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Love & Other Disasters

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Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she's focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 18, 2022

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About the author

Anita Kelly

9 books880 followers
Hi there! I'm a lover of romance of all stripes, and a writer of queer contemporary HEAs, including a forthcoming three-book series published by Forever. I live in the Pacific Northwest with my wife, our kiddo, a cat who loves me a little too much sometimes, and a three-legged dog who's a real dummy with a heart of gold. I love tea and frequently eat too much ice cream and hate myself a little afterwards.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,458 reviews
Profile Image for Lex Kent.
1,682 reviews8,876 followers
January 22, 2022
4.25 Stars. I really enjoyed this! First, I just want to apologize for this review being late. I’ve been wicked sick (I’m now on antibiotics and I think I’m finally turning the corner) and every time I tried to read this I would fall asleep (I had to read this on my Kindle since I kept dropping my iPhone). Well this is not the kind of book to fall asleep to and it was frustrating since I just wanted to keep reading. While this book had a few bumps, it really fit into the type of romance I enjoy and I would love to read Kelly again.

Reality shows are my guilty pleasure and I love books about contestants on reality shows. In this book, it’s a cooking show that reminded me of a mix of Top Chef and MasterChef. I enjoyed the scenes about the show, the cooking, the challenges, and my favorite, the flirty scenes between our two love interests. I did have an issue with the other contestants. They all seemed very cookie-cutter and I was missing more depth. One character is the “villain”, and yes she is a transphobic asshole, but I was hoping for something more than this one note. While these secondary character contestants didn’t really work for me, the fact they were pretty flat did help the main characters shine in comparison.

I loved the mains. It took me a little bit to warm up to them, London especially was a bit icy in the beginning, but I quickly fell in love with both of them. They are not perfect, they both have their flaws and both can have very high emotions that gave the book a very angsty feel, but I loved them anyway. They kept me entertained and kept me reading even when the book slowed down a little at times. I just wanted more of them together. Their relationship is not insta-love, but it is a little quick. Two people being around each other almost 24/7, because of a reality show, makes sense to me that they would connect faster so I was fine with the quicker romantic pace. I’m happy to say that the more intimate and sex scenes were well done. This book had some high heat that I was not expecting and I thought it was great. My only complaint in this department was the toe sucking, I mean come on Kelly, just no!

I do want to quickly mention that I was really happy with how the nonbinary rep was written. One of the mains London is nonbinary and the way the book deals with misgendering, in a non-harmful way, was just really well done. I have been reading more and more books with nonbinary main characters, in the past few years, and this book IMHO was one of this best.

TLDR: This was a really enjoyable romantic read. The mains were great and with the high emotions and angst, the book was really entertaining for me. The book did slow a little at times, and the relationship was a little fast, but in the end many more things worked for me than not. I would recommend this to people who are cooking and reality TV show fans. I would also recommend this book for people looking for good nonbinary rep. I would not hesitate to read Kelly’s new books in the future.

An ARC was given to me for a review.
Profile Image for Kezia Duah.
392 reviews343 followers
May 23, 2022
London and Dahlia meet at a cooking show in which they are both contestants. They are both super talented and have great chances of winning a lot of money. Dahlia is used to being a disappointment in many ways, and she is hoping that winning this could help her reset her life. London is nonbinary and they actually make sure to let everyone know very early on in the tv show. Unfortunately, not everyone is accepting of their identity. They both get really close throughout the book, but have they both thought about what life will look like for them after the show?

This was a fun read. I always love romance stories with really good individual conflicts. It was really cute how they almost always temporarily forget about the things they're grappling with when they get close to each other. Dahlia seemed like a super nice person so it wasn’t really hard to see why London was attracted to her. This was definitely a time for both of them to feel safe about expressing many insecurities. I wasn’t super convinced of what they felt for each other, but some chemistry was definitely evident. I was satisfied with the ending. I was especially happy with London’s growth and how they were such an inspiration for many like them.

Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.4k followers
June 15, 2022
3.5ish stars. I really, REALLY appreciated how sex positive and steamy this was, but the book as a whole fell a little flat for me. Going into this I expected to love the cooking competition elements of the story, but as I was reading I found myself growing more and more bored with those scenes and wishing we were spending more time with just Dahlia and London instead. While I didn't totally fall in love with this book like I was hoping I would, it was still a mostly enjoyable read and I definitely recommend checking it out if you want to read a book features a heck ton of queer representation and some A+ steamy scenes.

CW: transphobia, misgendering, divorce
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,302 reviews27.9k followers
February 27, 2022
I LOVE the premise of this one and I love the idea of a cooking show competition and I love to see a non-binary love interest, I just had a few issues with this one. The pacing was so slow and I was getting bored a few times throughout the story, and also small nitpick here but I’m not a huge fan of 3rd person POV in romance books, I like 1st person POV better so I can feel like I’m in the head of the person who’s in the romance. But this was a perfectly cute time, I just wanted more from the story!

I included this book in a romance reading vlog I did here: https://youtu.be/eQNXgEKbdWY
Profile Image for Kelsi.
126 reviews74 followers
January 10, 2022
Major trigger warning: a toe gets sucked. BUT if you can look past that significantly disturbing paragraph, this was such a cute book! I watch The Food Network more than is probably considered an acceptable amount, so a book centered around an LGBTQ/non-binary love story during a cooking competition was made for me. Little bit grumpy/sunshine, lotta bit afreakindorable!
Profile Image for dd (danerys).
472 reviews224 followers
February 24, 2022

my heart is so full. i loved this so much. every second of it made me so happy and i was smacking the book over my face to keep from squealing about how cute this was, and let me tell you, it’s been a long time since a book has made me feel like that.

i am very, very hard to please when it comes to rom coms. i don’t like the predictability and how formulaic they all are, or how cheesy they can be. i’m always disappointed when everyone is hyping up some new romcom and i read it and it’s just ~meh.~

but this.

this book.

my heart is full and my face is smiling and my soul is happy.

i’m grateful for this book for giving me so much happiness and comfort, and i know i will reread it an ungodly amount of times.

