Bittersweet Surrender, by Diann Hunt

book coverCarly Westlake is living the dream. She spends her days at a spa (okay, so she owns the place), she’s dating a hunk, and she’s surrounded by chocolate—milk chocolate, her favorite—that she uses for the chocolate facials that made her spa famous.

But when long buried secrets threaten Carley’s business and her friendship with business-partner Tom, she fights like crazy to keep the dream—and the illusions—afloat.

It takes a miracle of grace to get Carley to finally make that bittersweet surrender to love and real life.

Carly is like a lot of us, she has good and bad things going on in her life. She has a successful business where chocolate is freely available (wouldn’t we all love that?) and friends in whom she can trust. But she has insecurities as well, based on recent events in her life. She had a mastectomy as the result of breast cancer, and her husband left her in the middle of her illness. She’s also overweight – due in part to the chocolate. When her ‘hunk’ announces he’s returning to town, Carly is determined to get into shape. Thankfully, her best friend is attempting to move on after the death of his wife – Carly’s step-sister – and so becomes her accountability partner. Her step-mother is also determined that Carly will eat healthily.

This novel, available in e-reader form only, was apparently first released in paperback in 2008. It has been released electronically at the same time as Hunt’s co-authored title Smitten, and is no doubt supposed to tie in with that. Unfortunately, there are occasional inconsistencies between the two books. First, there is now a very large and fancy hotel in the town of Smitten where the lumber mill used to be. I’m not sure when that might have been built. Secondly, the town’s spa is different. In Smitten, it’s called the Smitten Spa and Grill and is located on a road outside the town center. In Bittersweet Surrender, it’s located inside a fancy hotel. Considering the building of the spa was a major plot point in Smitten, it’s difficult to see why this wasn’t re-edited to fit.

The editing itself is also a problem. For a start, what is the correct spelling of the name of the main character? The promotional information uses two different spellings, so I’m going with the one used throughout the narrative. Also, Carly’s best friend is actually called Scott. He’s not the business partner, but an accountant. He might have inherited the partnership from his wife who did appear to have a share of the business, but that isn’t made clear. What is clear is that Carly’s spa has financial problems, which is why Scott is going over the books his wife used to handle. Next, we have to return to the hotel in Smitten. In one scene, Carly tells her stepmother that there was a West Baden Springs Spa in southern Indiana. In the scene after next, Carly arrives at the West Baden Springs Hotel – in Smitten. That part jolted me out of the narrative because I immediately wondered why Carly had gone to Indiana! When Carly arrives at the hotel, she tells her companions, “I’ve been by this place a few times, but I have never been inside.” After they’ve checked in, however, she says, “I’d forgotten how nice this place is.” Carly’s memory is surely not that bad.

If not for the editing and Smitten inconsistencies, this could be a great book. I identified with Carly and her insecurities and hated how her ex-husband and brother treated her. Once Jake was introduced, I took a disliking to him as well. I couldn’t understand the relationship between him and his daughter, a very sweet teenager, at all. The key theme of this book comes from Carly’s sister in law, Rita. “People aren’t always what they seem.” Ain’t that the truth? Jake might be a ‘hunk’ while his daughter dresses differently, but the daughter is the nicer of the two. Scott’s wife had her secrets. Finally, while Carly might be missing part of her body, it’s not a part that ultimately matters in comparison to her character.

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

File Size: 524Kb

Release Date: 20 December, 2011

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I received my downloaded copy of Bittersweet Surrender from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.

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