Author: Meg Donohue
Publisher: Harper Collins
About the book: Funny, free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated, ambitious Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clair’s housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls who know nothing of class differences and scholarships could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.
A decade later, Annie is now a talented, if underpaid, pastry chef who bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death. Julia, a successful businesswoman, is tormented by a painful secret that could jeopardize her engagement to the man she loves. When a chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, they must overcome past hurts and a mysterious saboteur or risk losing their fledgling business and any chance of healing their fractured friendship.
My thoughts: I really liked the way that the author told Annie and Julia's story. The timeline went from June to May with the chapters alternating between the two young women. It was almost as if they were sitting in front of you, telling you the story as a friend. There were times I wanted to laugh and times I wanted to cry and times I wanted to shake one of them to open up their eyes as to what was in front of them!
The girls grew up together since they were babies - they might as well have been sisters. Annie got to do a lot of the same things that Julia did, thanks to Lolly and Tad - Julia's parents. Over time, Lucia, Annie's mom, though employed by the St. Clair's, became Lolly's best friend. When the girls entered high school though, the dynamic between the two of them began to change. They went to a private high school, Devon Prep, and for Julia, it was like coming home. She fit in perfectly and didn't think about pulling Annie along with her. Annie, being the daughter of the housekeeper, was only at Devon Prep thanks to Lolly and Tad. She didn't fit in well, but adjusted, until rumors blew her life apart her senior year. Her mother died that summer and she left soon after for college, and did her best to not look back.
Lolly St. Clair, however, kept tabs on Annie, and urged her to provide the cupcakes for one of her charity functions. This is where the story really begins - the above you learn through flashbacks. Annie reluctantly caters the function and runs into Julia, whom she didn't know was back in town. Julia hasn't thought much about how her actions in high school almost derailed Annie for good, and can't understand why Annie is still holding a grudge.
"Of course, that was back when I still cared about making Julia happy, before I realized that the person releasing that peal of laughter was a manipulative, lying, cruel young woman who was trying her damnedest to ruin my life." (p14 - Review copy)
Julia is actually in town to plan her wedding to Wes, a southern charmer who adores her. She is keeping a secret from him though, and the more time that passes, the harder it is to tell him. Instead of planning a wedding she decides she needs something else to occupy her mind. Since she is in love with Annie's cupcakes, she decides that her and Annie should go into business. She would provide the capital and after a year, Annie could buy her out and she would go on with her new married life. She sees no problems with this, as Julia has usually gotten whatever she wanted. I thought this passage described her pretty well:
"I had, I'll admit, affected a certain style - a method, if you will - of cupcake eating. To begin, you remove the cupcake liner carefully so as not to unnecessarily crumble the cake, and set it aside. You then turn the cupcake slowly in your hand, taking bites along the line where cake meets icing, your mouth filling with a perfect combination of both components. Once you've come full circle, you gently twist off the bottom half inch of cake, a move that takes considerable finesse -- leaving a delicate sliver of cake -- the ideal size for lying flat on your tongue and allowing it to slowly dissolve, building anticipation for that final bite. To finish you are left with the center cylinder of cake and icing, the cupcake's very heart, sometimes filled with a surprising burst of custard or jam or mousse, sometimes not, but always, always, the most moist, flavorful bite of the entire cupcake. Take a breath before diving into that final perfect bite, it is to be savored for as long as possible. Finally, of course, you scavenge the crumbs from the cupcake liner you set aside during step one, then ball the liner into your fist and overhand it into the nearest receptacle. Make the shot? You get another cupcake." (p30 - Review copy)
Can't you just picture this woman in your head? I know that I don't eat a cupcake this way (well, I will admit, I did try it today!) Annie is nothing like this, diving right into her cupcake and eating away. This was their take on life as well. Julia's was planned out, well, had been planned out until something happened that made her unable to see her future and really making her wonder about her upcoming wedding and future. And Annie, who has worked multiple jobs just to be able to pay rent, never knowing if she would have enough for the next month. Add to those differences the slight Annie still feels from high school and you have a recipe for an upside down cake!
I liked Annie right off, but took a little while to warm up to Julia. Even by the end of the book, I liked her better, but still wondered if she truly knew, or could even fathom, what she had done to Annie in high school. Coming from her background, I am not sure that is something she could really understand. Oh, and you think you have a nice little chick lit book here, and then the suspense starts to build toward the end as the vandal who has been doing a little nuisance vandalism to their cupcakery ratchets up his game a notch.
This is Mrs. Donahue's first novel and I am looking forward to reading more from her in the future!
You can find her at her website - http://www.megdonohue.com/ or on twitter @megdonohue.
~I received a complimentary ecopy of this book from Harper Collins.~
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Collins, Mar 13, 2012