Summary: Like other well-meaning mothers, Julie Mueller’s believed she did the right thing when she secretly ended her teenage daughter’s crush on Michael Slayton, a wild older neighborhood heartthrob with a penchant for Shakespeare and the pedigree of trailer trash.
Twenty years later, Betty Mueller has come to realize that was a big mistake. Her daughter Julie – divorced and raising a teenage daughter alone – is a workaholic obsessed with her career. And Michael, the one man who could make her happy, is the one man to whom she won’t speak.
Now dying and determined to make amends, Betty stages her last great feat of motherhood by reuniting the couple in a dessert class where she hopes the sweetness of a chocolate almond Torta Caprese will erase the bitterness of a wretched misunderstanding.
“Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said thy edge should blunter be than appetite,” Shakespeare once pleaded—though it will require more than poetry and passion fruit for Julie and Michael to renew their love.
It will, in fact, require the sweetest sacrifice of all. -- Dutton
I pretty much knew when I opened the box containing SWEET LOVE by Sarah Strohmeyer that I was going to love it. I mean, look at the cover of this book -- it's absolutely gorgeous! Add to that: the storyline sounds terrific and it is about a woman named Julie. Lisa Daily, author of FIFTEEN MINUTES OF SHAME, mentioned in an author chat that she loved Ms. Strohmeyer's books. In addition, I had already heard wonderful things about Ms. Strohmeyer's latest book (People Magazine, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune all selected it as one of summer's hottest reads.) I basically couldn't wait to dig in!
The good news is that I did thoroughly enjoy SWEET LOVE. It was a very "sweet" book that I just couldn't put down. I guess it's technically "chick lit," but don't let that scare you away (that's for those of you who turn your noses up at chick lit books.) This book had a little bit of everything -- love, romance, humor, parent/child relationships, illnesses, friendships, etc. I adored the character of Julie, as I did almost every character in this book. The characters all complemented each other while also having wonderful personalities in their own right.
I found myself laughing and crying with Julie as she deals with some very tough times in her life. Julie is facing so much uncertainty and change -- she is having some self esteem issues as she reaches middle age, she finds out that she is still in love with her childhood crush, her parents are becoming older and less able to take care of themselves, her daughter is preparing to leave home and go to college, she is trying to determine her future career goals, and she is faced with a major health scare (whew!) My heart went out to Julie many times throughout this story, but I also found myself laughing at her dry wit as well as her ability to cope with all these changes. She's just a terrific character who you will ultimately find yourself rooting for.
One thing I especially enjoyed about this novel were the cooking classes that Julie and Michael were taking. I love to bake (but don't do much of it because of the calories), and I thought the cooking class sounded like so much fun (especially the hilarious French chef character.) Ms. Strohmeyer's descriptions of the desserts were mouthwatering to say the least. I would love to try some of them out myself, especially the Peach Cobbler and the Almond Biscotti Tiramisu. Ms. Strohmeyer has listed some of the recipes on her website.
Although a major part of the book was about the on-again, off-again relationship between Julie and Michael (which I thoroughly enjoyed), I found the mother-daughter relationship angle to be so moving. I loved Julie's mother Betty; and I thought it was wonderful how much she loved her husband and family. Betty was an incredibly strong woman, and I'm so glad that Julie was able to appreciate her mother before it was too late. I also enjoyed the dynamics between Julie and her daughter Em. It was interesting to see Julie's role in both relationships as her daughter needs her less and her mother needs her more.
I love that the chick lit genre has grown past stories of young women in their 20s living in major cities -- I feel that they've "matured" as I've "matured." It's so refreshing to read about strong woman in their 40s who still manage to find love and happiness! I am extremely impressed with Ms. Strohmeyer -- I liked the story, the characters, and the writing so much; and I definitely want to read more of her novels, especially THE SLEEPING BEAUTY PROPOSAL and the CINDERELLA PACT. Now that I am thinking about it, I actually did read one of her Bubbles series many years ago, and I do remember enjoying it.
My book club meets tonight to discuss SWEET LOVE, and we are fortunate enough to have the author calling us too! I can't wait to talk to Ms. Strohmeyer about her latest book and see what she's got in the works as far a new books go. I'll be posting tomorrow about tonight's book club meeting as well as our author chat.
A huge thanks goes out to Dutton, a division of Penguin Group (USA), for providing me and my book club with copies of SWEET LOVE. Another big thanks goes out to Falise from 24/8 Book Club for coordinating with Dutton!