HOW SWEET IT IS – Sophie Gunn
Grand Central's Forever
Galton, New York – Present Day
Single mother Lizzie Carpenter has lived all her life in Galton, trying hard to raise Paige, her sullen teenage daughter, and working at a local restaurant. Her best friends are a group called the “Enemy's Club.” They are four women who at one time hated each other but are now friends. Lizzie resides in the home she grew up in, having inherited it upon her parents' death. Her sister Annie resents this, despite the fact that Annie is married. The house is now is disarray with numerous repairs being needed, but Lizzie doesn't have the money or time to do them. News arrives that Paige's long gone father is planning a visit, which means that Lizzie should do something to at least make it appear she and her daughter live in respectable living conditions. Enter Dante “ Tay ” Giovanni, a very sexy handyman who begins to fix things around Lizzie's house—uninvited.
Tay is a man in turmoil emotionally. He was responsible for an automobile accident months ago that resulted in the death of a woman. Although he was not charged, he has had a hard time coming to grips with what happened. Tay sold all his properties and possessions, bent on trying to compensate the dead woman's daughter, Candy, for losing her mother. That is why he's in Galton, as Candy is attending college there and he's about to meet her in a restaurant—the one Lizzie works in. Tay overhears Lizzie and her friends discussing her broken down house, and after Candy rejects his offers of money and threatens to toss it off one of the gorges in Galton, he decides to stick around and help Lizzie repair her house, for free. Just one problem: Lizzie isn't grateful for his help.
HOW SWEET IT IS by Sophie Gunn is an emotional, complicated tale of discovery and coming to grips with the past. Lizzie was an unwed teen mother who is seemingly stuck on a path to nowhere. Her daughter has the idea that the upcoming visit from her absentee father is the answer to her prayers of getting out of a rut and Galton, preferably at the same time. Has Paige developed an unrealistic expectation of her father? Is Lizzie afraid that Paige's father will prove that she isn't a good mother? Tay 's good looks and offbeat personality (what can you say about a man who travels light and with a dog and a cat?) has Lizzie attracted to him. But her first priority is Paige. Soon she is learning that she can explore her feelings for Tay without abandoning her daughter.
Tay has to face his past head on or it will destroy him. He already gave up the good life and sold everything he had for two hundred thousand dollars. Alas, Candy just tossed the money away—literally—and now he hopes to find it and—do what? He doesn't quite know the answer. He feels guilty and it's clear Candy hates his guts, so why stick around? Of course, part of the answer is because he is needed by someone for his handyman abilities. It doesn't help that Tay also finds Lizzie attractive.
Other characters of note include Annie, who has a baby and is married to Tommy, a police officer. Annie not only resents Lizzie for getting the house, but the fact that Tommy dated Lizzie first when they were teens. When Annie discovers a bag of money, she has visions of her life suddenly being happier. But will it be? And then there is Paige, who hates her life, and though she doesn't hate her mother, she thinks her father will be a cool dude who'll sweep her off to a better life. What will she discover when he finally arrives?
Funny, but not over the top, HOW SWEET IT IS will have readers smiling and nodding their heads as they recognize the trials of single motherhood while trying to make ends meet. This tale read to me as a cross between women's fiction and romance, as the focus is more on the characters than the romance. Tay and Lizzie's romance is slow, but it's clear as mud these two deserve each other. Will Lizzie help Tay get over his anxieties of his past, and can she get over the feeling of being a failure as a mother and in life? In the end, Tay and Lizzie help each other. They find out in HOW SWEET IT IS that getting there is a bumpy road, but one that is intriguing and entertaining.