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"The Sweetest Thing" (ARC) ~ Christina Mandelski

The Sweetest Thing

Author: Christina Mandelski
Publication: May 2011 (read 1/8/2012)
By: Egmont USA

This story had me at "cake".  Why?  Well, my nickname isn't "Cupcakegirly" for nuthin'!  I've been "all about cake & cupcakes" since I can remember and baking and decorating 'lil cakes 'o love is what I do when I'm not reading. (If I could live in a bakery with books I would be in Heaven!)

This really is a sweet read. (Let that sink in for a second) Sheridan Wells is a girl with passion.  A passion for the town she lives in, the cakes she creates and a passion for finding the mother who walked out on her when she was 7.  She's lived her entire life in St. Mary's, Michigan with her Dad, the infamous Chef Donovan Wells and her Nanny who owns the bakery, "Sweeties" where Sheridan spends most of her time.  She's dubbed, "Cake Girl" by her peers but beyond spending time with her two BFF's, Jack and Lori, she doesn't have much of a social life.  "Sweeties" is where Sheridan loves to be because it's the one place she can escape to when her life gets too complicated and it's where she feels closet to her Mom, or at least the Mom she remembers.

When her Dad is tapped for his own reality cooking show, (move over Giada!) a dream of his that would take both he and Sheridan to New York City and away from everything and everyone Sheridan loves, she decides to do whatever it takes to stop it.  All of St. Mary's is in a tizzy about the news and when the "Suits" come to town, the attention Sheridan and her Dad receive only gets worse.  She grows increasingly anxious about all the possible changes to come and Nanny tells her that the "big guy" upstairs is ultimately in charge and Sheridan should let him lead the way.  Sheridan isn't buying into that at all.  She wants to be in control of her life just like she controls how her cakes turn out and she wants everything to stay the same.  So, when the "Suits" decide to do a segment that involves throwing her an early albeit, fake sixteenth birthday party, Sheridan comes up with an elaborate plan that not only includes sabotaging her Dad's new show but finding and bringing her Mom home too.  

All that Sheridan has left of her Mom, besides her limited memories and their shared talent of cake decorating, is a box of birthday cards.  Each one of the cards is filled with a present never received and promise to return one day.  She also has the last note her Mom gave her the day she left which she's carried with her every day.  She's spent countless hours over the past few years searching for her ever even enlisting the help of her BFF Jack.  He's the one person who knows how desperate Sheridan is to find her Mom and has been with her along the way, at the end of every empty lead.  When he hears about her Dad's show, he's excited for her and thinks it would be good for her to go to New York City.

Sheridan struggles with everyone's enthusiasm about the opportunities the new show could provide for her Dad, for her and even for the town.  Doesn't anybody understand?!  Even her friends are more excited than she thinks they should be, especially Jack. Doesn't he get it?  If she leaves St. Mary's and her Mom does comes back, she won't be there.  She also won't be around to hang out with him or Lori but he still encourages her to think about all the cool bakeries they have in NYC.  What's his problem?!  Isn't he supposed to be on her side?!  She and Jack have been friends forever and Sheridan thinks it's odd that Jack attracts so much attention from girls at school.  It's just Jack after all; the boy she's seen every day of her life since she was 5 years old.  When she looks at him, all she sees is Jack with his dark hair and dark eyes.  Hmpf.  But when the hottest guy in school, Ethan Murphy starts showing interest in her, Jack begins to act strange and then he has the nerve to stop talking to her altogether.  What's wrong with Jack anyway? 

Ethan Murphy...*sigh*  Ethan is beautiful, funny, popular and rich.  Every girl in school is vying for his attention so when he walks into "Sweeties" looking for Sheridan, she's surprised that he even knows who she is, let alone wants to spend time with her.  She knows he has a reputation for being a player but when he smiles at her, she has trouble remembering her own name.  As she gets to know him she learns that his passion is for cooking (just like her Dads) and he hopes to one day have his own show (just like her Dad).  He also knows what it's like to have a parent leave and she wonders if he could understand how she feels about wanting to find her Mom?  Should she confide in him now or should she wait until after the party?

The closer the fake party gets, the more anxious Sheridan is to find her Mom.  She feels like she's running out of time!  She thinks she's found her Mom and plans to go after her with Lori's help but all that changes when Nanny lands in the hospital.  Sheridan is forced to refocus her attention and starts to notice the still, small voice in head that tells her maybe it's time to "let go".  Even Jack (who is no longer speaking to her) tells her she needs to move on.  (Whatever!) Sheridan has no plans to give up hope even though that message of "letting go" seems to be popping up EVERYWHERE now.  She wonders if maybe God isn't trying to tell her something but decides to continue in her quest to locate her Mom.

When the truth about her Mom finally does come out, it's devastating for Sheridan and for those who love her.  What she thought was real and what actually IS real is not only painful for her but also makes her question if she can trust anyone else in her life.  Whose turn will it be next to leave?  Hurt and confused, she looks to Father Crowly for some answers, including wanting to know hot it's possible that God's plan could include a Mom who leaves her kid?  He responds by telling her this, "It's just free will. The ultimate blessing and curse.  God might lead you one way, but if you choose a different path, what can He do?  Nothing, of course; that's why it's called free will."

Sometimes we can get so caught up in focusing on the "suck" in our lives or what we feel is missing that we fail to notice what or whose been there all along.  We forget to see the blessings that are right in front of us.  In Sheridan's case it's the parent who didn't leave her.  Her Dad loves her and is trying to make the best decision for both of them even if she can't always see that.  Sheridan's been so focused all these years on the Mom she didn't have that she's forgotten about her awesome Dad and all the great memories they have together.  Nanny's no slouch either!  She always makes herself available to Sheridan for girl talk, words of advice (there will be no defacing of temples!) and for Sunday dinners.  Nanny's also encouraged her artistic abilities, allowing her to flourish in the bakery while showcasing her mad cake decorating skills. 

Then there's Jack, the boy who knows her inside and out and whose affection for her has grown beyond friendship over the years into something more.  (So.much.more)  He's the guy who brings her coffee in the middle of the night, goes for runs with her (even though he hates to run) just so he can spend time with her and who asks her how her Nanny is because he knows that's important to her.  No one else does that.  Jack's the boy who cares for her too much to let her stay where she is simply because she's afraid of change. *swoon*  It doesn't hurt either that he happens to be tall, dark and gorgeous.  Open your eyes Sheridan!  There's a REASON the girls at school fawn all over Jack...DUH!

While it's good to be passionate about something like Sheridan was, you have to make sure that what you're passionate about doesn't become all consuming, like her cakes did.  The amount of time she spent at the bakery started to get in the way of spending time with her Dad, Nanny and even her friends. Focusing too much on the past can become an issue as well.  Taking a walk down memory lane is fine every once and awhile but memories can also get distorted with us only remembering what we want to remember.  A reality check from those who love us is helpful, so is remembering to focus on the here and now because what's right in front of us just might be the sweetest thing. 


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