ARC Review: Tacos for Two by Betsy St. Amant

  • Title: Tacos for Two
  • Author: Betsy St. Amant
  • Publisher: Revell
  • Release Date: 10/12/21
  • Genre: Romance
  • Age Range: Adult
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Publisher’s Summary: Rory Perez, a food truck owner who can’t cook, is struggling to keep the business she inherited from her aunt out of the red–and an upcoming contest during Modest’s annual food truck festival seems the best way to do it. The prize money could finally give her a solid financial footing and keep her cousin with special needs paid up at her beloved assisted living home. Then maybe Rory will have enough time to meet the man she’s been talking to via an anonymous online dating site. Jude Strong is tired of being a puppet at his manipulative father’s law firm, and the food truck festival seems like the perfect opportunity to dive into his passion for cooking and finally call his life his own. But if he loses the contest, he’s back at the law firm for good. Failure is not an option. Complications arise when Rory’s chef gets mono and she realizes she has to cook after all. Then Jude discovers that his stiffest competition is the same woman he’s been falling for online the past month. Will these unlikely chefs sacrifice it all for the sake of love? Or will there only ever be tacos for one?

Tacos for Two feels like watching a romantic comedy in the most delightful way. This book is basically You’ve Got Mail but with competing Taco Trucks instead of competing bookstores. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that this book prominently features my favorite cuisine: Mexican/Tex-Mex.

Tacos for Two is very self-aware about its similarities to You’ve Got Mail. At one point, Rory notes that her life is becoming more and more like the film. There are also several cases where Rory and Jude quote Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters in their chats. These tongue-in-cheek references are a perfect touch to bring the reader into the world of the story.

I fell in love with Tacos for Two from the very beginning with Rory talking about how much she hates cilantro.

If Rory Perez could find a way to wad all the cilantro in the entire world into a ball and hurl it into outer space, it still wouldn’t be far enough removed for her preference.

As someone who also hates cilantro, I felt an immediate kinship with Rory. The reader soon learns how much Jude loves cilantro. This little detail comes back several times throughout the novel, making it a fun source of spats between the two main characters.

St. Amant made the very smart choice to alternate telling this story from Rory and Jude’s perspectives. Because there are several moments in the story where Rory views Jude as entitled and manipulative, it is important for the reader to be able to see his perspective, so they know where he is coming from. This keeps the reader from dimissing him as shallow. Similarly, whenever Rory behaves defensively, the reader understands where she is coming from. The dual perspectives not only increase the readers’ understanding of the characters, but they also contribute dramatic irony to the storytelling.

I loved St. Amant’s use of dramatic irony in Tacos for Two. Rory and Jude are flirting anynomously online without knowing that they’ve met each other in person. However, the reader is aware of both aspects of their relationship. I was eager to see how the identities behind their online dating profiles would be revealed.

In any good romantic comedy, the audience/reader has to be won over by the relationship between the two main characters. It is clear from the anonymous messages that Rory and Jude have a supportive and compassionate relationship. Jude is able to share his vulnerabilities around his family with Rory, and Rory is able to confide in Jude about her anxieties about running a business. The contrast between these messages and the way they constantly bickered in “real life” was fun to read. Readers got to watch a supportive relationship develop and read an enemies to lovers story all in one.

Both Rory and Jude learn and grow over the course of the novel. Rory, who starts the novel unable to cook, develops cooking skills.

A couple of weeks ago, she’d have had no idea where to start with homemade tamales – recipe or no recipe. She hadn’t known the difference between kneading or folding. She still made mistakes, but her common protest of “I can’t even make a grilled cheese” didn’t ring true to her defense anymore.

I am so proud of Rory for learning how to do something that scared her even if working in food service isn’t her passion. Jude goes on a parallel (and somewhat opposite) journey wrestling with his relationship with his family business and deciding to follow his passion for food into a new business. I felt like a cheerleader while reading, wanting to encourage them as they worked to find both professional and personal fulfillment.

I highly recommend this book to my fellow Rom Com fans. There is something so joyful and reassuring about a story guaranteed to give you a happy ending. You will definitely want to grab some nachos or a burrito to enjoy as you read this as well.

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