Cover of The Heartbreak Bakery, featuring illustrations of a baker, broken heart, baked goods, utensils, and person on a bike

About the Book

Title: The Heartbreak Bakery
Published: 2021
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: All The Ingredients
BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia
Talky Talk: Talk Baking To Me
Bonus Factors: Tasty Business, LGBTQ+
Relationship Status: I’ll Have The (Un)Usual

Cover Story: All the Ingredients

Hearts, baking tools, cakes, muffins, Harley on a bike, Syd pulling something out of the oven, bright cheerful colors that subtly shade into a rainbow … that sums up this book perfectly.

The Deal:

Agender teen baker Syd (no pronouns), who works at a queer-friendly bakery called the Proud Muffin, comes to work one morning after a messy breakup and bakes brownies. Next thing Syd knows, everyone who eats the brownies is breaking up with their partners – including the Proud Muffin’s co-owners, Vin and Alex, which means that the already struggling bakery might have to close. With the help of Harley (he/they), the bike delivery person, Syd sets out to give each broken-up couple the perfect magical dessert to help them fall in love again, but how do you mend other people’s hearts if you don’t stop to listen to your own?

BFF Charm: Natalie Imbruglia

BFF charm with Natalie Imbruglia's face.

I respect Syd’s dedication to the craft of baking and loyalty to the queer community (and I’d love to try some of the Proud Muffin’s baked goods). However, Syd is also highly opinionated: white chocolate is “an abomination,” hipsters “steal queer fashion and make it look boring,” and things like matching pajamas or parties on boats are labeled “gay” or “straight” for reasons that escape me. This makes for some very entertaining narration but would make me nervous if we met in real life. 

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Syd and Harley are adorable together. They understand each other, not just because they’re both non-binary, but because they value the same things, like honesty (they play “Truth or Pie” instead of “Truth or Dare”) and open-mindedness (Harley wholeheartedly believes in Syd’s baking magic and supports Syd’s efforts to bring the broken-up couples back together). Harley challenges Syd on important issues, such as Syd’s lack of emotional awareness, but never in a hurtful way. They can be themselves around each other, and it’s beautiful to read.

Talky Talk: Talk Baking To Me

Syd’s narrator voice is absolutely perfect, with believable teenage slang (“because allowance”), witty one-liners (“But what makes it a bisexual babka?”), and delicious descriptions (“His voice is a dark crackle, his southern accent like a drizzle of honey on top of burnt popcorn.”) Food is Syd’s language, a way of connecting to others when gender issues become isolating, so no wonder it’s described in such loving detail.

Bonus Factor: Tasty Business

A table with an assortment of delicious looking pastries

Dark chocolate brownies. Lemon ginger scones. Olive oil cake with blueberry sauce. Do not read this book if you’re trying to cut back on butter and sugar, because you’ll be craving both. Food is Syd and Harley’s language, a way of connecting to others when gender issues become isolating, so no wonder it’s described in such loving detail.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ+

Pride flag being waved in a parade

This book made me think a lot about gender, in ways that due to privilege, I’ve never had to. I always thought of gender as a major part of someone’s identity, so I was amazed at how much is left of a character when you take it out. Syd is a child, sibling, baker, citizen, lover, friend … so many other ways to define a person. Syd is also a flawed human being who is not without prejudice; for example, assuming someone wants romantic love who might actually be aroace. Syd is open to learning, however, and with queerness being an ever-changing concept, that’s all any of us can do.

Relationship Status: I’ll Have The (Un)Usual

This book reads like every “save the bakery” romance I’ve ever read, but completely original at the same time, like an old favorite recipe with a new twist. I highly recommend it.

Literary Matchmaking

Small Town Hearts

Small Town Hearts by Lillie Vale also features a young queer baker coming to terms with a breakup.

Every Day (Every Day #1)

Every Day by David Levithan is also a magic-realist romance with a non-binary narrator.

The Brilliant Death (The Brilliant Death #1)

The Brilliant Death by Capetta explores similar themes in a setting inspired by Renaissance Italy.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review. The Heartbreak Bakery is available now.

Regina Peters works in the video game industry, but her favourite imaginary worlds are on paper. She lives in Montreal, Canada, with her family.