♥︎the plot♥︎

this is a romcom that takes place on a cooking show. yes, a cooking reality tv show. so yes, naturally it made me hungry.

i won’t go on and on about the plot of the book, because there’s really nothing else to know besides it being a romcom that takes place on a cooking show with beautiful messy characters, but i’ll tell you that it’s not as painfully predictable as you would think.

i kept reading because i cared, and i wanted to know what would happen, not just because i had a very specific prediction of how everything would happen and i wanted to see if i was right. (btw i usually am right)

it wasn’t like this book was full of twisty turns, it’s a romcom, obviously, not a thriller, but the plot interested me enough and kept me invested enough that i always wanted to know how things would turn out and what would happen to my beloved characters.

and shoutout to the people who have actually been on competition reality tv shows because holy shit the amount of secondhand stress i got from just reading about fake people participating in a fake reality show was astronomical.

♡︎the characters♡︎

other than henry and alex from red white & royal blue, i’ve never cared about characters in a romcom as much as i cared about london and dahlia.

i love messy characters. i love it when they are messy and imperfect and human and when they make mistakes and have struggles and hurt and feel all of those real, messy, emotions.

i like my characters to be disasters, just like me.

and although i like the actual characters to be imperfect, i love perfectly written characters. perfectly written but imperfectly human characters are the only way to go, and that’s what london and dahlia were.

dahlia: for whatever reason, i very much relate to dahlia. maybe it is her hair, maybe it’s her thoughts or her emotions or just who she is but i could really see myself in her and i love that in a book character. and she was so flawed and kind and admirable, and i loved how hard she worked at everything she did and how she cared about herself so much. she was such a free spirit but also so trapped in everything and sometimes she felt so lost and other times she felt so found, and she was brave and strong and i loved reading her story. #teamdahlia forever

london: ok honestly london was so adorable i loved them so much, reading about them made me so happy and their self-discovery journey and their imperfections and everything just akfjdkfjsksjdjf they were such a gorgeous character. they had so much love inside of them and they always tried to do the right thing they just had such a big heart. they were so handsome and cute and they just made my heart so happy. and i absolutely love this representation <3

amazing side characters:

♥︎the romance♥︎

i don’t know how much y’all will believe me, but these two made my cold heart practically squeal with delight.

i loved the awkward first encounter, the friendship turning into something more, the happy times and the sad times and the confusing times. and their shared love of cooking, honestly they are such soulmates <33

everything with these two was paced perfectly and done perfectly and there wasn’t too much unnecessary lying-to-themselves-about-their-feelings type shit, which of course was appreciated.

they were really funny too and they seemed to make each other really happy and i just love how good they were for each other, unlike the toxicity in so many other ‘romance novels.’

of course there was a little bit of ~drama~ because this is a romcom after all, but it wasn’t too much and the characters seemed to move on from it pretty quickly.

i think these two found each other and just the right time and in the most perfect way.

their conversations and banter and kisses on the beach and watching romcoms together and (ofc) cooking, was so very delightful to read. my heart feels warm like that soup that dahlia makes.

i absolutely love everything about this relationship.

♡︎the writing♡︎

the writing is honestly so impressive for a debut, i can’t find a single thing wrong with it. everything flowed well together and sounded good and made me get a sense of the place and feelings and everything that was going on.

i could have used with some more specific descriptions of the food, but honestly i’m not complaining about how it was.

the whole book and the writing really just comforted me and made me so happy to be reading this.

10/10 no real complaints


go read this.


5 stars


✔︎ queer mc
✔︎ nb pan mc
✔︎ sapphic relationship
✔︎ trans side character

tw for implied misgendering, enbyphobia, homophobia, etc
Profile Image for Laynie Rose.
83 reviews807 followers
January 27, 2022
It's taken me a while to write this review because I loved this book so much, it was hard to put into words. Love & Other Disasters is, to me, home in every sense of the word. It's like this book was written for me personally. As a queer, non-binary Nashvillian with a chef for a father, a love of cooking shows, and my own fair share of family issues, this book felt like going HOME. This book felt like my dad handed me a cup of warm soup and my mom gave me a hug. I cried at multiple points purely because I was overwhelmed with emotions!!! I'm getting choked up about it now!!! Silly, sexy, sweet and sincere, this book checks every single box when it comes to a great romance. I was completely sucked into Dahlia and London's romance and swept into the delightful world that Anita Kelly created. The dialouge is witty, fast paced, and moving. The plot and conflict are delightful and masterful. The spice is !!!!!!!!!! EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!! As a queer and non-binary reader, seeing messy and wonderful characters that represented my own identities and life experiences work through their trauma and get their happily ever after was invaluable, validating, and exhilarating. Love & Other Disasters is one for the ages, and one I will hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life. I cannot express enough how this book has tucked itself into the bookshelf in my heart, a comforting, healing cure that I didn't know I needed.
Profile Image for Amivi.
59 reviews541 followers
January 29, 2022
Thank you Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Tw/CW: alcohol, misgendering, dysphoria , sexual content

I’m just disappointed with this book and how it turned out. There’s no diversity in this; all the characters are white, which makes no sense. This is about a cooking show, why only focus on American food when other cultures and their food could have been talked about?

