I loved this book! I didn't want it to end. Also, this book played a big role in convincing me I want to go to Paris for Christmas next year.
Rachel's a school teacher in a small English village. She doesn't enjoy Christmas though, brings back too many sad memories. As a surprise, her friends and students arrange for her to participate in a bake-off contest in Paris the week before Christmas. The winner of the contest will then win an apprenticeship with an infamous chef. (We're told he was the guy everyone talked about for a while, everyone in Paris had his books, and then something happened and his fame slipped away.)
She's reluctant to go to Paris, but feels like she can't let her friends down after they've worked so hard to make this happen for her. Also, she decides getting away might not be such a bad thing. She's realizing there are some changes that need to be made in her life.
I loved the descriptions of Paris at Christmastime. Her first night in her drab little room, she looks out the window and sees the lights and realizes this may not be so bad.
The competition is tough though. The chef is mean and the other people participating all have interesting stories of their own. I enjoyed reading about their different personalities and seeing how they worked together. They all had their own reason for wanting to win.
Most of all, I enjoyed reading about how Rachel began to find a new strength in herself as she began to take the competition seriously. She started to let go of the feelings that had been holding her back and she began to focus on what was important to her.
There is a romance in this story, and it's very nice and sweet, but it's secondary to Rachel's own discoveries about herself and I really liked that about this book. It's not about her finding a man for Christmas, it's about her finding herself.
Also, there are lots of descriptions of delicious Parisian treats. I've been to Paris a few times, and one of my favorite things about visiting the city is selecting pastries to take back to my room at the end of each day of sightseeing. So loved reading about all of that.
Great book, I recommend it to anyone and everyone in need of a nice, quick holiday read and escape. I mean really, where better to escape to than a Paris bakery?