LET THEM EAT CAKE
Chick-lit never tasted so good! LET THEM EAT CAKE is one of those rare chick-lit novels that integrates faith elements without being preachy, and includes plenty of romance without it being the only point of the protagonist’s existence.
Twenty-four-year-old Alexandra (“Lexi”) Stuart disappoints her mom and dad every time she gets a new job --- and gets fired. Her university French studies haven’t panned out in a lucrative career, and she’s tired of settling for a job she doesn’t like just to get a paycheck. She’s also longing for a place of her own in Seattle. “I’ve disappointed everyone, including myself,” she broods to her best friend, after losing yet another job.
When Lexi lands a job as a counter staffperson at the French bakery L’Esperance, it doesn’t seem like much of a move forward career-wise. But her boss, Luc --- a buff, handsome Frenchman --- helps make up for the low paycheck with his flirtatious interest. A cute attorney who patronizes the restaurant also promises romance. Lexi’s job seems to be off to a flying start, but author Sandra Byrd is ready to throw a few obstacles in her way, keeping the pages turning.
Lexi is a delightful character, far more interesting than the usual Christian fiction fare. She shoots pool and enjoys beer or a good glass of wine from time to time, finds her church’s singles group a bore but hasn’t given up on church, and is interested in romance but also wants to discover her own identity. In addition, she is fluent in French and loves to bake. Readers will care about what happens to her.
Byrd also has given Lexi an engagingly flawed family. Her brother Nate is a slightly neurotic hypochondriac and attorney whose secure financial status and appealing fiancée, Leah, gives Lexi a big dose of insecurity. Lexi’s dad is a lovable but spiritually absent presence in the household, intent on helping Lexi move forward in a career. Her sweet mother works out at Curves and sometimes turns a little June Cleaver-ish, invading Lexi’s room and doing her laundry. Readers will also discover a thoughtful plot thread about Lexi’s best friend, Tanya, whose past experience in relationships makes her hesitant to embrace a new romance. Sure, there are a few clichéd characters --- Nonna is the perennial chick-lit grandma, nosy and nagging her to get a boyfriend.
LET THEM EAT CAKE has an unusual gimmick that readers either will like or hate. Byrd’s fictional character Lexi interacts with one of the web’s best recipe sites, www.allrecipes.com, throughout the book, posting her own recipes and even applying for a job there. If you log on to the website, two of the novel’s recipes, Boyfriend Bait Beef Stroganoff and Perfumed Coconut Cake, appear there, as if written by a real person. Lexi also has her own Allrecipes.com profile, with biographical info from the novel ("My name is Alexandra Stuart [Lexi!] and I am a WWU grad in Modern and Classical Languages, French emphasis.”). Nowhere do you have a hint that she is a fictional character unless you’ve read the book. Whether you find this engaging and funny or a bit devious, it will make you think about the authenticity of some of what you read on the Internet.
One of the best things about LET THEM EAT CAKE is the unexpected ending, which may surprise some readers. Byrd has done a nice job here, helping Lexi look beyond the tempting lure of secure relationships and a steady paycheck to maturing and risking more. Chick-lit fans will find that this delectable mix of faith, fun and fiction has all the right ingredients for a romantic, enjoyable read.
--- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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