By: Stacy Ballis
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): A dare between friends leads to startling revelations and simmering tensions in the latest novel from the author of Wedding Girl.
Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world's most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is.
Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again.
Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn't seem so lonely--until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?
Last year, I reviewed my first Stacy Ballis book, Wedding Girl, and loved it! When I found out she was coming out with a new book this summer I immediately put it on my to-read list. I got even more excited when I was asked to review it! The cover I different than her previous ones, but it’s really cute. I would have picked it up without without knowledge of Ballis for sure.
What I thought
As I’ve grown to expect from Ballis, this book is cute and sweet with a lot of food, love, and dogs.
Eloise is 39 and relatively happy with her life. While she has no complaints, she isn’t exactly where she would have imagined herself to be at 40. When she is reunited with her high school friends, they decide to challenge each other to complete 5 tasks before their 40th birthdays, forcing Eloise to evaluate her life and push herself towards what she really wants to achieve.
Ballis’s novels have a very similar setup. The main character is a chef/foodie, they live in Chicago, own a dog, and have a Jewish background. Luckily, these are all things I love. I do appreciate that each chef is a bit different. The other Ballis book I read recently, the chef was an assistant to a TV chef whereas Eloise is a personal chef, so there are different aspects. One of my favorite story lines in this book tah I actually wish got a bit more time was her working with 10 year old Ian to compete on a Junior Baking Competition reality show.
One of the challenges that Eloise receives is to start dating again. After a disastrous relationship about 10 years ago, she has completely removed herself from the dating scene. Now, she has to get back onto the dating scene and compete 18 dates before her 40th birthday. Along the way, she meets Shawn. I absolutely loved him! He’s pretty much perfect (which could be annoying) but he does have flaws which makes him more relatable and likable.
There were a few details here and there that didn’t seem fully thought out to me, which I haven’t experienced previously with Ballis’s writing. For example, in one chapter she is talking about how she has a steel stomach and has only thrown up once or twice in her life, but then in another chapter she’s easily queasy and gagging over the thought of someone else throwing up.
Besides that, the friendships were a major strength. There was everything from easy friendships, to difficult ones, whichyou don’t often see in stories. I appreciated seeing a friendship that was so essential to high school and how t worked at almost 40. I also appreciated the familial relationships and how supportive everyone was.