The Sweetest Thing
Although The Sweetest Thing is a contemporary, it has a mystical element to it that gives it more dimension and depth than you’d normally expect to find. It’s fundamentally the story of two people who want the same thing, but have no idea how to go about getting it. Throw in some equally confused relatives and friends, and you have an emotional mix of nice people with deep hurts that only their mutual love can repair. There are no major highs-and-lows here, but I found myself misty-eyed on more than one occasion while reading this book. Parts of it touched me; it’s a very sweet read.
Faith Christopher owns and operates Faith’s Fancies, a San Francisco bakery located just down the street from Alex Carrigan’s condo. Faith was raised in the foster care system and, as a result, wants nothing more out of life than marriage and a family of her own. She almost had it with Gary Porter, the love of her life. But, two years ago, Gary was killed in a car accident, leaving Faith alone again. Now, Ben, Gary’s younger brother, has asked Faith to marry him. She and Ben are friends, but not lovers. Faith likes Ben, but doesn’t love him – not like that. Still, he may be her last, best hope, so Faith give serious consideration to Ben’s proposal.
Alex Carrigan owns and runs Top Flight, an athletic shoe company. Alex has his own hurts to nurture. He was born “pigeon-toed” and was forced to wear orthopedic shoes throughout his childhood, making him the brunt of callous jibes, and making him feel less than masculine. Good-looking, athletic Alex has overcome his problems, but he still remembers the hurts, and has vowed to make his company a success as a sort of private revenge against all the torment he suffered. And, Alex was basically ignored by his family while growing up because neither his father nor grandfather could ever seem to settle down. As a result, he doesn’t believe in love – only abandonment. So he’s sworn never to get involved with any woman on a permanent basis because he’s certain she’ll just leave him in the lurch, as have all the other people in Alex’s life. Including his ex-wife, Melanie.
Faith and Alex meet when Julian, Alex’s grandfather, takes a liking to “Miss Faith” and begins to visit her bakery often. Julian has been divorced five times and blames this on the Carrigan Curse. What’s the Carrigan Curse? Fifty years ago, Julian was in love with Suzannah., but an incident drove them apart. Now, Julian wants to find Suzannah again and repair the damage; he believes Faith is the one to help him do it. He also believes that, until the curse is put to rest, no Carrigan male will ever find true happiness, so he wants to make things right, as much for Alex as for himself.
So, Julian, somewhat elderly and frail, and having no place else to go, has moved in with Alex. Adding to the mix is Jessie, Alex’s maybe, maybe-not daughter. The day Jessie was born, some twelve years ago, Melanie told Alex he was not the baby’s father, breaking Alex’s already fractured heart. Melanie took the baby and left him, claiming she was going to go be with Jessie’s real father. Now, Melanie has died, and has bequeathed Jessie to Alex. Jessie (and Melanie’s lawyer) claims that Alex really is her father, but Alex doesn’t believe it. He takes temporary custody of the girl simply because there’s no where else for her to go until he finds her real father.
Jessie is a smart-mouthed kid with an attitude, but Alex remembers how much he had wanted her when Melanie was pregnant – and he begins to finally see that Jessie feels as hurt and abandoned as he had felt growing up. And Faith. Alex is magnetically attracted to Faith and the push-pull he feels when he is around her nearly tears him apart. It doesn’t help matters that she finds him attractive and has told him so. He knows she wants marriage and kids; he knows that she knows he doesn’t. But, oh, the temptation is so great. What’s a loner to do?
The parallel story of an ancient, star-crossed love compliments the contemporary tale and ties all the strings together. The Sweetest Thing brings four unlikely people together and gives them a shot at happiness. Do they take it? Can a cynic and a loner find happiness with an iffy grandfather, a maybe daughter, and an abandoned woman? Hey, I can’t tell you the ending – you’ll just have to read the book! (Please!)