Saturday, February 2, 2013

Review: "The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs" by Dana Bate

Hannah Sugarman knows that the end of her relationship to Adam is drawing near. Suddenly all of the things that he was attracted to about her have become points of contention. In one last desperate bid to please him, Hannah tries to tone down her "firecracker" personality but that's the recipe for disaster and Hannah finds herself being dumped unceremoniously.

In an attempt to salvage the wreckage of her life Hannah manages to find an apartment close to her work with a landlord who isn't an ogre. The apartment isn't large but it is better than being homeless so Hannah takes it and finds herself the tenant of Blake, a handsome, if slightly nerdy, communications director for a congressman on the Hill. The arrangement is perfect- Hannah lives downstairs and due to the landlord's frequent absences she won't even have to deal with him that often. If only working out the rest of her life was that easy- there's the small matter that Hannah hates her job working at a local think tank and only wants to cook professionally. Her parents, both esteemed professors, can't stand the thought of Hannah cooking for a living and railroad the idea whenever it comes up.

When Hannah and best friend Rachel come up with the idea of holding an "underground" supper club, Hannah's enthusiasm for life is renewed. That is, until her apartment floods. Desperate to at least hold one successful dinner Hannah "borrows" her landlord's place while he is away on business. As Hannah encounters one disastrous situation after another in both her personal life and while trying to keep the supper club running, she realizes that it is time for her to finally face her parents and become the person that she has always yearned to be.

I loved The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs. It was surprisingly witty and kept me laughing throughout. I loved our heroine, Hannah. She was a walking disaster and was constantly getting herself in to sticky situations! There was lots of conflict and, of course, the necessary happy ending. The book felt to me like a mix between Sophie Kinsella's "Shopaholic" series (Hannah reminded me of a smarter version of Becky Bloomwood, minus the shopping) and all food fiction out there. What I especially loved was the underlying message- that it is ok to follow your dreams no matter how silly they may seem to others. The ridicule and roadblocks that you may endure will be worth it if you get to do what you love.

I rarely quote passages in my reviews, but this passage was too funny not to share, plus it illustrates just how witty Dana Bate is (which explains why much of the book had me laughing out loud):
"It's Halloween. You're supposed to be hideous and freaky on Halloween. Unless you're a college girl, in which case you're supposed to dress up like a slut."
I hate to break it to Blake, but this is what women of all ages do on Halloween. The holiday serves as an excuse to wear as little clothing as possible, where all creatures- from rabbits to schoolgirls- exist only in their "sexy" forms. This year Millie will don a "sexy soldier" ensemble, and last year Rachel dressed as a "sexy crayon", bestowing sexiness on burnt sienna for possibly the first time in history. (p.241, ARC)
The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs left me satisfied, yet rooting for a sequel.  It's my hope that talented debut author Dana Bate will gift us with more of Hannah's story in an upcoming novel. My thanks to the publicist for inviting me to participate in this book tour.

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