Thursday, January 10, 2013

Vanity Fair by Megan Caldwell (includes international giveaway)

When Molly Hagan's husband leaves her for another woman she is devastated, but she thanks to a generous divorce deal she know that she will be okay eventually. That is until her husband gives her the news that his business has gone bust and that he has lost all of his money. Her health insurance will expire at the end of the month and she has to find a way to support both herself and her six year old son, Aidan.  Molly has a degree in English but has spent the last six years at home with her child. With very little experience to offer a prospective employer, Molly is feeling the pressure.

Bowing to that pressure, she begrudgingly asks her mother for some money only to find that her mother has made some bad investment choices and so is on the verge of losing her own home. Suddenly she has to put food on the table for both herself and her son as well as her mother who comes to live with her. They have what would possibly be described as a difficult relationship so having to share a confined space is an added challenge that Molly could do without.

Thankfully Molly's friend John has a freelance copy writing gig for her. He has recently been hired to come up with a direction for a new bakery that is opening up in New York. Located right near the New York public library and run by an up and coming pastry chef. John needs to ensure that the design concepts really capture the public's imagination and make the place a success! Molly will need to work closely with the British chef, Simon, who is hoping for a step up in terms of profile, maybe even onto the TV food channels. Simon is drop dead gorgeous and with that British accent he has Molly going weak at the knees pretty much straight away. The nuts and bolts man of the operation is Nick - stern, a bit disdainful and also good looking but in a much less obvious way.

Molly has to juggle a lot in her life. Her therapy sessions (with a very understanding therapist it has to be said), making sure that she is free when Aidan gets out from school, meetings, presentations, starting to date again and more and I thought that the way that the author portrayed Molly's insecurities felt very real. Even once she comes up with a fantastic concept that both Nick and Simon like, she needs a bit of positive reinforcement, and I loved the way that her friends both were able to provide that support to her. We also got glimpses into the friends lives, which helped provide some different elements to the book. I did also think that the author nailed the issues about being a single mum to a small child pretty well. The alternation between independence and insecurity of the child, the concept of not being able to afford to buy the latest PowerRanger toy even though all the other kids have it, trying to juggle life etc.

The reasons I was attracted to this book in the first place include the cover (which is very nice) and also the idea of incorporating classic literature with food. This part of the book really worked for me. I would love to go to a bakery where you could sit down and read your book while eating something like  Tart of Darkness which is described as "Obscure, faintly dangerous ingredients - Belgian chocolate, white rum, African groundnuts - combine in a swirl of flavor, topped off with a heady adventure of whipped cream. Delicious, delectable, and almost completely inscrutable, this tart reveals your most secret desires. And if Kurtz had been able to savor this, who knows how the story would have ended?" At first, I also really liked that Molly was unashamedly a romance reader but after a while that felt a little overplayed in the storyline, especially when she was then pushing more high brow books as reading options to her friends a lot of the time.

When I look at the reviews of other participants in the tour, it is obvious that they all loved this book, so far anyway. I, however, was not quite as convinced. This book evoked a very personal response for me, and I can't quite decide if that is because of the book itself not working for me, or if it is my own personal experiences that have coloured my reading. I am tempted to say I just read it at the wrong time, but as I think back on it I don't know that there would be a better time.

As I said previously, my reactions are very personal and relate to my own experiences as a single mother. The first relates to the timing. Now I know that I have been EXTREMELY slow at meeting someone new, but it seemed to me that Molly had only been by herself for six months or so. She talks about feeling frumpy and inadequate compared to some of the other New York women but suddenly she has not one but two gorgeous men on the line. (Yes, the love triangle has escaped into this book!) And as for the two men, there wasn't a lot of nuance - it was pretty obvious to me from very early on exactly where she was going to end up, even when there is a big reveal at the end in relation to her chosen man. And let's not talk about the ex-husband.

Now, I don't begrudge someone moving on, but I have quite a few single parent friends and not many of them find it so easy to meet numerous men, let alone numerous men who are wealthy and good looking plus love kids and tick every other box on the prospective partner checklist, and with everything else just falling into place too. Maybe I am just a tiny bit jealous of how easy a fictional character finds it to move onwards and upwards while I sit here feeling lonely and just scraping by financially, doing the best I can but not seeing how things are going to change any time soon.

I suspect I have probably committed a cardinal sin of book reviewers by making this last part of the review all about me, but these factors really affected my enjoyment of the book, so no apologies here.

As I said, if you follow the blog tour you will get to see some really enthusiastic and positive reviews. Hopefully, if you get a chance to read this book, you will like it a whole lot more than I did. I suspect I am going to always be very much in the minority on this one.

Rating 2.5/5 stretching to a 3/5 because of the fun food descriptions and recipes in the back of the book

Tour Details

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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 Pok√©mon 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.

Thanks to TLC book tours and the publisher, I have a copy of the book to giveaway and the giveaway is international!

I thought I would set a little challenge for you though. You don't have to do this but I thought it would be fun if as part of your entry you tried come up with a marketing blurb for the humble donut. It doesn't matter what kind of donut - jam filled, chocolate, strawberry, covered in sprinkles or not - any kind really!

Don't worry, this isn't compulsory but just a bit of fun. When I announce the winners, I will share the entries so that everyone else will be able to see what fun ideas you all came up with, assuming there are some!

Enter the giveaway by completing the form below

The giveaway will close on 20 January.


  1. I love, love, love foodie fiction! This sounds great to me!

    1. Good luck with the giveaway. I enjoyed your haiku.

  2. I enjoyed this one more than you did. I can understand your reasons for not liking it more and I have to admit that I also thought it was a bit much that she had two hot guys hitting on her so soon after her divorce.

    1. I am definitely in the minority on this one Anne.

  3. Marg:

    Thanks for taking the time to read and write a review! I appreciate your honesty and thoughtfulness as well, and can definitely see the points you make--I think I was wish fulfilling for some of my newly-divorced friends in making things happen for Molly so quickly.

    Megan Frampton (w/a Megan Caldwell)

  4. I can see why this book would make you a tad annoyed, as I have experienced much the same thing in years past. I would still love to read it, so count me in, but at least now I will be aware of what's to come!! I really liked the honesty reflected in this review.

  5. Think it is good to bring in one's own personal background & thoughts into a review. It is understandable, and makes it better. cheers.

  6. I think this sounds okay. I don't mind at all that you mentioned yourself - we all bring different experiences to our book reading and it shows how we get different things out of it.

    1. For sure. Normally thought it flavours the reaction but not enforces it, if you know what I mean.

  7. My reviews tend to me all about me and my personal reaction to the book as well, so I can certainly understand that!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  8. I'm sorry to see this one didn't work for you. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

    1. I seem to be in the minority on a couple of books at the moment The other one is the new Laura Florand book!