Sweet On You
by Darlene Panzera, contemporary (2013)
Avon Impulse, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-06-224267-9


From the publicity materials, it looks like they are really marketing Darlene Panzera hardcore to fans of Debbie Macomber's stories. I'm not too sure why, as I've not read enough of Ms Macomber's books to make a good judgment as to how alike these two authors' works can be. Maybe it's the small town thing?

Andi Burke, her sister Kim and their best friend Rachel are all broke and without any means of gainful employment. Rent is due within a few weeks, so these women decide to do what all broke people do: aim high. In this case, aim to open a gourmet cupcake shop because Andi is good at making those things. The bank understandably gives them a middle finger when they apply for a loan, given that they have nothing among the three of them to suggest that they are anything but a bad bet, but our reporter hero Jake Hartman swoops in, waving money all over the place and saving Andi from having to ever think for herself ever again. The end.

Sweet On You continues what seems to be Ms Panzera's favorite theme, which is also present in her last effort Bet You'll Marry Me: an incompetent near-destitude woman being saved by guys with money, without actually doing anything to earn her happy ending. Now, I know some people in the Southern parts of America believe that a good woman should not concern herself with unfeminine things like money and, instead, just pose prettily in an apron while holding a big mug of beer for her man. It's a nice fantasy for some people, I guess, but it makes a flat and uninspiring story.

Seriously now, our heroine has no money because her ex-husband skips on the monthly payments, and she just... sits there complaining. She has a house, she has things to sell, but she just sits on her rear end to whine and commiserate with her equally useless sister and best friend, both also needing money but are more content to rehash their failures and inaction under the pretense of "female camaraderie".

Eventually, they decide to open a cupcake shop, because clearly, every small town needs one. It will surely make them lots of money! Even better, Audi plans to use the proceeds of the business to pay off her debts and all along with the other two women's nonsense. Yes, this is going to be a great business in the making! Poor Jake will have to provide the cash flow needed to keep things going. If I were Jake, I'd run away screaming in the opposite direction instead of throwing money to these useless women.

Once the business is running and the customers naturally come, the three women start bickering and screwing up things, forcing Jake to once again step in and save the day. When he finally marries her, he also saves Andi from having to mess up her pretty head with the need to make decisions to take care of herself and her daughter.

I can't root for the heroine because she doesn't do anything right to deserve her happy ending. I can't root for the romance because it just happens - like that - and it's just a pretty way of showing how a man uses his money and status to rescue a woman from the fail pile in exchange for a taste of her, er, cupcakes.

Give this one a miss unless you are really in a need of some quick "Handsome man waves some cash to help the heroine; PS: true love, no whore" story fix for whatever reason. Don't worry, I won't judge. Otherwise, there is very little satisfaction to be had from this silly short story that celebrates female ineptitude as something worth loving.

Rating: 50


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