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Laura C’s review of Vanity Fare by Megan Caldwell
Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance published by William Morrow 26 Dec 12

This book is hard to classify. Although it uses many contemporary romance tropes—the destitute wife left for a younger woman, the two possible boyfriends, one of whom seems arrogant and aloof, the foodie theme—it’s really not a romance. Nor is it chick lit, though I’ve heard it called that, along with “mommy lit.” But it’s definitely a book for women, so I will just go for “women’s fiction.”

Molly Hagan’s husband has left her with a son and a stack of bills. He can’t afford child support and she  doesn’t have any skills that will pay to keep her and Aidan, her son, in their Brooklyn home. Luckily, a friend comes through with a job Molly can handle—writing copy for the menu of a new “literary pastry shop.” Literature is Molly’s forte, and she soon finds that the job allows her to shine. She also finds the possibility of love with both the hot, British, glamorous pastry chef, Simon, whose fancy desserts she is writing about, and the seemingly arrogant marketing guy, Nick.

Anyone who reads romance will know from the first minute these three meet which one she will end up with. But as I said, the romance here is secondary. So what’s primary? Molly’s relationship with her son and with herself. She has a shrink (of course, what good New Yorker doesn’t?) and friends, and they’re all helping her to figure out her life and problems. She doesn’t want her son to think badly of his dad, but at times the man is less mature than the child, and it makes her want to scream. (I know even those of us without husbands or children have been there—it’s one of the great things about this book. Everything feels real.)

Reading this book is like sitting down with a friend and talking about her life. Molly is complete and well-drawn, with intelligence, flaws, fantasies, a snarky voice, and a great sense of humor. She’s the kind of woman you know—or maybe wish you knew. You sort of want to punch her ex-husband, and you definitely want to hug her kid…even if you don’t generally like kids in books.

Don’t expect huge amounts of angst, weeping, or shock. It’s not that kind of read. It’s brownies and hot chocolate and the occasional snarky laugh, with a few sexy times thrown in for good measure.

I find Nick a bit too perfect and his big secret at the end a bit of a let-down, but those are the only negatives in this book. And, really, since the romance is secondary, those are quite minor points.

Grade: A-


Molly Hagan is overwhelmed.

Her husband left her for a younger, blonder woman; her six-year-old son is questioning her authority, and now so is she. In order to pay her Brooklyn rent and keep her son supplied with Pokémon and Legos, not to mention food and clothing, she has to get a job—fast.

So when an old friend offers Molly a freelance position copywriting for a new bakery, finding romance is just about the last thing on her mind. But the sexy British pastry chef who’s heading up the bakery has other thoughts. And then so does Molly, when she meets the chef’s intimidating business partner—who also happens to have a secret that might prevent Molly from getting her own happily ever after.

Read an excerpt.