Salt And Sugar by Rebecca Carvalho
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: November 1, 2022
Available through Bookshop
Cover Artist: Andressa Meissner
Summary: The grandchildren of two rival Brazilian bakeries fall in love despite their families’ feud. Trust neither thin-bottomed frying pans nor Molinas. Lari Ramires has always known this to be true. In Olinda, Brazil, her family’s bakery, Salt, has been at war with the Molinas’ bakery across the street, Sugar, for generations. But Lari’s world turns upside down when her beloved grandmother passes away. On top of that, a big supermarket chain has moved to town, forcing many of the small businesses to close. Determined to protect her home, Lari does the unthinkable—she works together with Pedro Molina to save both of their bakeries. Lari realizes she might not know Pedro as well as she thought—and she maybe even likes what she learns—but the question remains: Can a Ramires and a Molina truly trust one another?
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Salt And Sugar is an excellent and wonderful YA romcom about community, love and uncovering ones own roots through the power of food! Lari and Pedro, grandchildren of rival bakeries learn what it takes to overcome a generational feud if it means saving their family businesses. A truly refreshing romance full of heart and humor, Carvalho’s debut makes for a satisfying take on the enemies-to-lovers trope explored wonderfully through the rich celebration of Brazilian culture!
If romance is your wheelhouse, I’m deeply imploring you to pick up Rebecca Carvalho’s delightful debut! I hadn’t read a romance that left me with the “giggling” and “kicking my feet in the air” sort of way in a while and friends let me tell you, this book is so much fun. Perhaps because baked goods especially are a foundational staple in Latine culture, that’s maybe why the present element of food left such a comforting feeling through each chapter of Lari’s story and in that way, I could sense Carvalho’s passion for exploring culture and community at every turn of the page.
The Brazilian bakery Salt has always been a generational rival to its sweeter counter-part across the street, Sugar, for generations. So its no surprise that Lari Ramires and Pedro Molina have grown-up becoming enemies, academic rivals and generally despising each other. Though the story here is much more than just a Romeo & Juliet-esque romance! At the start we learn Lari’s grandmother has passed away, leaving an immeasurable grief not only within the Ramires family, but also being a pillar of the Olinda community, that absence is so deeply felt not only within the bakery but throughout the street where so many local business owners are practically like family.
A new supermarket chain known as Deals Deals soon comes to the neighborhood, not only closing local shops but soon sets its sights on buying out the rival bakeries, to push them out of business. Lari’s mother, with her best interests at heart, has pushed her to daughter to succeed academically to be the first in her family to attend univeristy, but in doing so, Lari’s garnered her passion for the kitchen from a distance. In ensuring herself a bright future, she’s made sure to be at the top of her classes which means a fierce competition between none other than Pedro, baking prodigy and her childhood rival. But when all these uncertainties and lingering grief begin to pile up, she’s forced to team-up with the prodigy if she has any chance of figuring out her own future & saving their families bakeries!
Written in a first-person POV, Salt And Sugar is full of heart, humor and features a fantastic, well-rounded execution of the enemies-to-lovers trope/dynamic that I’ve read about in some time! I mean from Lari and Pedro’s first interaction in the book: she trips as the bakeries are arguing, she topples into one of their cakes…literally crashing into Pedro!! ― I knew this would be such a truly wonderful & incredibly funny, romantic read. Through the writing not only is the thread of community and family an active part of the characters arcs, but also the importance of food and continuing the legacies of your loved ones.
I loved that despite coming from a family of experienced bakers, Lari is an utter mess in the kitchen! Look not only did it mean she would receive cooking advice & help from childhood nemesis Pedro…but, that also made for such a refreshing piece of the story adding to Lari’s journey to figure out whether she wanted to keep on pursuing the family business or unlike Pedro, have the freedom to do something new. Their moments of bonding over their expectations further made them realize how petty and frankly drawn-out the feud had been in making them fail to see how stronger they are together.
With Pedro and Lari’s knowledge in cooking, Brazilian cuisine shined throughout the story from pães to bolo de rolo, brigadero, coxinha, an abundance of foods many of which I’d never heard of before but reminded me of other Latin-American dishes I’m familiar with, which further added that heart and coziness that make foodie stories one of my favorites.
Carvalho adds all the moments that were truly everything you could want from a romance: a bike ride from her rival, cooking club lessons, thinking about her rival when she’s invited to a dance by someone else?, apology in the rain-scene, so many iconic moments I was thinking of making a list!!!
Though despite the typical elements of enemies-to-lovers stories, Carvalho adds that extra layer of understanding through Pedro as he reflects on his own actions in being Lari’s long-time rival, as does Lari, to inspire them in starting over and break the generational cycle of competition between their families to work towards something better for the community they care about. The bridge between the rift is further explored when learning about the great-grandmother’s rivalries and how it led to the creation of Salt & Sugar, which added a lot of deeper meaning to the themes explored within the novel.
Another one of my favorite elements of Rebecca’s book was truly the storytelling, deeply heartfelt and personal, from Lari’s witty, stubborn but passionate and at times hesitant nature which bounced off so well with Pedro’s similar personality, to the deeper exploration of the struggles small businesses face with the presence of giant chains to the presence of family-owned shops that genuinely make up the soul of a community. Adding in the familial expectations, deeper connection to family through food and a compelling romance, the layers to this story were deeply rooted throughout!
Carvalho’s slice-of-life approach to this romance allowed the relationship between them to develop slowly across each chapter where the history of the Ramires and Molina family trees is explored, the foundation of their family bakeries, to understanding the dreams that they both aspire to. If anything, I would have loved so many more baking & cooking scenes (they were fantastic) and at times because the parent perspective that we get connected to the most is Lari’s the rivalry can get a bit tedious (between their parents) seeing as how its mostly Lari & Pedro’s stories. Okay but honestly after reaching the end I was thinking, this could potentially have a sequel & I’d absolutely love that..here’s what Rebecca had to say about that when asking her on booktwt.
Salt And Sugar is the YA romcom you need in your life! Carvalho delivers a stunning debut with a fantastic exploration of the enemies-to-lovers dynamic, while touching on meaningful themes all through the lens of Brazilian culture that hit close as a Latina reader making for such an unforgettable reading experience. This debut leaves much promise for even more delightful YA stories from Rebecca Carvalho in the future!
Have you read this book? What are some of your favorite YA romcoms? 🧡💖