"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Perfect Blend by Sue Margolis

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Summary: Single mom Amy finds love and career success while working at a coffee shop. 

Perfect Blend was like a mocha drink - sweet, satisfying, and richer than expected. After an off-putting opening chapter, I stuck with it and this book surprised me, continually. At first, I thought it was a bad-dating Brit-lit book, then a Mommy Wars book, then a dysfunctional family book. But it evolved from all of these things into a realistic romance with a small mystery thrown in.

Amy is a single mom who got pregnant on purpose, and seems to balance her life quite well. Her son Charlie is a normal six-year-old, Amy has great childcare options, and is slowly building a freelance journalism career. Amy's working as a barista at Mozart's Cafe for her friend Brian, a true coffee connoisseur. Sure, Amy's dates aren't really working out, and her sister is a know-it-all, but overall, her life is good.

Amy's both a working mom, since she works at a coffee shop and freelances, and is sometimes a stay-at-home mom. Both types of mothers come into Cafe Mozart and Amy has these styles of mothers pegged:
A stay-at-home mummy - role model: Angelina Jolie, motto: "The best academy, a mother's knee" - believed that by being permanently available, she was raising well adjusted children who would blossom into delightful, angst-free adolescents and emotionally stable adults. So she devoted her time to finger painting and making low-sugar wholemeal cupcakes with her brood. She fed them a careful balance of carbs, protein and vitamins. She was also a firm believer that small children shouldn't become overburdened by too many after-kindergarten activities. Her kids were encouraged to pursue destressing pastimes such as kiddie yoga, Kindermusik, and tending the plants at the Tots Herb Garden. 
An alpha mummy- role model- Cherie Blair (lawyer, author, mother of four), motto: "In it to win it" - believed that by combining motherhood with a high flying career, she was achieving the goals that her teachers and university tutors set down for her. Moreover, she was proving to the next generation that it was possible for women to have it all. "Discipline" and "determination" were her watchwords. The first things an alpha mummy did after giving birth was phone her CEO. 
And then there are "mothers superiors":
For them, motherhood was nothing less than rhapsodic. Mothers superior would never admit that being stuck at home on a wet afternoon building Lego towers with a toddler  who immediately demolished them and then demanded they be rebuilt was a chore. In their view, the mistake other mothers make was failing to see the experience as a truly meaningful step on junior's epic journey toward learning to play and interact with significant others. It was something to be celebrated, not endured.
I know mothers like these - all of these. And while I can roll my eyes at their extreme views, they do exist. And they exist in Amy's life too, as Amy's sister Victoria is a mother superior. So I thought this would be a "struggling mom" book, or a mom who learns how to be happy, single and alone.  Yet...

On an errand to pick up more milk, Amy encounters a handsome man, looking over Bean Machine papers in a new building. If chain coffee shop Bean Machine moves in, there's no way Brian can afford to employ Amy. Bean Machine will get the morning metro traffic, the business lunch crowd and the afternoon mom snacks. Amy has a great work situation and can't afford to find another job. Plus Brian's a good friend and sunk his whole savings into Cafe Mozart. Amy politely thanks the handsome - but obviously evil - Bean Machine man, and hurries back to share the bad news with the Cafe Mozart staff.

When the handsome man buys a cup of coffee a few days later, Amy blasts him - Bean Machine exploits workers and drives small business owners out,  yet he gives as good as he gets, just before he tells Amy that he was only the engineer of the building. Amy's remorseful about her rush to judgment, and when the man - Sam - arrives at Cafe Mozart again - and defuses a tense mommy wars situation - Amy has a chance to apologize. They have a great date, and go on to have a great romance.

And life happens and unfolds in funny, tense and tender ways - her sister Victoria splits from her husband and moves in with Amy and Charlie; Amy's researching a hot story in the coffee business; Amy's divorced parents are each having relationship issues; Brian's having some concerning health issues, and Bean Machine is opening soon.

This book delighted me by defying predictability. It was deeper than I expected, based on the title and opening chapter, and I plan to read more by author Sue Margolis.

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