Book Reviews

Baking Battles (Scandinavian Comfort 3) by Sophia Soames

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance / Fiction
Reviewed by ParisDude on 15-June-2020

Book Blurb

Are you brave enough to stay? Or strong enough to walk away?

Mattias Strømme is neither, still reeling with guilt over leaving his little family, walking away from a life that has been slowly suffocating him. He’s neither strong, nor brave.

His life is a recipe for disaster. He is a single dad of a 2-year-old, has an ex-wife who scares him, and a job in finance where he scares everyone else. And now he has been dragged in as a last-minute filler contestant on Baking Battles, the hit reality baking show.

Mattias can't bake. He can barely dress himself in the morning, and he definitely hasn't got the skills to charm the viewing public, or the wannabe celebs who make up the rest of the show's contestants. He's not a nice person. He's just... nothing.

Mattias left his wife when life became unbearable for him and he fell apart.

Now, when he is suddenly drowning in a mess of rumours, male supermodels, and unicorn glitter? Will Mattias be brave enough to stay? Or strong enough to walk away?

 

Book Review

I’m a huge sucker for Christmas, which means that whatever the season, give me a book set during the Christmas season, and you’ve got a 50 percent probability that I might be won over. If said book has been written by Sophia Soames into the bargain, that probability rises to more than 90 percent at once. Unsurprisingly, I loved this book a lot.

 

If I can say one thing about Christmas as described in this book, it’s that it turns out really messy for the main character Mattias Strømme. Maybe (most certainly) because Mattias Strømme is a mess. An awkward, thirtyish financial director living in Oslo (that’s in Norway for those who slept during their geography classes as I did, wink-wink), Mattias has no social skills whatsoever and is happiest within the confines of his glass-walled office at TV3, a Norwegian television channel, where he reigns as king supreme over his calculations, tables, and numbers. The only moments he feels even happier is when he spends alone-time with his two-year-old daughter Emi, sweet offspring of his ill-fated marriage with his college sweetheart Sara, with whom he has had a strained relationship ever since their divorce. Only Emi can stop him from being a prisoner of his self-loathing inner monologues: he thinks he has been an inadequate husband, an inadequate lover, and fears he might be an inadequate father as well.

 

The story starts with Mattias finding himself forced to leave the restricting bubble of his comfort zone. One of the channel’s best known shows is a cooking program called “Baking Battles”. Filming of the celebrity Christmas special is about to start, and they are one participant short. The director of the program, one of Mattias’s rare friends, simply enrols him despite his loud protests, and Mattias is suddenly standing before the cameras. To his utter astonishment he discovers that not only doesn’t he really mind but rather likes it; even more surprisingly, the coparticipants he meets and has to deal with for several hours a day—the glittery gay image coach, the politician from the Green Party, the Heavy Metal drummer, amongst others—turn out to be fun to hang out with. Being surrounded by people seems to enhance Mattias’s social skills a bit, but that illusion disappears whenever he talks to the show host, Christopher Pedersen, handsome, charismatic, and easy-going yet weird former Mister Norway (ooooh!). Christopher makes him feel confused, as if Mattias weren’t confused enough, and when the hot guy steals a kiss, Mattias doesn’t know where he stands anymore… where will this whole clutter he calls his life lead to?

 

What I like about Sophia Soames’s books—and this one is no exception—is the notion of entropy that permeates all aspects of her stories, just as entropy tends to do in real life. Whatever safeguards people wish to have, whatever measures of organizing they take, when push comes to shove, they find out that everything is always just a huge mess. People themselves are a mess. Razor-sharp logic, method, coordination, predicatbility are pipe dreams more often than not, which is especially true for interactions between people. The best way to cope with it is to shrug, deal with problems when they arise, and enjoy anything even remotely positive that our lives’ entropy pushes our way.

 

Mattias and Christopher are no exceptions to the entropy rule. The are completely (but enjoyably) messed-up guys. As in her other books, the author takes me by the hand, however, and makes me understand why they are such a mess: their internal struggles, their contradictions, their flaws, their insecurities become much clearer. It’s fun to watch how they say “No” and mean “Yes”, for example. In the end, however, they always yield to the higher force that is the attraction of and to another human being. I guess it’s the cuteness born from mess that strikes me as such an appealing feature in Soames’s books. When Mattias and Christopher find out there is chemistry between them, they accept it, they own it, the embrace it, making the necessary last step towards the other with no reluctance whatsoever. It’s Soames’s “love conquers all”-philosophy that I love so much. In addition, her characters always feel real in the sense that I have the impression I might encounter them any time or have already met them.

 

One quibble though with this book. It could have done without the last two chapters; I’d even say it would have been more complete, more rounded without them. If I were Soames’s editor or publisher, I would have suggested she leave them out, releasing them as a novella sequel if needs be. As it is, they don’t add any depth to the story or the characters but read as an almost tiresome and long afterthought that muddles up the main message and the very satisfying ending. Apart from that, this book has been a genuine pleasure to read. Mattias and Christopher are really sweet. Oslo sounds like a place I would very much like to visit (no surprise there). I even learned a whole lot of things about Norwegian Christmas traditions, got my share of snowflakes, laughs, and erotic thrills. I might reread this novel some six months from now, just saying…

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the author. This book has been provided by the author for the purpose of a review.

 

Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 285 pages
Heat Level
Publication Date 15-June-2020
Price $3.99 ebook, $10.99 paperback
Buy Link https://www.amazon.com/Baking-Battles-Scandinavian-Comfort-Book-ebook/dp/B088Y3BKTT