In Singleton’s debut novel, a compulsive eater finds health, love and happiness.
Rowan is an outspoken, overweight, top-notch secretary at a successful law firm. Since the death of her parents, she’s assumed care of her younger sister, suffered financial woes and sought solace in food. Her frustration often manifests itself in angry outbursts at the firm and friction with her bosses. Luckily, her ruffled feathers and outrage are smoothed and defused by Madelyn, her svelte, eternally calm best friend and co-worker. Many of the chapters begin with the ubiquitous upbeat email from the staff—featuring funny, cheesy clip art—inviting all personnel to yet another firm event. The celebrations always include mountains of rich food and drink, attracting the powerless Rowan like a magnet. One day, Madelyn shares the secret of her healthiness with Rowan: She’s a vegetarian. After Madelyn refers her to a nutrition website, Rowan converts and begins slimming down. (In an inventive marketing strategy, the website is real; it features the author’s personal story about becoming a vegetarian and an accompanying cookbook that readers are invited to download.) Enter the firm’s new attorney, Grey Faris. Handsome, wealthy and smart, Grey seems to be the oft-vilified lawyer archetype—aloof and manipulative, although the author cleverly masks his moral compass and keeps the reader in the dark as to his motives. Rowan catches Grey’s eye—or does she? He hides his feelings then bungles his romantic efforts; Rowan seems both repelled and attracted to him. The emotional cat-and-mouse game keeps the pages turning, while entertaining subplots—Madelyn’s romance with Grey’s friend and her clandestine meetings with her biker ex-husband—provide welcome depth. In addition, Rowan finds herself in the middle of a case involving her firm, a chicken-processing plant and an injured employee, which brings the topic of vegetarianism full circle. Singleton’s characterizations of the ebullient, perky office manager, stuffy lawyers, and Rowan’s flaky but kindhearted younger sister are rich and comical. Though the writing can be uneven and some of the action strains credibility, the comical office romance and life-journey story nonetheless combine for a satisfying, amusing read.
Enjoyable like a slice of chocolate cake, minus the guilt.