Hannah Robinson is opening a cupcake shop just as her relationship with boyfriend Patrick turns sour. Semi-Sweet, Irish author Roisin Meaney’s first U.S. release, traces seven months in the lives of the residents of the small Irish town of Clongarvin. After Patrick leaves Hannah for another woman, she channels all her anxieties, disappointments, hopes and wishes into chocolate ganache and meringue, lemon zest and buttercream. Hannah’s spirits are also buoyed by the unfailing support of her mother, Geraldine, and her best friend Adam, who is struggling with a mysterious, unrequited crush of his own. Meanwhile, a stranger with a sweet tooth appears with a taste for Hannah’s cupcakes and company. Things are far from pie in the sky, however: Geraldine’s friend Alice has a husband with a drinking problem that’s a recipe for disaster, and when heartwrenching tragedy casts a shadow over Clongarvin, its residents must find a way to face the consequences.
While Semi-Sweet easily falls into the category of sugary chick lit, the emotional complexity of Meaney’s characters and her well-constructed portrayal of their most bittersweet moments makes it deliciously worth the read. – Kara Rota
(400 pages/5 Spot/$25.95 HC/$14.99)