Cheryl's Reviews > When in Doubt, Add Butter

When in Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison
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Apr 28, 12

bookshelves: first-reads
Read from April 25 to 27, 2012 — I own a copy

When in Doubt, Add Butter is about Gemma Craig, a thirty-seven year old personal chef and the things she goes through working for a wide variety of clients, while trying to keep her head financially above water and have some semblance of a life.

I won this on Goodreads and I’ll admit the cover is what made me check it out (well played, art department) and when I looked at a couple of reviews, I thought that it would be a mostly light chick-lit type book about a personal chef and her clients. For the most part, it was and I liked Harbison’s writing style. However, this book kept heading towards two star territory for me because of the main character.

Very early on we find out that Gemma had gotten pregnant at seventeen and gave the baby up for adoption. She’d been planning to keep it, but realized that she would not be able to go to college and provide for the baby and herself. After this life changing event, however, she didn’t learn her lesson because, twenty years later when she loses her Friday night client she’s freaked out that she can’t afford to miss a week or two of not getting paid that one day, despite having clients Monday through Thursday, as well as party jobs on the weekend. Somehow, she manages to afford going to a bar that first Friday without a job, meets a guy and decides she’s going to go back to his place. The friend she went out with, Lynn, appears to be the voice of reason and tells Gemma she’d be crazy to do that and having him know where she lives isn’t a good idea either, at which point I’m thinking “Great, Lynn, someone with some reason.” Then, Lynn asks her on-again, off-again boyfriend if he’d like an overnight guest so that Gemma can take the guy she’s know for a couple of hours back to her place. Really? That’s just brilliant. The guy can kill Gemma in your place and then rob you, or maybe wait for you to come back and kill you, too. At the very least, your friend is going to have sex with a stranger in your apartment. Yuck.

There were a lot of other things that happened that made me want to strangle Gemma, but I don’t want to give too much away. At one point in the book, Gemma, says “From the outside, that made me look like an absolute idiot.” That’s exactly what I thought of her for most of the book, what an idiot. She went on an on about not wanting to get married, yet she was envious of her cousin who was married and had one kid and was pregnant with her second and it seemed like she finally believed she wouldn’t, couldn’t, be happy without both. I’m not some raging feminist, but this annoyed me. The way she went on and on about how she gave up the baby at seventeen and just couldn’t know if it was a boy or a girl or ever let him or her get in touch with her, yet kept saying it didn’t affect her, like we were supposed to feel so sorry for her, drove me nuts. She’d also go on about her clients, complain about their requests, yet say how she looooved her job. Gah, she just really annoyed me a lot of the time. I supposed if I had known a bit more what the story was going to be about, maybe it wouldn’t have bugged me so much, but I doubt it.

This type of chick-lit type book, about adult women who can barely seem to take care of themselves, sometimes act like complete idiots and make really stupid mistakes, often more than once, yet we’re supposed to feel for and relate to them, is not my cup of tea, and I usually avoid them. Just because I have a two X chromosomes doesn't mean I get weepy over babies and biological clocks. What really saved this book for me was the writing, which I’ve already said I liked, and some of the secondary characters, like Lex, Mr. Tuesday, Penny and Willa among others, who were good. I’ve said it before, I’m a happy ending girl, but I thought one or two of the things were a little goofy and too neatly resolved (which surprised me, given the rest of the book), but, overall, I did like the end of the book. I still thought Gemma was a bit of an idiot, though.
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