Dear Ms. Strohmeyer,
Up until last year when we got some arcs, I hadn’t tried any of your books. After I read “The Sleeping Beauty Proposal” and “The Cinderella Pact,” I was hooked. When I opened a box of books Jane sent me, I clapped my hands when I saw your newest title, “Sweet Love.”
From the book blurb, I thought this would be skewed a little more towards Chick Lit. A feeling that was confirmed as I read: first person heroine POV, works slightly drudge job and is under appreciated by her bosses, has family “issues,” loves hero but is unsure of his feelings. And yet, Julie is far more than a ditzy CL heroine, the family concerns are realistic, she does get satisfaction from doing her job well and is rewarded by peer recognition and the hero, Michael, is in the book far more than is usual for this subgenre. Plus the humor, which I loved, is more wry, gentle sarcasm rather than falling-on-her-ass slapstick.
I’m fairly close in age to Julie and though I don’t have a teenage daughter, or any daughter for that matter, I do have an aging mother whose health has also started to decline. I remember when it hit me that my mother, such a stable presence in my life, is getting old. That she is no longer the youthful woman of my childhood and that sooner rather than later, I will lose her. I can fully understand Julie’s concern over her mother’s health. Her exasperation when her mother, who spent so long battling breast cancer, doesn’t want to go to the doctor unless she has to.
I can also sympathize with an aging parent who sometimes forgets things yet whose sense of humor can still zing me. My mother also has a drawer filled with recipes gathered over years of cooking – some fancy, some comfort food, all old favorites. Years ago I began to copy them for my own kitchen though there are some which due to the number of eggs, cups of sugar or whatnot required I seldom make. Like Julie, I think getting older and having to watch your waistline is a bitch.
My mother – to my knowledge – has never interfered with my love life so hasn’t needed to try and get me back together with “the love of my life.” Though if she had, I would love a series of classes about fancy French desserts too. But it’s going to take more than bonding over Almond Biscotti Tiramisu to fix what’s gone wrong between Julie and Michael.
I can understand why Julie initially thinks Michael has no romantic feelings for her due to his brotherly rejection of her youthful pass at him. Their subsequent marriages, divorces and professional clash over her investigative expose of the politician for whom he worked seals her belief that friendship is the best they can do. Julie does have reason to think he might be seeing someone else but as the book progresses, I thought that it was pretty darn obvious that his interest was in her and not the supposed “other woman.” As Julie’s brother tells her, a man who brings flowers and chocolate is looking to get laid. A man who brings window air conditioners, lugs them up two flights of stairs, installs them and then also cooks you dinner is looking for a place in your life.
Yes, Julie is heading towards middle age. Yes, she does have image issues – though not horrible ones. As the mother of a seventeen year old daughter, she knows her own chance for a wild and crazy youth is behind her. Michael is very attractive, well to do, sought after by other woman. I can understand how Julie would be willing to listen to someone she doesn’t even know telling her that Michael is deeply involved with a younger woman. But…several people she knows and trusts insist his interest is in her, never mind the man’s own actions and his repeated statements that he’s there for her, anytime and anywhere. I don’t even need his POV to know Julie’s The One for him. Her continued efforts to push him away eventually exasperated me as much as Michael.
As a relationship book about mothers and daughters, “Sweet Love” is fantastic. However, the romantic ups and downs, especially the downs, of Julie and Michael’s slowly rebudding love felt manipulated to serve the needs of the plot instead of freely flowing. The shallow, dessert lover in me oohed and aahed over the cover, though. B