Love at 350°

A Novel

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October 10, 2023 | ISBN 9780593821572

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About the Book

“Scrumptiously entertaining . . . Fans of a certain popular British baking show will be giddy with delight.”—Booklist
 
When two women meet as judge and contestant on the set of a TV baking competition, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for the ultimate prize in this wholesome and delectable debut.

A POPSUGAR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR


Food is their love language, but can they follow a recipe for romance?

Tori Moore, high school chemistry teacher, avid home baker, and soon-to-be empty nester, auditions for the American Bake-o-Rama TV competition at the urging of her twin teenagers. The prize money could allow her to finally open her own bakery, but plagued by self-doubt after a messy divorce, it’s not only money standing between Tori and her dreams.
 
Once on set in Sonoma wine country, Tori catches the eye of Kendra Campbell, the notoriously ruthless celebrity chef and Bake-o-Rama judge. This show is Kendra’s ticket to financial security, but she’s been told to soften her approach for viewers seeking feel-good entertainment—quite the task after years of fighting for space in a male-dominated industry.
 
Tori and Kendra find it increasingly hard to keep their distance through six slow-burn weeks of cooking challenges and kitchen disasters. For both, the best prize of all might just be love.
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Praise for Love at 350°

“This grumpy/sunshine romance is a delightful treat from start to finish. In addition to Tori and Kendra’s love story, Love at 350° is a love letter to food, to friendship, and to pursuing your dreams even when they scare you. For anyone who likes to de-stress with a romcom or a TV baking competition, this book is sure to hit the spot.”—Susie Dumond, author of Queerly Beloved

“Satisfies every craving as a GBBO fan.”—Smart Bitches, Trashy Books

“From the slow-burn love story to the unforgettable cast of supporting characters, this book is as warm and satisfying as the baked goods that fill its pages!”—Camille Kellogg, author of Just as You Are

“A sapphic romance for us gays who spend Saturdays baking pies . . . If you’re looking for a cozy read, Love at 350° is absolutely it.”—Autostraddle

Love at 350° is a delicious mix of heart and humor. Peers delicately blends fun, romance, and new beginnings in her debut novel to create something truly enjoyable.”—Sophie Sullivan, author of Ten Rules for Faking It

“Scrumptiously entertaining . . . Fans of a certain popular British baking show will be giddy with delight, and romance readers will especially adore Peers’s superbly rendered protagonists and the insightful way she has them demonstrate that falling in love is not limited to those under 40.”—Booklist

“A delightful blend of romance and comedy . . . Offers a delicious narrative set in the scenic Sonoma wine country, filled with warmth, humor, and the intricate dance of budding romance, promising readers a journey as satisfying as a chocolate lava cake.”—Gobookmart

“Slow burn at its best; the tension between Kendra and Tori is palpable and jumps off the page. Fans of foodie romances and The Great British Baking Show will love this delightful novel.”—Library Journal
 
“A delicious kisses-only read . . . The competition will have readers turning pages, hungry to know what comes next and who will be sent home. There’s sabotage afoot as well, lending the story a little mystery beyond how the likable Kendra and Tori will finally get together.”—BookPage

“A classic case of grump meets sunshine . . . The high stakes of fame and money don’t stop the romance itself from being cozy, with endearing romantic notes and gifts reminding readers that it’s all about love. The supporting cast—including Tori’s children, her ex-wife, and her main baking competition, Natalie—add dimension and help propel the story. . . . Like the apple pie recipe included at the back of the book, this is a simple but satisfying treat.”Publishers Weekly
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Excerpt

Love at 350°

I

Tori Moore scanned her classroom, checking her fifth-­period Biochemistry of Baking students’ progress. Three of Sequoia High’s star football players were pulverizing dry ice in a blender ahead of mixing it into their strawberry and chocolate bases to fast freeze the ice cream. Another team hovered around a saucepan, willing a cup of caramel sauce into existence out of white sugar, water, kosher salt, and immense patience. Some students were candying walnuts; others were making marshmallow fluff. A pair of ambitious sophomores were attempting to make a homegrown version of M&M’s. Each student had already written a term paper describing the chemical reactions and biodiversity that conjured the magic of dessert. At the end of today’s class—­if all went well—­they’d get to eat their homework. All that stood between them and summer vacation was making ice cream sundaes. With all the ingredients made from scratch.

“Oh, sugar,” she heard one of the football players mutter as his blender stalled. Whenever Tori heard an outburst like that, she smiled. It meant that the fifteen teenagers, who could have easily spent the period gossiping or chucking chocolate chips at one another, were concentrating completely on their final exam.

It also meant her students respected her enough to follow her rules; namely, that when they got stuck, literally or figuratively, they could swear as loudly as they wanted as long as they used baking terms. Her personal favorites from this semester’s class were Lamination! and Choux!

Crouching down to use the classroom’s paper towel dispenser as a mirror, Tori took a minute to freshen up. She adjusted the green-­and-­gold paisley scarf she’d received as a present from a student last Christmas, which she wore often because it amplified her hazel eyes, and corralled her thick hair into a ponytail, making a mental note to book a cut and color appointment since the gray hairs were infiltrating the strawberry blonde again. She also confirmed that she didn’t have cocoa powder mixed in with the freckles across the bridge of her nose. Standing back up, she brushed a smudge of brown sugar off her hip and turned her attention to her students.

“Ten minutes, folks!” Tori’s co-­teacher, Della DeMarco, warned the students. Her update was met by a chorus of groans and barked orders to fellow teammates.

