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Review: Love in the making by Roisin Meaney

Thirty-something Hannah Robinson is about to open her first business, a cupcake shop in her small hometown somewhere in the west of Ireland. But Hannah soon has more to worry about than the logistics of making a new venture work in the face of a recession: just days before she opens Cupcakes on the Corner, her boyfriend Patrick throws her small world into chaos, packing his bags and leaving her for another woman.

With her best friend Adam by her side, and family and friends rallying around, Hannah turns her attention to making her business a success, a welcome distraction from the emotional vacuum that Patrick, who is busy setting up home with his girlfriend Leah, has left behind.

Limerick author Roisin Meaney's latest novel has spent the last three weeks in our top 10 bestselling books list. The plot seems, at first, to be typical chicklit fodder charting, as it does, Hannah's struggle to come to terms with her newly single status, and following her journey to a better understanding of herself, and with it, a new, more fulfiling relationship. But as the novel unfolds, other characters and their stories come to the fore, jockeying for the reader's attention.

Alice, a friend of Hannah's mother, watches as her husband Tom's drinking spirals out of control, with devastating consequences for the small community.

Best friend Adam becomes consumed by the pursuit of the painfully shy and somewhat reclusive local piano teacher, while his troublemaker sister Nora returns from the States, a vapid vixen driven by the thrill of the chase who has no qualms stealing other women's men.

And Patrick, whose life has taken an unexpected turn, is revealed as a serial philanderer with little in the way of redeeming features.

Meaney draws the reader into all of these lives with her warm and engaging style of storytelling and, by widening the scope of the novel's boundaries beyond the confines of Hannah's post-breakup world, tries to achieve something beyond the usual confines of the chicklit genre. But her central character remains slightly under drawn, her heartbreak never fully explored.

Rising at 3am to create her delicious-sounding and exotic array of cupcakes and spending long days behind the counter leaves Hannah little time for much else. Shrinking into the background of the novel, her character becomes a little lost behind the clouds of flour and icing sugar.

But Meaney has crafted a heartwarming story of a small community and its inhabitants' very different searches for happiness and love. This is sweet and satisfying fare that readers are bound to devour. Perhaps the recipe just needs a little tweaking.

-- RD

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