Title: Smart vs. Pretty
Author: Valerie Frankel
Publication Date: February, 2000
Paperback: 288 pages
Genre: Chick Lit
Description: What happens when a single woman in her early thirties gets stuck living and working with her sister again along with all the insecurities of sibling rivalry?
Meet Francesca Greenfield, a smart, urban professional suddenly tossed out of her so-so career and into the business of selling coffee alongside her pretty, perky sister Amanda.
But selling coffee is only the start of their worries.
Francesca has always known that she was the smart sister, “though our mother never set us down and said, ‘Francesca, we’ll call you the smart one.’” Amanda was soft and lovely from the beginning and had always garnered most of the attention --- and all of the dates. Now they’ve been thrown together in a last-ditch effort to save the family business before it goes permanently down the drain.
As for the coffeehouse itself, well, there’s rarely a dull moment. Consider the piranha-minded next-door franchise and the brainstorms of one nearly psychotic marketing manager for starters. And who can forget about love? Or at least sex. Thanks to a promotional contest, it’s not long before Amanda is looking to explore the aura of a buff mountain climber while Francesca considers shedding more than her inhibitions with a J. Crew model.
The stakes are rising. It’s time to find out if smart or pretty knows best, whether the distinction really suits either one of them, and if the Greenfield sisters can actually live happily ever after.
My Thoughts: This book has been languishing on my TBR pile for quite a while and is written by a new to me author. I enjoyed the premise of this story taking place in a coffeehouse. What the book description failed to convey to me was that when the story begins, Francesca aka Frank and Amanda are already running the coffeehouse and have been a while. Unfortunately, the business is failing fast and they are facing foreclosure and becoming unemployed as well as homeless.
Frank and Amanda are complete opposites. Frank is pessimistic and cynical. She’s been burned by love and is carrying huge quantities of guilt over the death of their parents. As the older sister, she feels she has to shoulder the responsibility of everything and she resents the way Amanda seems to stroll through life without a worry or care in the world.
Amanda is more trusting and accepting of strangers. She practices I Ching divination, tossing pennies on the table to advise her on matters of importance. Amanda doesn’t appear to be burdened with the stress that plagues her sister. She appears friendlier and happier, though it appears, at times, she is unable to separate business from pleasure.
As complex as they both are, I felt they complemented each other perfectly and I enjoyed seeing their relationship evolve and strengthen. This story had a lot of interesting supporting characters. Clarissa, the grad student who takes Frank and Amanda under her wing to help them save the business proved me right as someone who isn’t all they claim to be. Matt, the anti-social, anti-establishment outspoken employee surprised me. He comes across as a slacker but turns out to be that and so much more.
This story is about so much more than sisters and sibling rivalry. There’s romance, murder, mysterious coffee beans, unpaid debts, revenge, dishonesty and slander. It seems like a lot to juggle and understand, but the story worked. Some of the dialogue is choppy, but was easy to overlook once I got focused on the story and wanting to know what would happen next. There are better chick-lit books out there, but this one turned out to be a surprise for me. I recommend it and will be anticipating reading more from this author.
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