Expected publication: March 13, 2012 (Harper Collins)
Source: E-ARC from NetGalley
Series or Stand-alone: Stand-alone
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Website | Twitter
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.
Debut author Meg Donohue offers readers a delectable tale of friendship and family in How to Eat a Cupcake. I fell for the story at once, after meeting unorthodox, eccentric Annie Quintana. Told in alternating points of view from Annie and her childhood friend, Julia St Clair, How to Eat a Cupcake is the heart-wrenching story of the strained relationship these two women share, their once-entwined lives now only distant memories. Annie tugged at my heart throughout the story; for every chance she takes, something holds her back. Partially due to her mother's untimely death, and partially due to a betrayal she has not healed from, an apology never received, Annie won't let herself be caught up in Julia's life again, but when they open a cupcakery together, Annie can't keep Julia at arm's length forever.
Normally I would label a book like this a "chick lit," but although there were many light, funny moments sprinkled like cupcake toppings throughout How to Eat a Cupcake (a nod to both women's various methods of doing so), there is also a great deal of character growth on the parts of both Annie and Julia. Julia starts out a an ambitious but guarded woman, afraid to confide her secrets in her fiance, and unwilling to admit the part she played in Annie's traumatic senior year in high school - which led to the unraveling of their friendship and set Annie on her course in life. Over the course of How to Eat a Cupcake, both women grow - back together, through a series of fits and starts, and misunderstandings, and also as individuals. Annie learns how to let go of her past, and focus on her present, and Julia learns how to open up to those around her. This growth is done in a totally satisfying way, and never feels forced or fake.
I also really enjoyed the setting of How to Eat a Cupcake, and watching Annie and Julia's business grow. (I must have licked my lips a dozen times over the mentions of all the delicious cupcakes! Meyer lemon, pumpkin, etc) What starts out as a pet project for Julia and a source of a mixed blessing for Annie slowly blooms into a joy for them both, but it is not without a tumultous year of growing pains. Someone doesn't want Treat to stay open, and I enjoyed watching the mystery play out.
There were a few aspects of How to Eat a Cupcake that I did not enjoy, and one of them involved part of Julia's character arc. Throughout the book, she made a few decisions I thought were not intelligent, even going so far as to put herself in danger. However beyond that the story was very cute and endearing, including the romances both women experienced. I found myself cheering for Annie in that aspect, although hers was more of just the beginnings of a possible relationship, but it was one of my favorite parts of the story. I would recommend How to Eat a Cupcake to fans of Jennifer Weiner and Sophie Kinsella, and I will definitely read more of Meg Donohue's work!
In accordance with FTC guidelines, I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands. I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.