Molly Hagan, the protagonist of Megan Caldwell's Vanity Fare, is a 40-year-old single mother who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. She suffers the sting of a husband who left her for a younger woman; a traumatized six-year-old son who asks too many questions and is begging for an exotic pet; a mother whose finances have collapsed and who now has nowhere to live; and well-meaning friends and a shrink who pressure Molly to make changes in her life. Molly's troubles grow even deeper when she learns that she's penniless and can't even pay the rent.
When an old friend offers Molly a copywriting job at a new bakery, Molly jumps at the chance for employment. The venue is located near the New York Public Library, and the owner wants to make the bakery "a destination point." Inspired by the challenge, Molly comes up with a "literary-food-is-delicious" schematic for what she envisions will become "Vanity Fare." In the midst of pulling together her presentation, Molly suddenly finds herself being wooed by both the sexy British pastry chef with an "upper-crust, devil-may-care Hugh Grant accent" and his aloof business partner (who becomes more emotionally attractive as he forms a bond with Molly's son).
Each chapter commences with blurbs that cleverly pair literary references and puns with bakery offerings, such as "Much Ado about Muffins," "A Room of One's Scone" and "Catcher in the Rye Bread." Caldwell has whipped up a delicious, well-plotted romance where a smart, self-deprecating heroine conquers real-world issues with good humor. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines