Reading about food makes me hungry. I’m naturally often hungry so it makes me even more hungry (writing this is making me hungry). I can’t even begin to explain how ravenous this story made me. It also made me happy and sad and all mushy inside.
Charlie and Emma were meant to be. They met as children, were best friends all through high school, discovered their sexuality together and should never have grown apart. Going to college killed their beautiful relationship, because LDR are hard and also, to quote Charlie, “Twenty-three-year-olds [are] stupid. And selfish”. Charlie couldn’t resist the song of the stylish entrepreneur siren Darcy Wells, who whisked her off to New York first for work, then as her girlfriend, until she got bored with her. So now Charlie is back at her parents’ in the small town of Shaker Falls, Vermont, not using her marketing degree and rediscovering her love of baking. Charlie’s betrayal broke Emma’s heart and when they meet again five years later in Emma’s restaurant, saying Emma’s flabbergasted sounds like the understatement of the year.
Flavor of the Month is not so much a second-chance romance as a story of redemption. People mess up. Charlie definitely messed up. That she realises it because Darcy gets rid of her doesn’t mean she wouldn’t have realised it on her own later on. As she says at some point, she lost herself for a while. Twenty-three-year-old Charlie reminds me of Jenna in Melissa Brayden’s Waiting in the Wings, in that she’s faced at a pretty young age with a decision whose impact on her whole life she couldn’t have predicted. I like Charlie’s rediscovery of herself. She takes responsibility for her ill-advised actions, doesn’t look for excuses. When she realises how much Emma means to her still, she doesn’t mourn what she lost but the pain she caused, to her lover and to others. She can’t erase the mistakes she made but she can decide how to act afterwards, and what matters in the present is who she becomes.
Emma’s agency in her first relationship with Charlie was entirely taken away from her, Charlie gave her no choice, but try as she might, besides small flashes of satisfaction at the karma-like situation, she can’t help wanting the best for her. She doesn’t want her to hurt, even though she hurt her.
Emma is pretty admirable, to be honest. She grew up with an alcoholic mother, without her father, she doesn’t do vulnerable. As Beers writes, “Vulnerability was not her thing. She didn’t do it well, didn’t like the way it made her feel. Weak. Exposed”. Boy, do I understand that… Contrary to what my reviews might have led you to believe, I do not do vulnerable much better than Emma. I cry sometimes, a lot more now, but as much as I can now talk – and write – about it, I don’t cry in public. Very few people have seen me cry. I think the only time I cried in front of my therapist is right after the terrorist attacks in France in 2015 (which led to my life being completely turned upside down, hence the name of this blog).
My wife cries a lot, from sadness, from joy, from music. I don’t equate vulnerable with weak. For others. Me? Different story. So I get Emma on that, though she’s a much better person than I am on everything else. Also, she sounds like the best chef ever, I wish I could taste each and every dish Beers describes. I like the way Beers describes food, I already did in Starting From Scratch. I mentioned Brayden above, the bakery in this book also reminded me of Brayden’s How Sweet It Is. Brayden and Beers are pals so maybe my mind is just associating them, but there are worse authors to be compared too anyway.
There was a time when I wasn’t always sure, when I opened a book by Georgia Beers, that I was going to love it. It felt like she lost her way a little, but I had faith she’d find it back. The reviews for this book are all over the place, some readers loved it, others were very disappointed, which, once again, made me a little wary. This one has flaws (too many repetitive sentences, too many chapters ending with questions…) but not enough to mess with my enjoyment of it. I think I can now stop worrying, all the books I’ve read lately by Beers have been 4* or 5* for me. This one included.