Widowed Amy Kayden is enjoying her new relationship with childhood friend and sweetheart, Joel Fox. Even though she loves Joel dearly and being with him is very different than her first marriage to a workaholic husband, she can't quite bring herself to accept Joel's proposal. It's like she's waiting for a sign from the universe that it's OK. In the meantime, she gets run over by her arch-enemy in a motorized shopping cart. While nursing a broken ankle from the mishap, Amy has to deal with a daughter who unexpectedly announces her engagement with a quick wedding to follow, two other daughters who are flunking out of college, and a sick dog. Then Joel up and leaves without a word, because he's having trouble abandoning his bachelorhood to integrate into Amy's "crazy" family. Yup, life is good...not! But Amy is nothing else if not resilient. Whatever it takes, she'll keep her chin up and laugh through it all until there's a happy ending for everyone.
Chocolate Therapy was another fun read in Abby Irish's "Chocolate" series. Readers get to follow along with protagonist, Amy Kayden, through more of the ups and downs in her sometimes zany life. Amy is also the first-person narrator of the story and she does so in a breezy, conversational way, actually talking directly to the reader on occasion which is a rather unique, amusing element. For some reason, the book seemed to start off a little slow. Maybe that was partly because Amy's boyfriend, Joel, who is a big draw for me and a great balancer for Amy's wackiness wasn't there for the first few chapters. Whatever the reason, I gradually started getting into it more and more, and eventually, things were going at a pretty good clip as events in Amy's life run the gamut from absurd (being run over by a motorized shopping cart driven by her nemesis) to surprising (a daughter she didn't even know had a boyfriend announcing she's getting married in mere weeks) and emotional (the passing of one of her dear pooches) to romantic (Amy trying to surprise Joel with a cruise but the surprise ends up being on her). It all came together to make me run the emotional gamut too, from chuckling at Amy's antics to shedding a few tears over Jerry's passing.
It was nice to see that Amy hasn't changed a bit. She's still her crazy self and sometimes her life reminds me of an episode of I Love Lucy, one of my all-time favorite TV shows. I don't think anyone but Amy (and Lucy of course;-)) could get themselves into so much trouble. Amy is as klutzy as ever, a bit neurotic, cooking-challenged, and obsessed with chocolate, but she is also a woman with a big heart who loves her family passionately, and that family includes her dogs and of course, Joel. In this "chapter" of her life, she must deal with upheavals in her daughters' lives, as I mentioned earlier, the death of one of her "boys," and helping Joel to integrate into this "three-ring circus." Amy is a great mom who is always there for her kids, supporting their decisions the best way she knows how which was something I could relate to. Amy is a woman who always seems to be running around like a chicken with her head cut off, but whatever she does, it's always with the best intentions at heart.
I had totally fallen for Joel in the first book, There's Always Chocolate!. After reading that book, I had characterized him as a prince among men, and I still stand by that assessment. Much like Amy's first husband, Joel works a lot, but where they differ is that Joel always seems to find time for fun, games and just to be with Amy. He is also very kind, loving and patient. Now that's not to say perfect, because he did have one foible in Chocolate Therapy when he up and left for a week after the long-time bachelor side of him couldn't quite figure out how he fit into Amy's family. I appreciated though that he didn't try to make any excuses for his behavior and came around fairly quickly, and throughout it all, his feelings for Amy never changed one bit. I loved that he was not only willing, but actually eager, to marry Amy even after having been through two failed marriages. He simply never lost faith in the idea that they had been meant for each other since they were kids. It just took them thirty-some odd years to realize it.
With it's lighthearted, breezy and sometimes downright funny take on the life of a fifty-ish widow, Chocolate Therapy reads much like chick-lit for a slightly older generation. It shows that there definitely can be life after loosing a spouse and that one can still find an HEA even in the "middle ages." Overall, I enjoyed reading this follow-up to There's Always Chocolate!. The only minor complaint I have is that it could have used a few more contractions. The way it was mostly written with the words spelled out, especially in dialog, made it seem too formal and stilted, but otherwise, this was a well-written book. I would recommend Chocolate Therapy to anyone who enjoys a good slap-sticky, romantic comedy that focuses equal parts on the romantic relationship and family relationships. I don't know if there will be any more forthcoming for Amy and Joel, but if there is, I would be happy to read more about them or see what other zany stories Abby Irish comes up with next.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
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