Chef Dani Wilder is on top of the world. She is on the verge of opening her own restaurant and making a name for herself in Hollywood, and the pieces have come together in her romantic life now that she is living with her attractive pediatrician boyfriend, Jack Gabriel. However, just as she finds the perfect venue for her restaurant, she discovers that Jack has been hiding a secret from her: an ex-fiancée (Rebecca Sterling) who was arrested for an alleged murder that took place at the very location Dani now owns. Things go from bad to worse when Rebecca reappears in Jack’s life and seems intent on stirring up trouble. With her world shaken up, Dani must figure out who she really is and what she wants, all while being entangled with Rebecca and Jack.
"Pushover" is the debut novel by author Laurel Mayer. She has a degree in English literature and journalism, and a background in communications, so writing is clearly in her blood. I was excited when I started reading because I knew that this wasn’t going to be a typical “chick lit” novel. It, of course, has all the standard elements (love, friendship, heartbreak), but also has the added bonus of mystery. Ms. Mayer writes with exceptional skill in her description of locations that allows the reader to clearly visualize the scene. She also creates such well-developed characters that the reader is able to feel strongly about them. Dani, as the protagonist, is someone that you want good things to happen to. I understood her disappointment in realizing that Jack was not the man she thought he was. Dani seems to be genuine and unaffected by Hollywood. Rebecca, on the other hand, is so despicable that you want to rip her hair out and claw out her eyes. She is the perfect villain. I have to say that Rebecca’s brother Blake (who also happens to be Jack’s partner in their medical practice) drove me crazy as a character. He and his sister are the epitome of privileged, entitled, self-absorbed snobs, although Rebecca is clearly much more narcissistic and manipulative. Blake seems so clueless, which could have a charm about it for some readers, but I just wanted to smack him upside the head constantly. The one good thing about him is his sweet and patient wife, Lucy. These certainly are not criticisms; it is a testament to Ms. Mayer’s writing that she is able to evoke such reactions.
As a first novel, I was pleased with Ms. Mayer’s writing style and the editing. However, there were several flashback scenes involving a supporting character, as well as sections that focused on other characters’ thoughts, that I found distracting and made the story almost seem disjointed. The story would have flowed smoother if the focus had stayed on Dani and her story. I understand that the information given during the flashback scenes is important to the story; this could have easily been condensed to a conversation between the character and Dani (which does happen a little later after the reader has already been informed of past events). As well, I felt that the ending was a bit of a let-down, almost too rushed after the build-up leading to that point.
I highly enjoyed "Pushover" and would certainly recommend it. It is an intriguing story and I found myself wanting to keep turning the pages because I needed to know what was going to happen next and what other heinous things Rebecca might do. If you like a little mystery mixed in with your chick lit, this is the book for you. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Mayer in the future!
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