The dialogue is cringey and at times unbearable, felt very 2014 buzzfeed. The cooking show aspect of the story didn’t seem to fit well. I didn’t enjoy reading anything about the food they were cooking. Instead, I felt uncomfortable by how food was described and wanted it to end.

The only time that I was enjoying this book was when Dahlia and London were talking about their lives. I wanted to hear more about that, instead, the story focused on their insta-love.
Their chemistry felt very forced and had tropes that are usually used in slow burns but shoved into an insta-love. And the pacing didn’t help at all. I will say that the spice scenes are done well, and unlike many books there is consent.

This isn’t a good romance book and by the end I was starting the hate one of my favorite genres.
Profile Image for booksandzoe.
307 reviews1,804 followers
January 9, 2022
This was a lot of fun! The writing quality was great as far as flow and fun dialogue, and the backdrop of a cooking show was so fun to envision!

I had a fun time reading about the hijinks of the main characters, although as I read the book I felt there weren't many distinct differences between the two leads beyond their gender identities. Often I felt I had to check who's POV the chapter was from. Regardless, this was a fun read that was an overall enjoyable experience!

FYI for other reviewers: I reached out to the author on Twitter to ask if they were comfortable with the book being labelled as sapphic and she said she likes the label queer a lot better for this book!
Profile Image for Marieke (mariekes_mesmerizing_books).
508 reviews335 followers
February 5, 2022
Anita Kelly: a new queer voice conquering the world! Their stories are heartwarming, fluffy, relevant, and sooo amazing! This is how rom-coms should be written!

I was so happy that I got the opportunity to read Love & Other Disasters early. I adored both of Anita Kelly’s novella’s in the Moonlighters series. Their writing is vibrant and witty, and their characters are beautifully imperfect, inside and out. I still want to immerse myself in Love & Other Disasters, in the fantastic personalities Anita created, in the humor, the banter, and all those difficult topics that came up in between.

Dahlia is bankrupt and just got divorced from her first love. She feels guilty for letting David down and has doubts about her future. While reading I listened to Alone by Rag ‘n Bone Man & Nothing but Thieves, and this song fits so well with Dahlia’s struggles.

Maybe it would stop hurting, each reminder of how easily everyone she knew was navigating the path David wanted so badly, the path Dahlia couldn’t give him.

Three years ago, London announced that they’re non-binary, and they’re the first openly non-binary character in a cooking show. But from the moment London told their beloved dad that they’re non-binary, he refused their gender identity and his rejection still hurts.

It was a hard thing to explain. That they could exist in a space that was all their own, and that they could shift and adjust until it felt right.

I fell head over heels in love with Dahlia and London. Love & Other Disasters is touching, sexy, and refreshing. It’s about following your dreams, accepting yourself, being vulnerable. All in all, it’s an astonishingly funny story and so well written. There will be more books in this series, an m/m story and an f/f, and I’m dying to read them 🥰!

I received an ARC from Forever (Grand Central Publishing) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for roma.
365 reviews88 followers
October 15, 2021
i was so sure this book was going to be amazing but everything after the toe sucking made me want to crawl into a hole

actual review:
I really liked the start of the book, I was really excited about the food making! i just really love the idea of sharing and preparing as a love language and queer people sharing that could have been really great. alas there's little food making than i wanted :')

So anyways, this book suffers from everyone only experiencing heightened emotions all the time? Like the protagonists are always either really overjoyed or really sad and distressed? Also the writing doesn't hype up the tension at all, I was simply bored.

If this book had been fun, I would've rated it higher but I did not enjoy reading it. The kissing descriptions felt too clinical, the side characters too insignificant, the dynamics between the leads were just not compelling enough. Scenes that I thought could've been great were just mediocre, I mean the cow milking scene should've been obj at least funny but I was bored.

I expected better ngl :/ I didn't rate one star because I really appreciate more trans characters in published romance books and also I liked the first 3-4 chapters.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.
Profile Image for Christy.
3,915 reviews33k followers
June 26, 2022
4 stars

Love & Other Disasters was such a fun book! This is the second or third book I’ve read this year that took place during cooking show and this was the best of the bunch for sure. Romantic, sweet, emotional, steamy, this one hit the spot!

London and Dahlia were great, the romance was absolutely delightful and I enjoyed this one so much! There were some slow parts towards the middle, but overall it was a great read!
Audio book source: Libby
Story Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Lindsey Dorcus
Narration Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Profile Image for Chloe Liese.
Author 17 books7,198 followers
December 23, 2021
Thank you to Forever and NetGalley for the advance review copy—all opinions on my own!

Love & Other Disasters was a lovable, gently paced, steamy, and tender story set in the world of a competitive cooking show. Watching Dahlia and London fall for each other, I appreciated how the stress of this setting, the looming worry of possibly being eliminated, created strong stakes but never overshadowed the joy of their romance.

The way London loves Dahlia for exactly who she is—her chaos and energy; the way Dahlia loves London for exactly who they are—their dry humor & practical nature—was so affirming and romantic. I also loved how fiercely Dahlia felt protective of London in how their father treated them, and witnessing London stand up for themself in front of their father and demand he stop misgendering them was deeply moving. My heart ached that London needed to give their father that ultimatum, but God was I proud of them for holding strong to what they deserved: to be seen and loved for exactly who they are.

Love & Other Disasters is a feel-good, affirming, delectable debut queer romance that I’m delighted I had the chance to read. I can’t wait for this to be out in the world!

Content notes: misgendering (implied but never explicit on-page), nonbinary-phobia, divorce (past, off-page, briefly mentioned), pressure/shaming for not wanting to have kids (past, off-page, briefly mentioned)
Profile Image for Frances.
37 reviews103 followers
December 23, 2021
Thank you to NetGalley and Headline for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Unfortunately, this didn't really do it for me and if it hadn't been an ARC and my 100th book of the year I probably would've dnf'd it.