“Dude, we need more CO2. The strawberry ice cream is soup!”

“No, no, no, don’t let the sugar crystallize!”

“Hold the candy still, Katy. The Ms are blurry!”

Tori caught Della’s eye: They were both beaming with pride. Della was the Skills for Living teacher, and they’d developed this curriculum together a few years back based on a conversation they’d had during their shared lunch break.

“I’m sick of kids thinking my class is the same old-­timey, prim Home Ec where their grandmothers sewed aprons decades ago,” Della had said, taking a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and leaving a ring of coral lipstick on the white bread. “I got into this field because I want kids to learn how to take care of themselves. Be self-­sufficient, manage their money, set some goals.” She’d adjusted her cat-­eye glasses and leaned in. “You know, they used to call this Domestic Science for a reason. Now, kids blow it off as an easy A and barely try.”

“I know what you mean,” Tori had said, unwrapping her caprese sandwich. “They take my chemistry class to get into college, but a lot of them think they’ll never use the information again, so they do the bare minimum. I wish we weren’t so tied to the textbook.”

Della’s dark eyes focused on Tori’s sandwich. “Wow, that looks delicious.”

“Here,” Tori said, tearing off a piece to share.

“Did you make the focaccia?”

“Last night.”

“And the mozzarella?”

“Saturday.”

“And the basil and tomatoes . . .”

“From my garden.”

“Now you’re just showing off.” Della picked up the remains of her PB&J and frowned. “This was the best I could come up with this morning. Most mornings.”

“Della, it’s not a contest,” Tori reassured her. “You’re a great cook as well as a terrific teacher.”

“And you’re a fantastic cook. I mean, you should teach my class sometime.”

“Same.”

At that moment, they had looked at each other, and the penny dropped. Over a weekend brunch of homemade lemon ricotta pancakes and a glass or two of prosecco, Tori and Della came up with the Biochem of Baking lesson plan. They’d pitched it to the administration and arranged their schedules so they could team teach. Five years after it launched, it was still one of the most popular courses at Sequoia High. It not only breathed some fresh air into Tori’s career as a science teacher; it also cemented her fast friendship with Della, a teaching vet with three decades of experience under her belt who’d provided advice and ego boosts when Tori needed them most.

“Five minutes,” Della called from the other side of the classroom. This was Tori’s cue to text Mr. Alonzo, the principal, to taste the final projects. The Pacific Ocean breeze wafted by the windows, which were open on a rare June day when there wasn’t any Northern California fog and the sun hung in the sky like a poached egg. Tori took a deep, satisfied breath, and along with the eucalyptus and salt air, she inhaled the unmistakable scent of incinerating sugar.

Tori walked over to a group of girls, one suspending a saucepan inches above the stove top and hyperventilating. “How’s the caramel sauce going over here, Brianne?”

“I swear the temperature was right,” the girl said, frustrated and apologetic.

“It was 338 degrees!” her teammate Jacqueline added. “We’re almost out of time! We are so fu—­” She paused briefly midsentence, then finished, “fudged!”

“Well, here you are anyway,” Tori said. “What can you do?”

“We don’t have time to start over,” Jacqueline said.

“We could add a splash of vanilla to even out the flavor,” said Dakota, the third girl on the team.

“Hurry up and do something!” Jacqueline said. “It’s cooling!”

“Okay,” Brianne said, squaring her shoulders. “Let’s add the vanilla, cream, and butter and hope people think burnt caramel is a culinary delight.”

“Go to it, ladies,” Tori said. “Good luck!”

As the girls got back to work over their saucepan, Tori joined Della at the back of the room.

“How much time?”

Della looked at her stopwatch. “Two minutes left.”

“Want to give them an extra minute?”

“Not fair to those who’ve figured out how to stay on schedule,” Della replied. “Besides, I want to get out of here on time, take advantage of the half day, and grab some tacos. Want to join me?”

“I can’t,” Tori said, only half regretting it. She was fond of Della, but inevitably when they socialized, her colleague would drop names of ladies she knew in hopes of setting up a blind date, not so delicately suggesting Tori should get back on the scene. “I’m taking the twins into the city for lunch,” she explained. “It’s our last-­day-­of-­school tradition, and now that they’re graduating and it’s their last last day of school, I definitely can’t miss it.”

“I can’t believe they’re going to college already,” Della said, shaking her head. “I remember when they were freshmen in my fifth-­period class. Milo was a head shorter than Mia back then.”

“I still think of them as babies, wrapped in their blankets like burritos. They couldn’t fall asleep without being side by side in the same crib,” Tori said wistfully.

Della squeezed Tori’s arm. “But here’s the silver lining. Once you’re an empty nester, we’ll be able to get together more often. At least until you meet that special someone.”

Tori braced herself. Here comes the pitch.

“Speaking of which,” Della went on, “you would love my cousin Linda. She’s really outdoorsy, always posting photos of her hikes with her chocolate lab. Oh, and she’s vegan.”

Tori cocked an eyebrow. “You know I can’t live my life without butter, eggs, cheese, yogurt, cream . . . and did I mention butter?”

About the Author

Lisa Peers
Lisa Peers is a writer with a passion for smart, funny love stories with well-deserved happy endings. She has acted professionally in San Francisco, produced TV and radio programs in Detroit, and is currently a creative director for an international marketing agency. A Harvard graduate with an MFA in acting from the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Lisa lives with her partner Dani in metro Detroit, not far from their three grown children, along with their beloved cats and way too much yarn. And plenty of sweets. More by Lisa Peers
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