The Icing on the Cake
I love romance (obviously, since I review for AAR) and I love listening to people’s stories about how they met, so I thought the True Vows line would be a lot of fun to read. I’ve only read one so far, and I have to say that The Icing on the Cake just didn’t do it for me. The protagonists seemed nice enough, and the cupcake bakery sounds really cool, but the story dragged for me.
Set in the Washington DC area, this is one of the few DC-set books I’ve read that features characters outside of politics. Since there is an entire world in DC that exists outside the realm of politicians, lobbyists, consultants and so on, I found it interesting to read about this non-political world. Michelle Snow works in marketing, and hasn’t been in a serious relationship in years. A bad experience in college apparently scarred her. As a side note, readers will likely spend much of the book wondering what happened to her that was so horrible. I’ll put you out of your misery now: You will never know.
At one of her regular get-togethers with college friends, Michelle lets herself be talked into putting up an online dating profile. Though only half-serious about it, she finds someone online whose profile speaks to her so she sends him a quick email. The guy in question, Todd Bracken, writes back and the two end up agreeing to meet. From there, it definitely looks like a case of love at first sight and they begin to spend all kinds of time together.
If a friend told me this story in real life, I’d “ooh” and “aah” over all the details and be very happy for her. However, I’d be so happy for her because she’s my friend. And that’s the problem with this book. I don’t know the protagonists, and a disinterested reader never really gets well acquainted with them. That may be a factor of how much the real-life couple felt comfortable sharing with the author, but whatever the reason, they just didn’t spring to life as they should have. I suspect that those who already know the couple will adore this book; the writing is good and the story does flow well. However, I never could shake the feeling of being an outsider reading a story meant for a very specific audience of insiders in Todd and Michelle’s lives.
The two certainly face all kinds of real life drama. Todd, who works in the tech sector, has done well at his job, but has unresolved issues in his family life to face. Michelle, on the other hand, has dreamed of owning a cupcake bakery and she gets ready to contemplate taking that plunge just as she also gets ready to enter a serious relationship. Talk about lots of fodder for conflict! Unfortunately, these issues get dealt with in very narrative style which felt more like summaries than story.
While the protagonists seemed likable (and I certainly would like to try some cupcakes from that bakery!), their story never fully came to life. As a result, reading The Icing on the Cake almost felt like accidentally receiving someone else’s Christmas letter and reading it without knowing the people. They may seem perfectly nice and even interesting, but they just don’t feel familiar or deeply real. It’s not a bad read, but I did find it a little disappointingly humdrum.