Let's start with what I liked about the book – which pretty much starts and ends with the nonbinary rep. I loved the way that London's assigned sex at birth was withheld for a good portion of the book, including how androgynous they look in the cover art. Even when Dahlia doesn't know that London is nonbinary they are referred to with they/them pronouns and when another character misgenders London you're only told that they used the wrong pronouns and not what pronoun they used instead. London's assigned sex isn't shared with the reader until about 1/3 of the way through the book – I loved this as it doesn't allow for the reader to think of them as anything other than who they are.

I also really loved how London's assigned sex was shared. I was curious as to how sex scenes would be handled and assumed that London's assigned sex would have to be shared with the audience for sex scenes to be anything more explicit than fade to black. I did think that London's assigned sex being shared for the first time in a sex scene would be awkward and somewhat intrusive. (I can't find the exact right words for what I want to express here but along the lines of 'but what's in your pants?' rhetoric if that makes sense). Instead, this information is shared in a casual remark in one of London's POV chapters. The placement of this comment about 1/3 of the way through the book allowed for London's identity to be cemented, not as a nonbinary afab or nonbinary amab but just nonbinary, but also got mechanics out of the way before sex scenes came into play. The fact that it was London who shared the information also gave them control over the narrative of their identity, which I really liked.

The nonbinary rep in this book felt very deliberate and I really liked how it was done. I know Anita Kelly uses she/they pronouns, although I haven't been able to confirm if they identify as nonbinary, it's clear that London's character and representation was very important to them.

Now onto everything else. The writing of this book was clunky and awkward, I found myself cringing and rolling my eyes at various points. There were a couple of instances of what I can only describe as 'internet phrases' being used that felt so forced and like the author was uncomfortable using them and wasn't quite sure of the proper context to use them in. On top of that their use was completely out of character for those saying them and so they could've been left out altogether.

The characters felt both developed but also very two-dimensional. I felt certain aspects of their personalities were really fleshed out but other parts fell completely flat and, in places, I couldn't tell at all what was in character for them or how they would act in a certain situation.

This clunky writing and weirdly developed characters led to there being absolutely no chemistry between Dahlia and London. It was very much a case of telling rather than showing – it's all well and good to tell me that London can't think because Dahlia is nearby and they're completely crazy for her – but I just didn't feel the attraction between them at all. Because of this lack of chemistry, the sex scenes were also incredibly awkward to read. I'm not sure I would enjoy reading a sex scene that includes toes in mouths in any context but definitely not between characters with as little chemistry as Dahlia and London had.

For a book set around a cooking competition, the show felt entirely inconsequential. The stakes should've felt high with $100,000 on the line, but it didn't feel like Dahlia or London were that invested in winning, or that it would matter if neither of them did.

I'm not against the third-act breakup trope, I think it makes sense in romance books where the main focus of the book is the relationship between the characters. If the entire plot hinges on their relationship then as the climax of the story tension in that relationship makes sense. However, the 'breakup' (if we can call it that) just felt like it was happening because that's what happens in romance books. It was such a rushed scene and I didn't understand Dahlia or London's motivations or thought processes as it was happening. When there's a third-act breakup you know that they're going to get back together because romance books have a formula and that's what makes them tick, but I should still feel like the breakup makes sense. It should be impactful and feel as though it could potentially be over for good. This was neither of those things, it was rushed and vague and felt contrived.

Overall, this book fell short for me on almost all fronts. I didn't fully understand who the characters were, which made them hard to connect to. The stakes of both the romance and the show didn't feel high and there was no chemistry between the characters.
Profile Image for Lacey (laceybooklovers).
2,063 reviews10.5k followers
April 4, 2022
3.5 stars!

If you love the Great British Baking Show like I do, try this one! It’s about a baking show competition romance between 2 contestants, a recently divorced heroine and a nonbinary main character. Dahlia and London are competitors on Chef’s Special, and even though they’re supposed to be competing against each other, they grow close on the show. There’s a bit of grumpy/sunshine vibes here, with London being a grump and slightly terrified of having just announced their pronouns on national television. Dahlia is the silly, sunshine character, and the romance was sweet, but I just didn’t fully LOVE the story outside the romance. There’s drama with the other competitors on the show but I just wasn’t all that invested.
Profile Image for B.
120 reviews12.2k followers
February 12, 2023
**3.75 stars
Overall, I really enjoyed this (especially all the mouthwatering descriptions of the food). Dahlia and London had amazing chemistry, the idea was really fun, and it didn’t suffer from much miscommunication which is a plus in my book. Also STEAMY!! I did not expect the spice level!!
Profile Image for RateTheRomance.
827 reviews120 followers
January 25, 2022
Oh, my HEART! 𝗟𝗢𝗩𝗘 & 𝗢𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗥 𝗗𝗜𝗦𝗔𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗥𝗦 is my first really good read of 2022.

The first 40% of this book was quite slow for me (which is why I too a half-star off of my rating). I was worried that it would remain slow and I would not end up liking this book. At just about halfway through the pace and story picks up and the last half of the book is truly fantastic!

This is my first romance read that has a Non-Binary lead and I loved it so much. I especially loved that the author doesn't give the reader any indication of London's assigned-at-birth gender until much later in the book. This removes the reader's possible gender biases until after we truly come to know London and their heart and personality. London is brave, yet vulnerable. They are navigating a really difficult situation of coming out publicly as non-binary when even their father has not come to terms with that.

