Sunday, June 26, 2011

Book Review: A Catered Affair

By Melissa Amster
I've been a huge fan of Sue Margolis' novels ever since I picked up "Apocalipstick" back in 2004. When I found out that she had a new book due to arrive this summer, I was chomping at the bit! Thanks to Caitlin Mulrooney-Lyski at Penguin Books, I got my chance to read an ARC of Ms. Margolis' latest novel, "A Catered Affair" (in exchange for an honest review, of course). As soon as I received it, I couldn't wait to read it and got started right away!

Tally thought she had a future all planned out with her fiancé, Josh. Then the big day arrives, but Josh is nowhere to be found. Devastated, Tally gets drunk and hits on every man at her non-wedding reception. She realizes later that she even propositioned her caterer. Soon, her grandma is trying to set her up with every man she meets. In the meantime, Tally ends up with two suitors and has to decide who is right for her and let go of her past inhibitions to make a clean start.

I really liked the premise of this story. It had chick lit written all over it. Tally was an interesting woman who was easy to relate to, whether or not one has been in her shoes or has ever felt the way she has. The secondary characters were all distinguishable in personality and they each had their own stories too, such as her mother who was posing as a phone suicide prevention counselor; her sister, the lesbian comedian; her stereotypical Jewish grandma, who managed to almost get herself arrested and her best friend, the single mother who was writing a rather complex novel. And I must not forget about the gay men, which is almost standard for all her novels. I liked how Ms. Margolis fit in a lot of pop culture and humor, as well. The dialogue was natural and flowed nicely. I liked that it was guided more by conversation than by introspection. I found it a quick page turner, as I wanted to see how things would turn out for Tally and the people around her. It definitely fit the mold of a typical Sue Margolis novel in these ways.

However, this story did stray from Ms. Margolis' norm in one way. After reading all her previous novels, I was expecting at least three really steamy "romantic" scenes that would go on for a couple of pages. This was not to be the case. I had to wait a long time to get to even to one "romantic" scene and it was rather rushed and not as detailed as the ones she has done in the past. (It was still pretty hot though!) I hope she is not straying from her norm of writing these scenes, as I look forward to them as much as I look forward to her entertaining stories overall.

The other concern I had while reading "A Catered Affair" involved a man with Tourette's Syndrome. She wrote it as very comical or possibly satirical. I didn't find myself laughing though, as it seemed over the top and I worried it might offend someone who has (or knows someone who has) Tourette's. There are only a few scenes involving this man and it's such a side story that doesn't even impact the rest of the novel that it could easily be skipped over if one didn't want to read how he had been depicted. Thankfully, she didn't do it in a mean offensive manner (such as over the top swearing), but it still made the man out to be a joke.

Overall, it was an enjoyable novel and I was able to relax and have a few laughs while reading it. Ms. Margolis even addressed another concern of mine that I had presented in a past review, but I won't say what it was as I do not want to spoil the story. Having said that, there was a bit of predictability. Still, she tossed in a few surprises on the side and like with some other romantic stories, I did want the outcome she gave Tally. The predictability is more noticeable if you've read her other novels. Therefore, if you're looking for the "romantic" scenes that have made me blush, you're best off starting with one of Ms. Margolis' other novels. If you want a good story that has all the other elements of fun and enjoyable chick lit, this one should definitely be on your shelf!

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