I received an A.R.C for this book from the author (as part of the Graham’s Delicacies Blog Tour) in exchange for an honest review. You can find more posts related to the blog tour on the author’s Twitter page, here.
This review is spoiler-free.
Status: Finished Reading (01 March 2019)
Edition: Kindle ARC
When I was done with my copy of Soft on Soft, I had mentioned in my review that it was a short book that I savoured for days. It was quite the opposite with Graham’s Delicacies. This was a beautiful, lush collection of stories that I was happy to devour (pun fully intended). To be perfectly candid, I went in with high expectations. SoS was one of my favourite reads of last year, quite easily a Top 10 lister in my books. The author had completely floored me before, so I was ready for it to happen again. And, well, Em Ali did not disappoint in the least.
There are things I loved about each individual story (which I will get to in a second), but one of the things I loved most was the cohesive nature of all three stories together. All six characters were woven so well into the fabric of the dessert shop, and into each other’s lives – but they were never taking away the spotlight from the individual stories as they took place.
My absolute favourites were Emilie, James and Alex. I absolutely loved Jen, Sam, and Yujin – oh, I loved them to bits – but Emilie, James and Alex had a relatable element to them that I couldn’t shake off. Ali’s work has always created fabulously realistic characters who are just positive enough to spark hope in your heart but three-dimensional enough to ground you in the reality of the world and contemporary genre. With these six individuals – who shone both as their own character, and as part of a couple, and as part of a large group – I got the best of all worlds.
The first story in the book, and easily one of the funniest. Saccharine is the story of Jen – lovely Jen whom we first met in SoS – and Emilie, told with a combination of flashbacks and the present timeline. I have to admit, I’m such a sucker for established romance, and the fact that we jumped right into their story had me squealing. Jen is such a ray of sunshine, whose POV had a smile on my face the whole time I was reading it. While Emilie, they were the soft, adorable baker that I knew I would easily fall in love with. Their story was such a rush of sweetness that I didn’t even realise when it began and when it ended, leaving me full and content, but always happy for a slice of more.
Okay, James is probably my absolute favourite if I had to pick a favourite. I’m a Type A (not a Virgo but I straddle the cusp) personality who is socially awkward. My shyness and fear of coming off as overbearing has made me into such a quiet little shell that I often come off as rude and elusive – and here we have James, who made my heart burst with empathy because that was something he would’ve easily understood. His back and forth with Sam had me cackling throughout Saccharine, and jumping into their story is exactly what I was waiting for. Their will-they-won’t-they (which was really, they-definitely-will for everyone else and only, really a clueless mystery to them alone – a trope which I adore) was what really sold it for me.
Sidenote: I loved James’ relationship with his siblings and how it transformed over the course of the story. No spoilers, of course, but there is a limited amount of transformation you can depict in a short story, and this was well done. I would also kill for a story about Clara.
Have I mentioned that I absolutely love Alex? Because I do. One night stand turned awkward/tension turned romance? That’s a trope I will happily read a thousand times over as long as it’s done well – and Ali does it, so, so well. Yujin’s character is just on the other side of annoying to begin with, but he grows on you just the way he grows on Alex, and I love that. We see him and fall in love with him through Alex’s eyes, and there’s something so special about that. Alex, meanwhile, had been at the back of my mind ever since we first them in Saccharine. I was really excited for their story, and it definitely delivered. I understood their concerns, their emotions, their decisions probably the most out of all the six characters, so it made their story feel very tangible and real. Also, can I just say how cute courting is, and how Yujin really went all out with it? It made me melt.
Overall, I wouldn’t be able to pick a favourite story out of three even if you put a gun to my head. Every time I settle on one favourite, something about another drags me in a completely different direction. All I can say is this – this collection was just so heart warming and beautiful. It tugged at my heart in the cutest ways possible, and I am so glad that it exists. Thank you Em Ali, for once again writing excellent representation with incredible sensitivity and forethought, while incorporating it seamlessly into the normal, mundane lives of these extraordinary characters. Can’t wait to see more from you!
This book comes with chapter specific content warnings that the author has provided in the beginning of the book. These include, but are not limited to, explicit sex, discussion of parental death, misgendering (challenged on page), and anxiety.