- Title: For Butter or Worse
- Author: Erin La Rosa
- Publisher: HQN
- Release Date: 7/28/22
- Genre: Contemporary Romance
- Age Range: Adult
- Rating: ★★★★
- Publisher’s Summary: They go together like water and oil…All chef Nina Lyon wants is to make a name for herself in the culinary world and inspire young women everywhere to do the same. For too long, she’s been held back and underestimated by the male-dominated sphere of professional kitchens, and she’s had enough. Now, as co-host of the competitive reality TV series The Next Cooking Champ!, she finally has a real shot at being top tier in the foodie scene. Too bad her co-host happens to be Hollywood’s smarmiest jerk. Restaurateur Leo O’Donnell never means to get under Nina’s skin. It just seems to happen, especially when the cameras are rolling. It’s part of the anxiety and stress he has come to know all too well in this line of work. So nothing prepares him for the fallout after he takes one joke a smidge too far and Nina up and quits—on live TV. To make matters worse, the two are caught in what looks like a compromising situation by the paparazzi…and fans of the show go absolutely nuts. Turns out, a “secret romance” between Nina and Leo may just be what their careers need most. Now all they have to do is play along, without killing each other…and without catching feelings. Easy as artisanal shepherd’s pie. Right?
An enemies to lovers story about two former hosts of a cooking show? Sign me up. There’s something gratifying about watching two people who used to hate each other fall in love.
I always love when enemies to lovers stories switch perspectives between the two main characters, and From Butter to Worse does just that. This ensures that the reader doesn’t write either of them as unlikeable. In Leo’s case, it could have been easy to see him that way at the beginning when he perpetuates calling Nina by a sexist nickname.
Nina and Leo’s story is sweet. Early in their fake relationship, Nina is able to open up to Leo about her mom, and Nina is one of few people Leo feels comfortable telling Nina about his anxiety. The third act break up was expected, of course, but the reasoing felt a little thin. I did appreciate that the reconciliation didn’t feel rushed.
I also appreciated the celebration of Nina’s curves by Leo through the story. It was lovely to see a woman who is not stick thin whose partner is eager to make her feel desired. It was also nice to see that Nina is comfortable in her body.
I value mental health rep in romance novels a lot, and For Butter or Worse handled Leo’s anxiety and panic beautifully. Sadly, Leo’s hesitation to share the truth of his mental health struggles felt very realistic to me. It is important that those around him remain there for him when he ends up in the hospital after a panic attack and that he ends up getting the help he needs.
La Rosa also addresses the sexism and villification that women on TV can face. It is important to remind people to think before they post on social media. Leo gained even more respect from me when he stands up for Nina against online bullies.
For Butter or Worse is a fun and compelling romance that also addresses important and serious issues.