Semi-Sweet: A Novel of Love and Cupcakes

Roisin Meaney
May 2011, Women's Fiction
5 Spot, $13.99, 400 pages, Amazon ASIN 0446570117

Grade: B
Sensuality: Subtle

Semi Sweet is written by Roisin Meaney, a new to me author, although she has been published in Europe for years and gets compared on occasion to Maeve Binchy. I won't comment on that alleged similarity, but I do know that she has a very enticing writing style. This is her first book with simultaneous publications in Europe and the United States.

Hannah Robinson is getting ready for a special celebratory dinner to commemorate the opening of her new shop Cupcakes on the Corner when Patrick, her live-in boyfriend of 15 months, tells her he canít go on pretending. He has found someone else and plans to move out. Although devastated, Hannah canít wallow in self pity since all her capital is tied up in her new business and she needs to make a go of it.

As Hannah copes with her unhappiness, her family and friends gather around providing comfort and succor, allowing us glimpses into their lives. Ms. Meaney weaves multiple threads together showing how life changes over the next seven months for Hannah, her parents Geraldine and Stephen, friends of her parents Tom and Alice, Patrick the ex, his new girlfriend, Hannahís best friend Adam, and his sister.

Ms. Meaney has such an easy way of showing fragments of everyday life, both the heartwarming and the unthinkable. She clearly has a marvelous ability for creating distinctive, authentic, and likeable characters. Hannah could have easily been one of my friends, and Geraldine's support and unconditional love of her daughter reminded me so much of my mother.

One of the storylines centers on Alice and Tom, whose lives take a turn for the worst as a result of TomĎs drinking. Since they are on the periphery of Hannahís life, I didnít quite understand the reason this was included, since it took the story down a somewhat dismal and problematic path for me. Still it does illustrate how one personís problems can impact others and it also adds some depth, which would appeal to those readers interested more in authenticity than happily ever afters.

With womenís fiction, an author has much more leeway to address different issues so I was prepared for any possibility. After reading about one fourth of the book, I had this almost irresistible urge to jump to the end for just a peek. Does Patrick recognize he made a mistake? Or is there a new boyfriend on the horizon? Do Adam and Hannah realize that they are more then friends? I resisted, and finally got out of my romance reading mode when I realized that this story is more about Hannahís journey then her love interest. The romance is very subtle, although with a hint of serendipity.

Semi-Sweet is the perfect descriptive title for this book. Parts of it are bitter, and parts extremely sweet. This is one of those books that stays in your thoughts long after you read it. If you are looking for realism, romance, and character growth then this book will sure to appeal.

-- Leigh Davis

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