Review: Semi -Sweet by Roisin Meaney

Title: Semi-Sweet: A Novel of Love and Cupcakes

Author: Roisin Meaney

Published: 5 Spot April 2011 {ARC courtesy publisher}

Synopsis: Hannah Robinson is just about to open the doors to her new shop Cupcakes on the Corner when out of the blue her boyfriend Patrick announces that he’s leaving her for another woman. Faced with starting a business on her own, Hannah begins to wonder if her life-long dream has just turned into a nightmare. So her best friend Adam sets his birthday as a deadline – seven months to make her shop a success, or walk away from it all. And as Hannah immerses herself in her new business, she soon discovers that she’s too busy to think about Patrick and his now pregnant girlfriend …or to notice an increasingly regular customer who has recently developed a sweet tooth for all things cupcake. But while Hannah is slowly piecing her life back together, family friend Alice’s is falling apart. Her husband Tom’s drinking is getting out of control and things are about to get a whole lot worse. As the seven-month milestone approaches, Hannah must decide her future. And while she’s figuring out what’s really important, it becomes clear to everyone that happiness in life, and in love, is all in the making.

Status: Read from April 26 to 27, 2011 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Semi-Sweet is an engaging story with surprising depth and emotion.
Hannah’s fairytale romance abruptly ends when her live in boyfriend leaves her for someone else. The other woman, Leah, has ensured Patrick’s attention by deliberately falling pregnant, but he has already proved loyalty is not his strong suit. Hannah’s best friend Adam, has a crush on a painfully shy clarinet player, while his twin sister is looking for a little fun. Family friend Alice, is concerned by her husband’s growing dependence on alcohol and the strain it is placing on their marriage. The novel examines the complex web of relationships in a small Irish town, and how the loss, and gain, of love changes them.

Hannah’s story is central, her breakup with Patrick, her anxiety over the launch of her new business, and then her fledgling romance and attraction as she begins to recover from Patrick’s duplicity, leads the character driven novel. Hannah is immediately sympathetic and Meany has captured the emotions of loss and mourning when a relationship ends suddenly with a deft hand. I think because we as the reader are aware of what a creep Patrick is, it does get a bit wearing as Hannah dwells in misery, but the rebuilding of her battered self confidence is realistic, which creates a well rounded and very likeable character.
Hannah is surrounded by friends and family in her small Irish town, and Meaney uses their perspective to reflect Hannah’s experiences as well as develop subplots that weave their way through the story. We see different sides to the relationship between Leah and Patrick that couldn’t be explored from a single viewpoint. Similarly we are able to follow Adam’s growing crush on ?? and her brother’s attraction to Hannah. The ties between this group of characters, also including Nora and Patrick are well managed and the shifts in perspective generally smooth.
Alice’s story didn’t work for me. She is peripherally connected to Hannah as a family friend, but her relationship is very self contained and the drama it provides barely touches the other characters at all. As the other subplot’s are intimately tied to Hannah, it seemed an odd addition to the storyline.
With so many characters having the opportunity to provide different perspectives on events, and each other, Meaney highlights the shades of grey found in real life. Leah is firstly introduced as a calculating mistress, for example, but slowly earns our sympathy as she struggles with her cold and judgmental mother and Patrick’s callous behaviour.

Semi-Sweet is not the lighthearted chic lit I was expecting but something rather more complex in both style and theme. At times both sweetly romantic and painfully emotional, it is a charming and satisfying read.

Available for purchase @ Amazon ; Purchase @ BookDepository

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol Wong
    May 01, 2011 @ 04:24:18

    Thank you so much for this review. I thought it was a cozy too because of the cover. After reading your review, I put it on list to buy. I just read yesterday that women see more shades of gray in a problem while men tend to think more in black and white. I wonder if that is a valid assumption.

    CarolNWong(at)aol(dot)com

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  2. TheBookGirl
    May 01, 2011 @ 06:48:10

    Sounds like the author might have been better advised to leave the Alice storyline out?

    This sounds much more serious than either the title or the cover suggests. Thanks for the helpful review 🙂

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  3. Hira Hasnain
    May 03, 2011 @ 09:26:19

    Wow, thank you so much for your amazing review. Had it not been for your review, I would not have looked twice at this novel, just deeming it a frivolous read (not that I really mind those, but I rarely indulge) and not realizing that it is in fact a story with depth. Thank you! 😀

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  4. Sassy
    May 05, 2011 @ 09:13:44

    This sounds like a great book. What an awesome review. You’ve convinced me to pick it up and read.

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  5. Michelle
    Jun 19, 2011 @ 08:05:21

    This is our seventh book club book and I am on page 205. So far I am bored to tears. It is like watching a horrible reality tv show or listening to small town gossip. I would recommend The Help or Unbroken as much better books to read!

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