Title: Graham’s Delicacies
Author: Em Ali
Rating: highly recommended
tropes: mutual secret pining, enemies (antagonistic) to lovers
content warnings: mention of parent’s death, misgendering of character (challenged on page)
ARC supplied by the publisher
Em Ali seriously hits it out of the park with this collection of three stories all about the employees at Graham’s Delicacies. The stories are diverse featuring characters of colour and non-binary characters. All of the stories manage to be soft and sweet while also being undeniably sexy. All of the characters are well developed, with references made to their interests, families, pets, and the lives they lead outside of the place where they just happen to work together.
This story focuses on Jen and Em. It begins with a brief glimpse of them in the present before diving into how the two met at Graham’s Delicacies and finishing off with the two of them in the present. Em is nonbinary, using they/them pronouns, however Jen uses she/her pronouns for them. Ali adorably writes the two of them dancing around one another and slowly falling for one another in the beginning of their relationship. I feel as though more could have been done to show how their relationship grew into what it is at the end of the story. What the end of the story does show us is a healthy, well-established relationship where two characters clearly trust and care for one another and also have some amazing sex.
This story focuses on Sam and James who have been secretly pining after one another for so long it’s actually ridiculous. Lusting after exposed forearms, but shyness keeps them apart. What I loved most about this story was that it normalised the idea that some people can be in their 20s and not have that much experience with relationships whether that be physical or emotional. Ali sets up and expertly handles the issues that James has with his twin sister, Clara. His concerns and issues with some of her actions are openly discussed between them and they work towards building a better relationship.
This story focuses on Alex and Yujin and was definitely my favourite of them all. Alex is a baker at Graham’s Delicacies and Yujin is a foodie social media darling. Except when they have a one night stand, Alex doesn’t know that. Following a bad review about Graham’s Delicacies by Yujin, simply because there was a staffing issue, Alex is determined to convince the younger man that Graham’s Delicacies is delicious. Yujin realises his mistake and sets about righting it, with the hope it will help him win Alex back. Their relationship develops from one that is antagonistic to one where they respect what the other does. Alex is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.
Graham’s Delicacies is toothache levels of sweetness in the absolute best possible way. The epilogue especially gives us a glimpse of happy couples in various stages of their relationship, but also a group of good friends who are able to have a good time together. Ali continues producing great works of romance which are the perfect balance of sweet, adorable, and sexy all while featuring a diverse cast of characters.