As children, we dream of what we will be when we grow up. As adults, we dream of finding that career that not only supports our desired lifestyle, but one that we also enjoy. It is never easy to obtain that dream job and, even if one succeeds in acquiring it, it takes a lot of hard work to make one’s way up the corporate ladder. But is working hard truly that important? We only have one life on this planet, yet all we do seem to do is work. Is claiming the top rung of that ladder the most important thing in life or is there something even more important? Author Kimberly Stuart does an amazing job portraying this concept that so many people have struggled with for years in her novel Sugar.
Charlie Garrett has worked hard to prove that she is capable of handling the head executive pastry chef position at the high-profile New York restaurant, L’Ombre. After years of being promised the position once the current head chef retired, it becomes obvious that he is stringing her along and does not intend to retire anytime soon. Unknowing what to do next, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity falls into her lap. Old culinary colleague, ex-boyfriend, and head chef of the happening new restaurant, Thrill, Avery Michaels contacts Charlie to tell her he wants her to move to Seattle and be the head pastry chef of his restaurant. Flipping her world upside down, Charlie makes the move; however, she is unaware of the additional position she would be gaining with her new job. She becomes not only head pastry chef, but also the co-star of a new reality TV show to show the world what it is like to be a woman working in a male-dominant field. The show, her work, and a new love interest cause stress and drama in her life, forcing her to decide what is most important. Work is all she has ever known, but is her career truly the most important thing in her life?
Sugar is an incredibly enjoyable read and will speak to many adults struggling to find their place in the workplace. Whether readers have followed her work or are reading her work for the first time, Stuart’s writing style makes for a relaxing experience. While drama and conflict can be found in her story, there is something about her writing that makes for a soothing and calm read. Even with the bad that life can throw at someone, as portrayed by her characters, Stuart has the gift of making her readers feel happy. She also has an excellent use of descriptive detail, especially when it comes to describing the desserts present in the book. Readers should be advised to not read Sugar hungry, for they will either wish to bake Charlie’s creations or raid their pantry to eat something sweet as they continue to read.
Aside from the amazing sounding food within the story, Stuart truly does an amazing job of portraying the struggle of balancing one’s work life and one’s social life through her protagonist. It can be very difficult to find this balance and while some have been able to achieve it, many still struggle in accomplishing it themselves. Charlie has worked hard at an amazing restaurant in New York City. This already sounds like an ace in the hole for her future career; however, she must deal with the constant struggles that come with a job that is within a male-dominant field. She flips her life around moving cross country which is, in itself, very difficult with the added bonus of becoming a character on a reality TV show. While this would most likely sound terrifying to many people reading, there are also times in life when one just needs to throw caution to the wind and take the leap of faith. Who knows where the jump will take them.
There are moments within the story that can be somewhat predictable and cliché and elements that are normally found in stories with romance involved; however, Stuart does an excellent job of throwing many new elements at readers that make this kind of a story fresh and new. Charlie is incredibly work oriented and that is her main focus in life. Hard working readers, especially women, will find themselves relating to Charlie’s work ethic and rooting for her to succeed. Charlie, of course, meets someone new once she moves, but what was nice about Sugar was the fact that the love story was not THE main focal point of the story. There is an excellent balance between Charlie becoming the pastry chef she has longed to be, Charlie acting on a TV show she never wished to be a part of, and Charlie falling for a man she wants to get to know, but does not have as much time to spend with.
Everyone wants to find that perfect career and work hard so they can be recognized for their efforts, yet everyone also needs to remember that work is not the most important thing in life. While it may seem like an obvious answer in choosing what is most important, the struggle is all too real in finding that balance between one’s work life and one’s social life. Stuart successfully focuses on this aspect of life in her novel Sugar. Her protagonist faces many struggles, struggles that many people nowadays face, as well. As readers follow Charlie through her ups and downs, they will be swept along by Stuart’s calming and descriptive writing style that will most likely have readers getting up for a snack from time to time. This deliciously delightful story gives readers more to digest than just food upon completion and makes for an excellent addition to Stuart’s collection of works.