I see it time and time again. Authors write a great, debut novel, getting their big break after writing for years. They are published to rave reviews. The publisher, excited by their new talent, signs them for multiple book contracts. The authors, not used to churning out books so quickly, flounder. Their writing suffers.
The publishers know the follow up books aren't great, but they are now on a deadline. What can they do? They publish, hoping name recognition will sell them.
I don't know if this is case for Sheila Roberts latest novel, Better Than Chocolate, but I can say the writing isn't as clean as her previous novels, and the plot dragged. Our heroine, Samantha Sterling, while under a lot of pressure to turn her family's flailing company around, spent most of her time sulking. When her sisters proposed ideas to help the company, Samantha's first response was to shoot them down.
Samantha eventually embraces their ideas, but remains testy and embarrassed. Here's an example:
"Don't worry about me," Cecily said. "And don't take any bribes from Mr. Dreamy wannabes. We don't want to be accused of rigging the contest."
"Ha, ha." Samantha hung up.
Why did Samantha hang up on her sister? And, this is off topic, did Ms. Roberts really name Samantha's nemesis Pissy?
All this is to say, Samantha is hard to sympathize with. The plot moved at a snail's pace, and I found myself skipping forward. While the plot had some cute pieces associated with the festival, overall, I was disappointed.
Better Than Chocolate is about the Sterling family's struggle to keep their fledgling candy business afloat. After her stepfather's death, Samantha discovers just how far the family business has fallen. She's determined to make the company profitable again against insurmountable odds.
Samantha puts her energy into the first ever Icicle Falls Chocolate Festival. Amid bad news and set backs, Samantha and her sisters dig in their heels.
Meanwhile, bank manager, Blake Preston, wishes he could do more to help save the local business than rejecting its requests for help. The best he can do for the bank is to make the sale of the company easier. This doesn't bode well for the romance he wishes to start with Samantha.
How Sweet It Isn't!
Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company has been in the Sterling family for generations, ever since Great-Grandma Rose literally dreamed up her first fabulous recipe. But now it looks like they're about to lose Sweet Dreams to the bank-and that would be a disaster, not only for the family but for the town of Icicle Falls, Washington. Can Samantha, the oldest daughter and new head of the company, come up with a way to save it?
After some brainstorming with her mother and sisters, inspiration strikes. They'll have a chocolate festival! Time's running out, but the Sterling women are determined and the town's behind them, so everything's bound to go smoothly....
Or not. Events seem to be conspiring against Samantha, and her mother's attempts to help aren't helping. To make matters worse, the fate of her company is in the hands of her archenemy, Blake Preston, the bank manager with the football-hero good looks. It's enough to drive her to chocolate. But Blake's also enough to convince her that (believe it or not) there's something even better than chocolate.