Palmer (Conversations with the Fat Girl, 2005) returns with a romantic comedy about the adventures and woes of Elisabeth Page, a celebrated L.A. pastry chef who can’t escape the shadow of her world-renowned novelist father.
In a book that depends too much on interior monologue, Elisabeth drones on about never reaching the bar set by her snobbish family. Her unhappiness is further evidenced by a nonexistent social schedule and a sex life reduced to the occasional rendezvous with childhood neighbor Will, a reporter constantly traveling on assignment. Used to her solitary routine and fearful of commitment, Elisabeth gets her world flipped upside down when she meets Daniel Sullivan at one of her mother’s charity balls. Her career simultaneously gets a boost when she’s offered the chance to star in her own Food Network show. But these intriguing plot twists get buried beneath Elisabeth’s constant and excruciating self-analysis. Getting banged over the head by metaphor—Elisabeth exerts the same control over baking that she does over her private life—also becomes tiring. A secondary story involving a growing friendship with a coworker and his pregnant wife is meant to illustrate Elisabeth’s gradual embracing of happiness, but it feels forced and unnatural. The physical descriptions are weak and the dialogue—though at times sharp and witty—is mostly clichéd or unrealistic. This plot has all the right ingredients—an opulent, dysfunctional family, handsome men and vibrant settings—but the protagonist is so irritating that the story flops. Elisabeth says it best: “Apparently, when I’m not being a pompous asshole or a know-it-all, I have very little to say.”