Once Upon an Apple Martini by Kendal Taylor

Once Upon an Apple Martini

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Fearing she’s about to lose her secretary job, a woman trails her boss to Hawaii for a blackmailing opportunity—leverage to avoid potential termination—in Taylor’s debut comedy.

Calyssa Pantaleo’s inability to get along with Babette Hooks at Shred Unread in New York may have detrimental repercussions. Babette, secretary to CEO Mr. Grunt (the reputed philanderer’s nickname), spreads rumors that Calyssa’s bedding co-workers, including boss Adam Klutz. This leads to a bathroom scuffle, followed by Calyssa photoshopping Babette’s head onto a gorilla and inadvertently printing hundreds of copies for everyone to see. Mr. Grunt’s email requesting a Monday meeting convinces Calyssa he’s firing her after the weekend. So she redirects the Las Vegas trip with pals Chloe Tenderfoot and Natalia Romanova to Honolulu, where vacationing Adam has been ignoring her calls. If Calyssa can blackmail Adam (with nude pictures, perhaps?), he’ll have no choice but to fight for her job. Bringing along newly homeless Lindsay Goldplenty, the women soon realize that getting evidence of Adam cheating at a masquerade ball is not so easy. Natalia, for one, drunk at their New York departure, is upset they’re not in Vegas because she had a personal reason to be there. Add to that a possibly stolen wallet and Calyssa will need all the help and apple martinis she can get. The author packs a lot into the story, from a theme of women’s unfair treatment in the workplace (exclusively male company bigwigs) to absurdist comedy (Calyssa’s ridiculous plan). But the most intriguing facet is Calyssa herself, a generally unlikable protagonist who manages to garner sympathy, albeit slowly. Her first-person narrative, for example, designates names for people superficially, like Pug for a waitress with a “yippity-yappety” voice. But even if the martini lover doesn’t recognize her own flaws, she listens when someone points them out: Chloe asserts that Calyssa blames others for her problems. Identity metaphors are occasionally too blatant: a lost ID or using someone else’s; wearing masks at the ball with Halloween coming up. Some, however, are sublime, particularly transgendered Natalia, who’s preop but unquestionably “one of the girls.”

It’s not where the perpetually tipsy (or drunk) heroine ends up, but her journey that’s the most astute—and most facetious—aspect of this tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-5170-9557-4
Page count: 394pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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