relative ease. And with the main characters being so stereotypical, the changes they went through seemed rote to me and inevitable, rather than truly developing from their relationships and the events of the book.
Despite the similar titles, these are two very different books. Food for Love is one that I would recommend, and particularly to any romance lovers looking for a book not set in the US. Contract for Love, on the other hand, is not one that I would recommend, due to its uncomfortable and unexamined power dynamics, and paint-by-numbers characterisation.
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