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Diana-Holquist

REVIEW: How Sweet It Is by Sophie Gunn

REVIEW: How Sweet It Is by Sophie Gunn

Dear Ms. Gunn:

The hook for this story is that there are four women who were enemies as high school students and are now best friends. They’ve formed an alliance called the “Enemy Club”. I have to admit an aversion to any group of women outside of college who form and name their own clubs and it was the references to the “Enemy Club” and the attempts to set up interest in further books that was the weakest component of the story. The Enemy Club had nothing to do with the character arcs of the main protagonists or with the development of the plot.

How Sweet It is sophie gunn The main thrust of this story is about guilt and acceptance and the failure of money to solve anything. The main and secondary characters struggle with these concepts in different ways. Brooklyn property owner and male protagonist, Dante “Tay” Giovanni, ran a red light one day, killing the other driver. He was charged with vehicular manslaughter but a grand jury didn’t indict him. Felled by guilt, Tay begins a downward spiral of depression which leads him to lose his fiance, sell all his belongings and search out the daughter of the killed driver. Tay seeks absolution and believes that this daughter is the only one who can grant this. He plans to give the daughter his newly liquidated assets as he has discovered that the dead driver has left her daughter with a river of debt (I’ve never really understood this plot device as most unsecured debt is discharged by death, but alas).

The daughter doesn’t want Tay’s “blood money” and so Tay is stuck, without funds, burdened by guilt, and desperate to help someone. Tay fixates on Lizzie Bea Carpenter, a waitress struggling as a single parent to her 14 year old daughter, Paige. Lizzie and Paige have been getting along fairly well, as well as most teen girls and their mothers get along, when Paige receives a mailing from her birth father that he would like to reconnect with Paige. The letter is sent on expensive paper and postmarked Geneva, Switzerland. This stirs up dreams in Paige’s mind of taking her snowboarding career to the next level by moving to Switzerland with her father who must have money, unlike her mom.

Lizzie’s house is pretty run down and she’s often turning to her brother in law and former high school flame to help out. When Tay hears about Lizzie’s need for a handyman, he begins to do work around her home when she is gone, kind of like the elves working for the shoemaker. Soon, though, Lizzie figures out what is going on and Tay and Lizzie develop a romance. However, Tay doesn’t believe he deserves happiness and Lizzie’s in an emotional tailspin over possibly losing her daughter.

A secondary storyline concerns Lizzie’s sister, Annie, who is suffering some post partum depression which has aggravated her insecurities about her husband, Tommy’s, feelings toward her. Tommy and Lizzie were highschool sweethearts and then Lizzie broke up with Tommy for Paige’s father (who then ran off). When Tommy and Lizzie were broken up, Annie swooped in and captured the wounded Tommy’s heart. Over the years, Tommy has always been there for Lizzie and Paige, making Annie feel like she stole Tommy and that Tommy regrets committing himself to her.

Still another part of the story is committed to Candy, the daughter of the woman killed by Tay’s vehicle. She’s broke, angry, and scared college student who she believes she only has herself to rely upon. In truth, she has her own complicated feelings of guilt and acceptance to work through.

While the characters’ lives intertwine with each other, their paths to fulfillment and happiness are essentially the same. Accept the wrongs you committed but don’t let guilt and grief ruin your life.

I thought Tay’s storyline was the best done. What happened to Tay could happen to anyone. It’s one of those “but for the Grace of God go I” occurrences (insert your own diety here). I thought his struggle with grief and self hate presented authentically although I did wonder whether his emotional trauma would have ever been healed. I also thought that presenting the killed driver, Linda, as a less than likeable character was too easy to get the reader to consent to Tay’s forgiveness.

