For fans of Jenny Han, Jane Austen, and The Great British Baking Show, A Taste for Love, is a delicious rom com about first love, familial expectations, and making the perfect bao.
To her friends, high school senior Liza Yang is nearly perfect. Smart, kind, and pretty, she dreams big and never shies away from a challenge. But to her mom, Liza is anything but. Compared to her older sister Jeannie, Liza is stubborn, rebellious, and worst of all, determined to push back against all of Mrs. Yang’s traditional values, especially when it comes to dating.
The one thing mother and daughter do agree on is their love of baking. Mrs. Yang is the owner of Houston’s popular Yin & Yang Bakery. With college just around the corner, Liza agrees to help out at the bakery’s annual junior competition to prove to her mom that she’s more than her rebellious tendencies once and for all. But when Liza arrives on the first day of the bake-off, she realizes there’s a catch: all of the contestants are young Asian American men her mother has handpicked for Liza to date.
The bachelorette situation Liza has found herself in is made even worse when she happens to be grudgingly attracted to one of the contestants; the stoic, impenetrable, annoyingly hot James Wong. As she battles against her feelings for James, and for her mother’s approval, Liza begins to realize there’s no tried and true recipe for love.
Title: A Taste for Love
Author: Jennifer Yen
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling
Targeted Age Range: Young Adult
Representation: Predominately Taiwanese cast, Taiwanese bisexual side character
Trigger Warnings: Cheating (not mcs), discussions of eating disorders (not graphic, chapter 11), mentions of a car crash (not graphic, chapter 24), mentions of underage drinking and rehab (not graphic, chapter 24), a somewhat strained relationship with a parent
Like many others during quarantine, I have started to really up my baking game, so I’ve found myself gravitating towards stories that involve baking. I also obsessively binge-watch The Great British Baking Show practically every month (there are definitely episodes that I have completely memorized and still react accordingly when something dramatic happiness). It’s easy to say that baking has pretty much taken over my life at this point. So when I heard that A Taste for Love was a Pride and Prejudice retelling with a Great British Baking Show twist, I rushed to add it to my most anticipated release list. Author Jennifer Yen also calls this book a “little boba book” and if you know me, you know that I’m pretty obsessed with boba (strawberry milk tea with boba all day every day) so there really was no way that this book wouldn’t be something that I would absolutely adore.
Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite works of literature. I’ve read it multiple times, watched pretty much every adaptation of it (shoutout to the 2005 film, heart-eyes everywhere for that one), and any time I see a retelling I add it to my to-be-read list. Because of my love for the original story, I can be weary when it comes to retellings. I’ve read some wonderful ones, and I’ve read some that I think would’ve caused Jane Austen some serious stress. I am happy to say that A Taste for Love would be placed in the “retellings I love” category. Throughout the book, it’s clear that the inspiration was Pride and Prejudice but A Taste for Love definitely stands on its own.
When it comes to retellings, I am big on characterization. I want the characters to be reminiscent of the characters from the original story, but I also want them to stand on their own. The characters in A Taste for Love have many of the same traits that make us love (or hate) the characters in Pride and Prejudice but are also distinctly different from their original counterparts. The vibes are absolutely there without it feeling like a copycat. Something else that I loved was that Yen played around a bit with the dynamics from the original story. The way that she incorporated the Lydia/Wickham storyline I thought was especially well done, and similarly to the original story, the Wickham-like character was very charming and likable at first so you didn’t see it coming.
I adored Liza. I thought she was a great main character. Liza is a character who I felt was easy to connect to. I loved her passion for baking and how she was always trying new things in the kitchen. I loved her fierce love for her friends and family. She simply felt so real to me. I could see parts of myself in her, and I could easily see myself being friends with her and hanging out at Boba Life all-day. Although I’m not Taiwanese, as someone who is Asian, reading about how another Asian character stays connected to their culture and immerses themselves in other Asian cultures was really heartwarming. It was so clear how much she loves being Taiwanese and never tried to be someone she wasn’t.
Something that I really loved about this book was how it explored different types of relationships. All the relationships, whether they were familiar, platonic, or romantic, were well-written, fully developed, and felt very real and relatable. I really loved the friendship between Liza and her best friend, Grace. Everyone needs a friend who will help you get out of awkward family situations and then hang out at a boba tea shop for the entire day. Grace was a great, solid friend who was always there for Liza, and in turn, Liza was always there for Grace. Their friendship was, in my opinion, one of the strongest parts of the book.
I loved James and Liza. Right away I knew I was going to adore James. He was a bit snarky and sarcastic, but he also really has a heart of gold. Similarly to Mr. Darcy, James has a bit of a hard time opening up, but once he does, you see who he truly is and he’s wonderful. I loved the scenes where he and Liza were able to open up to each other. There were also quite a few moments during the baking competition that had me grinning from ear to ear because they were so darn precious! He made something specifically for her based on a conversation that they had previously and it just warmed my heart. I thought their relationship progressed nicely and I loved their clear respect and admiration for one another.
Besides the romance between Liza and James, for me, the most interesting relationship dynamic was the one between Liza and her mother. While it’s clear that they love each other, Liza and her mother have a bit of a strained relationship. What it ultimately comes down to is that neither really understands the other. Mrs. Yang has certain expectations for Liza that seem to be rooted in more traditional practices and beliefs, while Liza’s mindset is more modern. I definitely understood how at times Mrs. Yang could come off as overbearing or overprotective (I mean taking your baking competition for teens and turning it into a Bachelorette style competition to find your daughter a “suitable” Asian boyfriend is just a little extreme…), but all the things she did so clearly came from a place of love and wanting to give her daughter the best life she could possibly have. I loved that throughout the book you could see how their relationship was growing and changing and by the end, there was much more understanding between the two.
This book also, not surprisingly, made me incredibly hungry! The Yang’s family business Yin and Yang Restaurant and Bakery sounded so amazing – and the name of it is just precious as Mrs. Yang’s maiden name was Yin. I wanted to dive right into the book and eat the food that Mr. Yang made in the restaurant and then head right on over to the bakery for some delicious desserts. I loved the inclusion of all different types of foods, specifically Asian cuisine, from sweet or savory steamed buns to jelly cakes to Hokkaido milk bread (also known as shokupan). The recipes sounded so delicious and I loved learning about all the dishes that I hadn’t known about before. I might even try to bake some in the future.
A Taste For Love was a book that once I started, I did not want to put down. I was fully immersed in the story and characters and felt a little piece of myself in this book. If you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh, smile, and have a craving for delicious desserts, then this is the book for you.
*As I am not Taiwanese, I will update with links to ownvoice reviews as they are found.
Jennifer Yen is a Taiwanese American author of young adult and adult fiction. She draws much of her inspiration from her Chinese and Japanese heritage.
Her debut novel, A Taste For Love, will be published by Razorbill (PGH) in Spring 2021, with a second book to follow.
Jennifer lives in Houston, Texas with her adorable rescue dog. She spends her days healing the hearts of others, and her nights writing about love, family, and the power of acceptance. She believes in the magic of one’s imagination, and hopes her stories will bring joy and inspiration to readers.
If you find her wandering around aimlessly, please return her to the nearest milk tea shop.