Dahlia is everything warm and loveable and relatable. I loved her passionate nature and open heart, even as she reels from her own divorce. That divorce is treated so wonderfully as well. It's kind of Dahlia's "fault" and yet we totally understand her motive.

And the sex scenes in 𝗟𝗢𝗩𝗘 & 𝗢𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗥 𝗗𝗜𝗦𝗔𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗥𝗦 between London and Dahlia are made so meaningful by their shared vulnerability. Make no mistake, these scenes are melt-your-kindle HOT. Woooooo-wheeeeee! F-I-R-E! But the emotional vulnerability and connection just make those scenes that much more important and meaningful. This is a trend I am growing to love about Queer romance, as a whole.

I really loved that the actually challenges in this cooking show were mentioned, but never overtook the real story. I often find too much focus on challenge details in romances that are set in the world of a reality competition. 𝗟𝗢𝗩𝗘 & 𝗢𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗥 𝗗𝗜𝗦𝗔𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗥𝗦 hit the balance perfectly for me.

I highly recommend this wonderful book to all readers. If it's your first non-binary read (as it was mine) there may be a slight adjustment to reading the they/them/their pronouns, but push through! I have no problem using those pronouns in speech, but for some reason reading them made my brain work a little harder. But I was happy to keep going and re-train my mind to embrace this newer pronoun structure within the English language. I am grateful to this book for affording me that opportunity!

Add 𝗟𝗢𝗩𝗘 & 𝗢𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗥 𝗗𝗜𝗦𝗔𝗦𝗧𝗘𝗥𝗦 to your 2022 TBR! You won't regret it!!

STEAM LEVEL: Rated R / 1-4 descriptive sex scenes, may have harsh language.
TRIGGERS: homophobia, emotionally distant parent
FEELS-O-METER: 3/5 - So many feels you might tear up a little.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/32gN2bt (affiliate)

Profile Image for ZOË.
202 reviews179 followers
September 15, 2022
2.5 Disasters including, but not limited to; a toe sucking scene, a 26 y/o woman saying her mom is “so baller”, a couple grammar mishaps, and a trans character called Hank (thousands of names and that’s what you choose??).

At the end of the day, the love : disaster ratio was outweighed by the latter, which is quite a shame!

I guess I’ll start by being nice. The banter was cute, the smut was well written (when feet weren’t being licked, mind you), and some of the food descriptions made me write down recipe ideas, but everything else was mediocre at best.

Our protagonists weren’t especially developed in my eyes, London in particular was a very inconsistent character whose personality seemed to be written as an afterthought and though Dahlia definitely had more depth to her, I had a hard time believing that she was 28 since she acted like a teenager for most of the book.

If the main characters were bland, I don’t even know how to describe everyone else; let’s just say that the majority of them would fly away in a mild gust of wind. I know romance books aren’t about the side characters (no shit), but nearly every one of them in this book was there to serve a purpose and had no further dimensions. The “bad guys” only had about two lines each, the other contestants existed solely to tell London and Dahlia they were in love with each other, and the siblings… I don’t even want to talk about 30 y/o Hank calling Dahlia “baby sister” three times in one conversation, I really don’t.

The way conflict was written also lacked creativity and depth in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently bad about sticking to the basics, but the premise is a cooking show for God’s sake! There are so many possible obstacles you could throw at characters on reality TV that aren’t simple self sabotage or the classic, “We shouldn’t be doing this!”. In fact, you could take out the Chef’s Special component entirely and with a few revisions, the story would be pretty much the same, especially since neither Dahlia nor London were super interested or competitive with their cooking anyway! So much wasted rivals-to-lovers potential 💔💔.

Overall I kinda regret reading this. As a (guilt-free) fan of reality TV and gay people, my expectations were higher than a typical romance book for me but alas, I was disappointed. Maybe this genre isn’t for me! (I know I’ve said this after reading 90% of romances, but the toe sucking was the real crime here, I don’t think it’s me here.)
Profile Image for Lauren coffeebooksandescape.
232 reviews37 followers
March 26, 2022
“Are you serious ?” she boomed, shoving London in the chest. It hurt a little. “You eat Brussels sprouts when you’re sad?”


Chef’s Special is a cooking show for amateur chefs (basically MasterChef with more drama). Dahlia Woodson, whom self-taught all her cooking skills after her recent divorce, was accepted as a contestant, and as she was about to present her first dish to the judges, she fell flat on her face! London Parker, the first ever non-binary contestant, couldn’t stop thinking about the clumsy girl in front of them. This is the story of Dahlia and London’s unexpected friendship after an awkward first encounter!

I’m not sure where to start with this one. Can I just say that Anita Kelly really has done the non-binary population justice here. The use of third-person pronouns throughout the whole book just seemed completely natural, although hard to get used to as a reader at first. I think this book really helps people who may not understand, get clued up on what identifying as non-binary means.

This book was sweet and funny as anything. I was laughing out loud so hard at points throughout this book, especially the scene where London is milking a cow. They had some right surprises! There was a great mix of funny, sad and dramatic scenes, as well as smutty (if you don’t mind a bit of toe-sucking that is).

This was a really great read and I recommend to anyone who maybe doesn’t quite understand what non-binary means, or if you love a foodie-related story!
Profile Image for sarahthebibliomania.
178 reviews78 followers
October 20, 2021
A queer love story set in the middle of a reality cooking show? What more could I ask for?

Dahlia is recently divorced and has followed her passion for cooking and ended up as a contestant on Chef's Special (Very similar to Master Chef) While she's competing she runs into London, a non-binary contestant with who she starts a friendship with but of course, they have major sexual tension.