Unfortunately, about the only thing I found compelling was Tay’s drama. It was unusual and not one I’ve read in romance. I really appreciated that this book took on such a challenging topic, but overall I found that the characters lacked sparkle. There was a certainty monotony in tone to the story: Tay could not get past his guilt. Lizzie’s money problems were wearing her down. Paige wanted to run off with her absent father. Candy was pregnant, destitute and alone. Annie was depressed and lying to her husband. Perhaps if the prose had been more lyrical, there had been more movement in the tone, or the other secondary characters more compelling, it would have been a book that would have resonated more. Tay’s dilemma was one that I thought a lot about after reading the book but I think it was less because of the way Tay was presented and more of the dilemma itself. C

Best regards,

Jane

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Dear Author

REVIEW: Hungry for More by Diana Holquist

Dear Ms. Holquist:

book review I almost didn’t write this review because it was such a struggle for me to pinpoint why I didn’t respond well to it given that I liked The Sexiest Man Alive so much. Ultimately, I think I failed to connect to the hero and heroine in a "it’s not you, it’s me" manner.

Amy Burns is a psychic who went on to Oprah to reveal Oprah’s one true love. Unfortunately, Amy and her psychic voice Maddie have had some communication problems of late and just when Amy needs her (in front a live Oprah audience), Maddie decides to stop talking to Amy altogether. Amy’s goal, notwithstanding her humiliation in front of Oprah, is to find Maddie.

Amy tracks Maddie to a gypsy named Roni to a restaurant in Philly called Les Fleurs. There she finds the hot chef/owner James LaChance but no Roni. Amy expends a huge amount of effort to find Roni which is extraordinary in that Amy’s only other huge expenditure of effort in the past is related to doing nothing, being a ne’er do well.

James LaChance’s claim to fame, other than his cooking prowess, is his bedroom prowess. He’s well known for his virility and the fact that his overpriced dishes are all inspired by women. All the dishes are named Denise, Josie, Trudy, Amanda, etc.

Throughout the story Amy has imaginary interviews with Oprah and James has imaginary sex with Amy. They spar and look at each other hungrily. All this is observed by a young Rom boy who works for James and dreams of being the next Top Chef (actually really just dreams of being a rich and famous chef like James).

From my many hours watching Top Chef and my own wait staff experiences, the restaurant parts are full of authenticity. Amy’s character growth from being an irresponsible and immature girl to a woman is appealing and James’ exudes a lot of macho sex appeal. James’s restaurant and James’ as a chef are my favorite parts of the book. I loved the waitstaff and the foul mouthed sous chefs. I loved James’ idea that the restaurant was a team and everyone had everyone else’s back even if he arbitrarily decides what mistakes get you kicked off (showing up late) and what keep you on (being hot like Amy). (That’s really not what I see when I watch Kitchen Nightmares but that would probably explain why those restaurants are going out of business and why James is close to getting his third star).

Food + sex = greatness in most equations so why did this story take me a week to read? I had a hard time with Amy as the con. I wasn’t sure if she ran cons because she liked the thrill; because it was the only way to make a living and she did so reluctantly. It seemed like the morality of the story was that the cons were run on bad people so the con was essentially good. But Amy runs cons on everyone from fifteen year old Tony to thirty something James. It’s not that Amy doesn’t grow. She totally does. By the end of the book, she’s changed. But I really wanted to know the “why” of the con so that I could believe in the fact that she could give it up. Further, I never really bought any depth of relationship between James and Amy. After four days of Amy working in James’ restaurant, he declares her his biggest weakness. Really James? That kind of shows that you’ve got the depth of a saute pan. Maybe women are your greatness weakness but Amy, a chick you’ve known all of four days?

I keep thinking as I review this book that I should have liked it. And maybe it was PMS. Bad time of the month, season, year, and that had I tried some other time, I would have appreciated it. Alas, I’ll blame this lackluster response on Gisele. Of course, I’m still up for the next book and I suspect I might re-read this one in a few months and see if I have a different response. In essence, this review is a plea for someone else to read the book and tell me that I am all wet. Or right. B-

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.