At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.

Good reads: romance, cupcakes, and the Constitution

So why would a guy approaching 70 select for review a “Contemporary Romance” about the owner of a cupcake and cocktails café falling for the owner of the axe throwing sports bar next door?

Was I sick of reading about politics? Did I need an escape from the news I find daily online: presidential race, masks, social distancing, and snarky editorials? Did I just want a book that might whisk me away to a brighter place?

Affirmative.

In Kiss My Cupcake (Forever/Hachette Book Group, 2020, 357 pages), Helena Hunting brings together two characters — Blaire Galloway and Ronan Knight — and lets fly with the sparks of rivalry and romance. 

Though opposed by her eccentric family, who own a number of major restaurants, Blaire has gone her own way and opened the shop of her dreams, a bakery and café where she serves up cocktails along with her amazing cupcakes. She has just gotten her business underway when Ronan Knight takes over his family’s old tumble-down bar next door, remodels it, and turns it into a noisy nightclub, the Knight Cap.

These two entrepreneurs become instant rivals and enemies, competing for customers, with each trying to outdo the other by sponsoring various events from poetry slams and comedy acts to karaoke and rock bands. Underlying this contest is an undeniable romantic and sexual tension that first manifests itself in snarky comments and practical jokes.

But when Dick and Bobby’s, one of a chain of highly successful restaurants, opens across the street, Blaire and Ronan find themselves unlikely allies in the fight to keep their enterprises alive. They begin to cosponsor their entertainments, especially on holidays, and this new partnership brings them closer together.

To say more of the plot would reveal too much.

Now for a few observations.

Helena Hunting offers readers humor and a lively wit throughout her story. The dialogue of the characters is crisp, and many of the situations and snappy comebacks brought me a laugh. Some of the tags that end the chapters — “Stop trying to make everyone happy. You’re not beer,” “A balanced diet means a beer in one hand and a cupcake in the other,” “If life gives you lemons, add tequila and salt,” and others — also brought a smile.

If you’re looking for an escape from this weird year, you can find it here

Kiss My Cupcake also revealed to me the meaning of “contemporary romance.” The characters are modern, there’s a spicy sex scene or two, and profanity makes up part of the dialogue. 

Kiss My Cupcake also tells of the admirable struggle of two young people pursuing a vocation and seek to pull their own weight in reaching their goals. Of her family Blair tells Ronan: “Our goals just don’t align. I want to do what I love, not necessarily what’s going to make me the most money. And maybe that’s naïve, or shortsighted or whatever, but it’s how I feel. So I avoided the parental disappointment by going in a completely different direction and now here I am, eking out a living, but doing it on my own.”

Next, men, especially the young, should occasionally read books such as Kiss My Cupcake. The author goes back and forth with first-person narrative between Blair and Ronan, and young men confused by women their age will receive some excellent instruction in the thoughts and feelings of females. At one point, for example, Blair becomes extremely upset when Ronan has broken contact with her for a couple of days, and conjures up in her mind all sort of wild speculations, including the possibility he’s fallen in love with the hostess of a television show featuring restaurants. 

Freud’s famous question “What do women want?” finds some answers in Kiss My Cupcake.

Finally — and I’m not sure this was Hunting’s intention — the most commendable character in Hunting’s novel is Ronan’s grandfather. Ronan was 20 when his parents died in a car crash, and his grandparents consoled and watched over him afterwards. Married for over 60 years — they met as teens in the bar now owned by Ronan — Gramps still reveres his newly-deceased wife and appreciates Ronan for taking care of him as he ages.

The contrast between Gramps and the other characters in Kiss My Cupcake is glaring. Whereas nearly all the others are looking for money or sex, Gramps found his life’s love managing the bar and in his wife. Blair’s family is wealthy but is also bedbug crazy, and Ronan’s two brothers are out to make vast amounts of money as fast as they can, but only Gramps sees the bigger picture and the truly important things of life. 

Enjoy!

•••

With many students either homeschooling this year or doing at least part of their classes via distance learning, some parents are looking to supplement to their children’s education. As we enter the final stages of this election year, now might be the perfect time to have the gang take a look at our Constitution.

If you Google “the Constitution for kids,” you’ll find plenty of sites that explain that document to young students and even to those in high school. You can also find a copy of the Constitution online, of course, and might consider reading it aloud over the course of several days with your older students. 

If nothing else, you’ll give the kids a claim to fame. I suspect they’ll be among a minority of Americans who’ve actually gone through that document.

(Jeff Minick reviews books and has written four of his own: two novels, Amanda Bell and Dust On Their Wings, and two works of nonfiction, Learning As I Go and Movies Make the Man. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Receive our FREE SMN Xtra newsletter

More in this category:

This Must Be the Place

Reading Room

Subscribe to Our Email Newsletters

  • Rumble: An empowering weekly newsletter created by women, for women
  • The SMN Xtra: Updates from the Smoky Mountain News throughout the week
Go to top