Plot Summary: In this convoluted plot, Jacobin De Chastelux has an evil Uncle who treated her like a poker chip and lost her at cards to Lord Storrington. Jacobin flees her Uncle's house and poses as a male French pastry chef within the Prince's household. Meanwhile, Storrington is plotting to lure the evil Uncle to his doom, and he chances upon a male pastry chef who will serve as bait for his glutinous enemy. Storrington hires Jacobin, and he quickly sees through her disguise. There are innumerable knots, kinks, tangles, and twists within this plot, and I'd need a whole lotta space to explain it all.
Thankfully I do have a few nice things to say about this book, which makes me glad, because overall it was not good. While tipping my hat in acknowledgement that this is a debut novel by a new author, this book cannot compare to a historical romance written by a seasoned pro such as Lisa Kleypas or Madeline Hunter. The plot is a steaming pile of overly complicated conundrums, and the author was clearly in love with the foodie side of the story. Too much in love. I enjoyed the pastry chef tidbits, but I think it took the focus from the romance. More on that later.
The good news is that Jacobin's character was spot on perfect. She was a wonderfully complex heroine, and her English and French halves created interesting conflicts. She lives with the English, but she's not truly one of them, and taken within the historical context of the book (after Napoleon's defeat), Jacobin's defensiveness is convincing.
The bad news is that Lord Storrington was a kaleidoscope of the least desirable character traits I'd want in a hero. At some point he was either weepy, gullible, arrogant, selfish, or rapacious. Even after getting to know Jacobin and her true story, Storrington uses her as a stake in a card game with her hated Uncle. He was a man-boy full of maudlin self-pity with nothing left over to spare for Jacobin.
This is why the romance failed to ignite, because I can't get excited for a hero like Storrington. There were also some missed opportunities to build up the sexual tension (in the only ballroom scene, they never dance or speak!), and too much time is devoted to ancillary characters, like Storrington's sister, or to details about making pastries. Ultimately a romance needs to focus on the romance first, and everything else should be icing on the cake.