I loved Dahlia and London's relationship and oh my goodness they're the absolute cutest. This was such a good read and thank the food gods it got me out of a huge reading slump. Although I do have to say I felt like the food competitions were written very fast-paced and honestly, I would have to re-read a couple of times to figure out who got eliminated but hey maybe that was just my own problem.

Overall this was a very cute read and if you're in the mood for a simple and adorable queer romance then I would definitely recommend for you to get this book once it's been published.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for providing me with this eArc in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian.
1,155 reviews1,463 followers
February 28, 2022
Complicated feelings here we come! This romance was quite a mixed bag for me.

My main issue was that I found the main characters Dahlia and London a bit too generic and underdeveloped. I never really had a grip on them. They didn't quite feel like three dimensional people. There were a couple of instances where one of them thinks, oh, yeah Dahlia/London would totally do/say this; and I would think oh, is *that* who this person is? I had no idea whether anything they said or did was in or out of character because I just didn't have a strong sense of their character. I mean, they weren't one dimensional or totally flat, but that's a pretty low bar for a character-driven romance!

Consequently it was a bit hard to be truly invested in their romance. If I don't really know who you are I can't care too much about you falling in love! But there also weren't enough obstacles to their being together for my personal romance taste. If you like lower stakes / low angst romance, this book is for you!

Speaking of stakes, I was disappointed I wasn't really invested in the reality cooking show where Dahlia and London are contestants either. I just ... did not care who got kicked off, not even about the transphobic villain! There are some plotting and pacing issues here I think, but the secondary characters were even less developed than the main ones, so it's not surprising I didn't care about them. I wanted to know more about Cath, an apparently cool butch lesbian, and Barbara, an apparently sweet and intuitive queer friendly grandma!

The odd thing about there not really being obstacles to them being together is that Kelly actually includes some issues that I felt really had potential. One is obvious: they are contestants in competition with each other on a reality TV show!! Both of them want to win, both take pride in their cooking, Dahlia really needs the prize money to pay off her debt, London really wants it to start a queer nonprofit. But the fact that they're competing against each other like never comes up or is relevant??

The second one is Dahlia and London's class / money differences. London comes from a wealthy white Southern family who paid for their college out of pocket. Dahlia was pressured into attending a university she couldn't afford and has huge student debt. She quits her job to be on the cooking show and isn't sure how she's going to make her rent once it's over. She ends up deciding to move in with her dad near the end because she's so broke!

It comes up a few times in their relationship: like when Dahlia says they have to do free / cheap sightseeing stuff because she's on a budget (she refuses to let London pay for them to go to Disneyland) and Dahlia marveling that London has a rental car for weeks yet barely uses it.

One scene really stuck out for me. London makes an offhand comment about getting food all over their hotel sheets (yes, there is food sex!). Dahlia is concerned about making a mess for the housekeepers, who as she rightly points out, have a hard enough job already! (I have worked as a housekeeper, so I should know). London replies that the housekeepers have to change the sheets anyway so it doesn't matter. Dahlia apparently just accepts this?? (No, it's not customary to change people's sheets everyday in a hotel if they are staying over and sheets with food split on them and probably stained are a lot harder to deal with!).

I kept waiting for this class difference issue to come back up and be properly addressed but it never was! In the epilogue we even see London dismissing Dahlia's concerns about moving into their apartment and not paying rent. Classic rich person thing to do, not understanding why someone would want to not feel like they're freeloading. I'm genuinely puzzled why Kelly included these little details but never follows through on them.

Okay this review probably sounds weirdly harsh for a book I gave three stars but I did truly like reading it for the most part. Most of these things that bothered me didn't come up until the end or I didn't really notice them until I began to think after reading. There were also some aspects of this book I really liked!

A nonbinary character in a mainstream romance like this is very cool! And an openly pansexual one at that! (Dahlia is also an unspecified type of non-monosexual, but she just uses the word queer). London is only ever referred to with their correct pronouns, even in one scene where we see someone misgender them on purpose. That was some clever writing! The way London's assigned sex comes up was very smartly done too. (Now that I think of it, there's no indication of their assigned sex until pretty far into the book which is awesome). There wasn't any gendered body part language used; you just get some details from London's POV in a sex scene that make it clear.

Speaking of sex scenes, I have to applaud Anita Kelly for writing some very unique ones. Even in some queer romance I've read sex scenes that were very generic and/or that were basically repeated throughout the book with small details changed. True, not everything in Dahlia and London's sex scenes (there are three major ones) were personally appealing for me -- yes as many other reviewers have mentioned there is brief toe sucking and I do not want to yuck your yum if that is sexy for you -- but overall I though they were very hot, authentic, and refreshingly different.

I think in the end the stuff I didn't think worked in this book bugged me more because there was a lot of potential here! I had high expectations for this book that it sadly did not meet.
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,120 reviews1,363 followers
February 12, 2022
Having had three stellar experiences with their books, I have decided that I would like to permanently live inside Anita Kelly’s books and their brain. What an incredibly talented author they are and I would like to personally send chocolates to every person who led them to a career in publishing. I know, I know – I sound like a dramatic seal, but I tell you, I am simply obsessed.

Love & Other Disasters, Anita’s first full-length novel and traditionally published debut, tells the story of Dahlia and London, two homecooks who meet on the set of a cooking competition, Chef’s Special. When I say that I went absolutely feral over London and Dahlia, I’m not exaggerating. I was having a full-on meltdown at how soft and tender they were together.

