REVIEW: Roux for Two by Aurora Rey
When her celebrity chef boss is taken down in a sexual harassment scandal, Chelsea Boudreaux’s dream of getting her own cooking show comes true. Her hometown of Duchesne, Louisiana, provides the perfect backdrop for her modern takes on traditional Cajun fare. Vindicating herself to the mother who never believed in her is icing on the cake.
Bryce Cormier never left Duchesne and has no regrets, except that falling in love as a trans guy in a tiny town is easier said than done. When Chelsea comes home after more than a decade away, Bryce thinks he may have found the perfect woman. At least until Chelsea’s burgeoning celebrity spills over and turns his world upside down.
It turns out love is like a good gumbo—what seems simple is complex, and the best results require a bit of courage. And like all the recipes say…First, you make a roux.
Dear Ms. Rey,
The cover and title, as they are probably intended to do, caught my interest. To me “roux” indicates a recipe from Louisiana and indeed, that turns out to be part of the title of the brand new cooking show that heroine Chelsea Boudreaux plans on filming back in her small hometown. Chelsea fled to wider pastures after high school and attended culinary school before finally ending up as a sous chef to a famous celebrity chef now exposed as a sexual harasser. But as Chelsea tells people, she wasn’t harassed (unlike her producer Indian American bisexual Jada) so much as overworked and underappreciated due to the fact that she is a fat femme (Chelsea’s words).
As part of the network’s efforts to do damage control, they’ve agreed to an eight episode try out for Chelsea’s idea to cook classic Cajun and Creole food (with an occasional modern twist) back home. They’re even going to spring to reno the kitchen of the house Chelsea bought and fly the crew down to the back of beyond for filming.
On her drive there a flat tire brings Bryce Cormier back into Chelsea’s life when he stops to assist her. A bit of reality is injected as Chelsea initially worries about who is stopping and what their intentions are but Bryce gets her spare tire on while chatting about knowing her in high school although they weren’t close friends then. The reason Chelsea can’t quite place Bryce is that since she left, he began and completed his transition. Now he commutes to and works as an academic advisor at LSU in Baton Rouge. He likes what he sees in Chelsea (and had a crush on her in high school though he never acted on it). Soon he, his lesbian sister and her fiancee, and his young niece are inviting Chelsea into their lives. As Chelsea’s star begins to rise in the cooking world is there a romantic future for Chelsea and Bryce? Will Chelsea find a place she wants to call home – again?
First off I need to address the cover. It’s cute, it makes it clear that cooking is a part of the plot but it does not look like Chelsea is described *numerous times.* She talks *numerous times* about being a queer fat femme (she’s not bothered now by her curves but, while she was growing up, did suffer from her nitpicking mother’s comments). The “stick” (another reviewer’s apt description, IMO) on the cover is not Chelsea. If an author is going to have a heroine who needed therapy to overcome the issues with her self image that were caused by her mother, then let’s show that heroine as she (now proudly) is. There is also a verb used I got tired of reading – smirk. The word smirk is in the book 35 times. That’s a lot of smirking.
There is wonderful Queer/fat representation in the story. Chelsea is a fat (remember, her term) and attracted to women who are masc of center (term used in the book) as well as attracted to trans men, Bryce is a trans man who has dated both gay and straight, Jada is bisexual, a show staffer is NB, Bryce’s sister and her soon to be wife are lesbians, there are other fat characters, gay characters, and college students with whom Bryce interacts professionally who ask about LGBTQIA+ groups on campus. Everyone is treated with respect and a trans sensitivity reader read the MS. At one point after he appears on Chelsea’s show as well as with her on a Queer friendly TV show discussing transgender issues, Bryce mentions some nasty DM messages in his social media feeds but that’s about it for nasty trolls. This is a book high on acceptance.
Unfortunately, it’s also a book that is low on romantic relationship angst or conflict. Bryce and Chelsea are almost immediately attracted to each other. They are soon in a relationship, having sex (with consent and asking for what the other wants/expects), and seeing a forever for themselves. Chelsea talks about the implosion of her most recent lesbian relationship due to her hectic work schedule then and Bryce talks about the problems with starting relationships as a trans man in a small town but these are discussed as past tense rather than continuing problems. The few issues they have are mostly worked out by the 2/3 mark of the book which leaves … not much to keep a reader’s interest before one conflict that is quickly resolved . There is a little about Bryce realizing what he wants his limits to be as far as being in the spotlight of Chelsea’s fame. The story is also low on most other conflicts as Chelsea’s show is an instant hit, her agent is being besieged by people who want her to guest on another cooking show, be on the previously mentioned Queer TV show, to be featured in a magazine article, etc.
Frankly, I got a bit bored reading this book. Yay for the rep and how sensitively this is handled. Good for Chelsea that her professional dreams are coming true. Yippee that Chelsea and Bryce find each other. But everything needed some spice, some zip, some flavoring. Yes, I’m making puns based on the cuisine Chelsea is showcasing. I don’t need or want a ton of angst and conflict in my stories but this book shows me that I need some and I didn’t get those here. B-/C+