The Mix – Up by Holly McCulloch
This is a fascinating account written with humour and real skill of a young woman who is in a bit of a muddle. Paige makes wedding cakes, mixing up sponges and coming up with ideas which will make a particular design a memorable part of a couple’s big day. It has given her a focus as she comes to terms with her Nan’s death, the one person from her family who supported her through some dark days. Being self-employed is risky – it means that she must embrace marketing and creating an air of confidence so that people feel that she can be trusted, despite the fact that she is really quaking with fear. She has been hurt by her family and crucially her boyfriend, so when her ex turns up with his fiancee to choose their wedding cake, she is completely thrown. Narrated in her own voice, she explains that she forces herself to go to a party, asking the host for a distraction. The confusion which she suffers means that she has the confidence to approach a stranger who she believes certain things about, and plunges into a relationship. Cakes, self image and friendship are themes which run throughout this enjoyable book. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very personal and honest book with its relatable themes.
The book opens with an admission by Paige.”Well, this is awkward. And surprising. And extremely mortifying”. She has just realised that the prospective customers for a cake who have arrived in her workshop are her ex boyfriend Chris and his new fiancee Pippa. He immediately takes over the situation , leaving her to wonder about her residual feelings for him. Being, she admits “a natural people pleaser” and frankly needing the business, she adopts her usual patter and provides her usual selection. It is only to her special friend Sara she can reveal her true feelings, but there is part of even the understanding mother who does not follow why Paige is behaving with so much uncertainty. An appalling date with a frustrated comedian follows, and Paige adds to her list of disappointing relationships. It is a rather funny tale, because of Paige’s honest voice. This is a very contemporary novel in that Paige can spend hours looking through social media to see the details of Chris and Pippa’s seemingly perfect life. The combination of her lack of social life and lack of demand for her bespoke cakes is sufficiently depressing to send her off to a party held by her friend, the high powered Mika. Milka recommends that she approach a man wearing a black top, an ex boyfriend who is an excellent source of temporary distraction, who does not want a long term relationship. As Paige feels that she does not long deserve a long term commitment, he sounds ideal. The only problem is, there appears to be two men wearing black tops, so Paige must make an educated guess. It is in this way she becomes involved with Noah, and begins to realise that he may have more attractions than Milka led her to believe.
This book is so well written, detailing the daily life of a young woman who has some bad memories, but whose honesty makes her an appealing character. Her family is well depicted, especially her horrible mother for whom she is never the favoured child. McCulloch writes so honestly from Paige’s point of view that we are on her side throughout, even when she struggles and fails. I learnt something of the problems of making one off cakes, and there is a charming and very funny episode where she sets up a cake with help, even when it is a difficult situation. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a contemporary romance novel with deeper elements, and is certainly not straightforward.