Anyways, London and Dahlia! Gahhh! I have nothing but gushy words for these two. Dahlia recently separated from her husband and is on the verge of bankruptcy. She sees the show as an opportunity to make a name for herself. She goes into the competition determined to make it to the end but she does not anticipate finding love along the way. Dahlia is the sunshine character in this grumpy-sunshine pairing and I adored her. Anita brings a vibrancy to her character and it shows in every aspect of her personality. Dahlia is all happy rainbows and awkward energy! She has such a good heart and is constantly trying to make others happy. Underneath that bubbly exterior is also a woman who is feeling vulnerable about the outlook of her future and her dreams. Many readers will relate to her journey here in Love & Other Disasters.

Anita provides the perfect balance for Dahlia in the form of the grumpy nugget that is London. London is the first non-binary contestant on Chef’s Special. While they are hyper-focused on winning the show, they are also feeling a little nervous about the prospect of being in the public eye as the first non-binary contest of the show. I loved how London could be seen as stoic next to Dahlia because they were very quiet compared to her, but they could also be equally funny and joyful. They just need to be in proximity to people they care about. Lucky for Dahlia, she is the person they choose to open up to.

I love it so much when in a grumpy-sunshine romance the grumpy one who laughs and smiles around the sunshine one and London DELIVERED on that front. They were absolutely enamored by Dahlia and it was SO PRECIOUS and had me SQUEALING. Like my bestie, Ari says, London is A BIG SIMP and we loved them for it! The romance is lovely, tender, and a straight arrow to the heart. The two form this unbreakable bond behind the scenes of the show and it was so soft. Anita Kelly has this ability to make me visualize most scenes in her book which is a feat given how blobby my brain is. There’s this one scene in particular where they are at the beach having opened up to each other that is ENGRAVED in my mind because it was a beautiful movie-worthy couple-y moment. Their love story isn’t easy and they do face an obstacle or two, but I knew they would make it to the end. Also, the steamy scenes!! They were a fiery work of art!

The backdrop of the cooking contest was done as well as the romance. Chef’s Special reminded me of a better version of MasterChef USA. I loved all the little behind-the-scene moments, seeing the competitiveness between the contestants, and watching London and Dahlia navigate their respective challenges.

Last thing I want to mention is that all the family moments in this book made my chest ache. For the most part, London has a very supportive family, but their father keeps misgendering them. It causes them a lot of heartache and this does eventually lead to a confrontation between the two. I was so angry on London’s behalf but incredibly proud of them for voicing out their desires from their relationship with their father.

I know it’s only January but Love & Other Disasters is already a 2022 favorite. It truly was the fluffy queer grumpy-sunshine goodness that my soul needed. Anita Kelly, I AM YOUR NO. 1 FAN!! <3

Content notes: on-page sex, misgendering of a non-binary character, transphobia

Relationship disclosure: Anita Kelly & I are mutuals on social media
Profile Image for rach⭑.
533 reviews211 followers
July 31, 2022

Forced Proximity
Competition Rivals to Lovers
Mutual Pining
LGBTQ+ Rep - queer and non binary main characters

Okay so I went into this book with very low expectations as some of my mutuals on goodreads had already given this book a really low rating but I enjoyed this a lot. And I mean a lot!

This follows Dahlia (queer mc) & London (non binary mc) and their journey on a cooking competition show similar to master chef. They both had a not so great start with each other and they were giving off a grumpy/sunshine vibe which I loved. But they both soon realised that it had just been initial nerves and they started up a great friendship and alliance for the competition.

I really enjoyed the story about the cooking competition as I haven’t read a book with this sort of plot and I surprisingly loved it (I don’t really watch cooking shows in real life lol!)

I also loved the chemistry between Dahlia and London. They were both secretly crushing on each other, so there was mutual pining and they also had such a great friendship so I enjoyed seeing this develop into a more romantic relationship.

One last thing I want to comment on, was how great the spicy scenes were. Not just because of the spice but because of how sex positive it was. I just really liked the way both characters communicated and were honest with each other during these moments.

Overall this was a super cute, and surprisingly spicy, book and I would definitely recommend.

Thank you NetGalley for a copy of the ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Leah.
406 reviews155 followers
August 27, 2023
“Love & Other Disasters” by Anita Kelly is a steamy queer romantic comedy featuring a bisexual woman and a pansexual nonbinary person.

Dahlia Woodson and London Parker are contestants on a cooking competition show called Chef’s Special. Dahlia is a rather new chef and is mainly wanting to learn more about cooking and could really use the $100,000 grand prize. London, on the other hand, has been cooking for years. They really want to start a non-profit for queer and trans kids and is also wanting to put out some good nb/trans representation.

Honestly, I really really liked this book. Kelly wrote the mains in such a way that they came across as real people. They’re both messy and imperfect and as the title suggests, also a bit of disasters. Neither one is perfect and they have all kinds of other things going on outside of the cooking show. While it took me a minute to like each character, once I did, I really liked them both and was rooting for them as a couple and as individuals.

Dahlia is recently divorced (within the last year or so) and seems a bit lost. While likable and sweet (although she did make me cringe a time or two), she’s unhappy with where her life is at but also doesn’t know what the next step is. She’s on an emotional roller coaster throughout the story and sometimes it affects her relationship with London, which felt realistic. I liked how protective she was of London from the very beginning. London is more grounded and has things mostly figured out. Their biggest issue is being accepted as nonbinary, especially with their dad who hasn’t taken it well. Once I got to know London, I absolutely adored them.

My only real complaint is that the relationship is very insta-love to me and I was a little disappointed how quickly the I-love-you’s came about in relation to how long they actually knew one another. I wish the hadn’t said them at all and I would’ve been happier by the ending. Their first month together is not their real life and it’s just hard to imagine they got to know the real person in such a high-stress environment.

Also, we warned of toe sucking.

I recommend this for any rom-coms fans out there. This is cute, fun, and had me laughing several times.

I received an ARC from Forever (Grand Central Publishing) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Melany.
535 reviews84 followers
January 16, 2023
3.5 stars rounded up.

I love me some rom com books, this one fit the bill. Had a great premise, I enjoyed the main characters. Had cute and funny moments that kept reader engagement. Overall I enjoyed this one, just wish some parts weren't so drawn out.
Profile Image for Adri.
986 reviews799 followers
November 6, 2021
CWs: Explorations of divorce and job loss, some transphobia, brief descriptions of blood and cooking-related injuries, some sexually explicit content

This is a such a delightful cooking romance! It's rare that we get to see queer romances between a queer woman and a pansexual nonbinary person, and as a nonbinary person myself, it felt like reading this story was an act of healing, in a way, as the story brilliantly fills that void. Also, if you enjoy romances that are about cooking, reality shows, competitors-turned-lovers, or grumpy/sunshine relationships, I have great news for you: this book has all of those things and more!

Dahlia is such a fun, erratic, spontaneous, messy character who's very uninhibited and full of joy, which makes her all the more complex, because she's also dealing with the fall-out of her recent divorce and the consequences of quitting her job to compete in Chef's Special. Her life is full of uncertainty and she has no idea what she should do next, but she doesn't let that stop her from living in the moment and fully embracing the wild rollercoaster ride that is being on a reality cooking show.

I love the dynamic between her and London, who is much more focused and straight-laced, and who's come into this competition with a very clear goal in mind. London is very conscious of their visibility as a nonbinary person on television, and that's a responsibility they don't take lightly. Their goal is to be one of the first out-and-proud television personalities so that they can give other trans and nonbinary people hope and be a positive role model for younger generations. They also know that they would use the prize money to start an LGBTQ+ non-profit organization. So they're definitely a bit more put-together and focused, and I think they balance out Dahlia really nicely and vice versa.

I also really appreciate the ratio of cooking content to romance plot, because I think the story is able to strike a very fine balance. There's enough insight to the on-goings of the cooking show itself to give the reader a sense that these characters definitely know their way around a kitchen and understand the ins-and-outs of producing a high quality dish, while also making space for the characters to get to know each other, spend time together, and begin to break down each other's walls. You definitely get to feel the rising stakes of the competition and you see enough of it to want to root for both characters, but it doesn't detract from the characters spending time together off-camera.

I think it's also important to acknowledge how the story handles transphobia, because London is definitely being put in a position where their visibility also makes them a target in some ways. There are people in their life who don't respect or want to understand their identity, or who give them grief about not wanting to use their pronouns. The story is able to explore that all-too realistic experience without actually subjecting the reader firsthand to that kind of violence. For example, when London is misgendered, the reader isn't put in a position where they have to read the incorrect pronouns. When internet trolls are trying to tear them down online, the reader isn't subjected to having to read those comments. Those are very small details, but they really help to solidify this romance as a safe space for queer readers.

Furthermore, I love how the story embraces Dahlia's messiness. Like I said, she's starting a new chapter in her life where she doesn't have a clear-cut plan or a long-term goal that's she's trying to reach, and the story allows her space to work through that discomfort. I appreciate how the story celebrates that figuring out what *doesn't* work for you and being brave enough to walk away from it is a milestone in and of itself and how it can be a sign of your hard-won growth. The story contains a really important message about being true to yourself and learning to be okay with not having all the answers yet, which I think is so important, especially in adult romance.

With all that said, I did want a little bit more from London's storyline. It kind of feels like, at times, their entire narrative arc is about battling transphobia and proving the transphobes wrong just by existing—which is a worthwhile and important storyline, but I feel like they didn't have as much character growth as Dahlia did. There's also some staggering differences in social status, income, and wealth between Dahlia and London that I don't feel was ever properly reconciled.

Part of what makes this competition so important for Dahlia is that it A) gives her a sense of purpose and B) she could really use the prize money after her divorce depleted a lot of her resources and she quit her job. What's more, she picks up on London's comfort with money pretty quickly, which does unconsciously effect their dynamic in some ways. That monetary stress definitely adds to Dahlia's confusion and her desire to change, and I was a little bit disappointed that the solution to her problem was basically just to get with someone rich and then everything else will magically work itself out. That's one of my least favorite "tropes" in the romance genre, so to speak, and I just wish that conversation was more meaningfully addressed.

But even taking those minor quibbles into account, I still enjoyed this romance so much. It's funny, it's sexy, it's heartfelt, it has great cooking content that made my foodie heart soar, and it has an element of escapism and safety to it that makes it really enjoyable to read. Overall, I would definitely recommend this story and I cannot wait to see what Anita Kelly writes next, because their brand of queer romance is exactly what I need more of in my life!
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,869 reviews692 followers
September 8, 2021
This was such an addictive read, it actually distracted me from work and I was physically unable to put it down.

As a non-binary person, I already loved Anita Kelly's first Moonlighters novella (I'm saving the second one for the holidays), and I was so glad to also see a non-binary character in a full-length romance novel! Especially since they also have a POV! It always makes me so happy to see my pronouns used on page, and since this book is written in 3rd person, that happened a lot.

Both of these characters felt so real to me, and I found them so relatable. I loved the setting of a cooking show, but even more I loved how much time Dahlia and London actually spent together in the novel, since as opposed to a lot of other books, this one didn't have the enemies to lovers trope and they started getting friendly really early on in the book.

Another aspect of the book I really appreciated is how there is a third act break-up but it actually served a purpose, whereas I tend to find that lacking in other books sometimes. The third act break-up gave both characters the space to work through personal issues and to grow as a person outside of a relationship, and I found that so valuable.
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