Lydia Vanderwalk has an obsession with candy, so when she invents an NEB--non-existent boyfriend--who turns out to be the male hire-a-date equivalent of a jumbo box of Hot Tamales she knows she’s in trouble.
Lydia has worked hard to have the right job, the right wardrobe, and the right everything else, in the quest for the appearance of perfection. Fed up by conversation #3,524—not that she’s counting—about long-since-exed fiancé Gavin, Lydia goes to drastic measures to change the subject. When she needs her NEB for a golden career opportunity, she enlists a talent agent friend’s help to produce perfect date Phelps. He was supposed to be pure eye candy, but there’s more going on beneath the surface than Red Hots looks and Pop Rocks spontaneity.
Throw in a banking wunderkind ex-fiancé, a trio of cutthroat couture-climbers, and a designer of questionable orientation and origin, and Lydia soon learns that what you see is often much less than what you get when it comes to people and not everything in life can be solved by a Jolly Rancher and a trip to Ann Taylor.
There were a few things about this book that made it a frustrating read for me. Some were with the writing itself (tense shifts mid-sentence, misuse of words), others with the actual story, all of them kept taking me out of the story and reminded me that I was reading. I love the stories that whisk me along at such a pace and involve me in such a way with what is happening that I forget I am reading and feel more like I am in the story. Unfortunately, this story didn't do that for me.
Let's start with the candy obsession. I know it was meant to play a factor in the story, I got that from the title, but I couldn't help but feel that it was a little overdone. After a few pages of reading about what kind of candy the heroine eats - at all times - I was on the verge of giving up on this book. And when the heroine started using candy terms for cursing, I thought the candy thing was going too far and almost stopped reading this book. Truly, the only thing that kept me reading was Phelps. He is the best thing about this book, the most interesting character in the book, and I wanted to read more about him. Unfortunately, I think he didn't really get the attention he deserved and I think he was kind of shafted further on in the story when Lydia renewed a relationship with her ex-fiance. After deciding she didn't really love him any more (another issue I had with this book). I felt that Phelps deserved so much better than what he received.
Not that Lydia is a bad person because she's not. She's just a confused person who comes off more like a teenage girl than a thirty-three year old woman (I had to keep reminding myself that she was, in fact an adult). From her candy obsession to her penchant for candy-themed pajamas, she is portrayed as kind of immature, which is ironic as she has an issue with the age difference between her and Phelps, who is six (or was it seven? I don't know because both numbers were stated in the book) years her junior. I had to keep reminding myself that she was, indeed, an adult. Especially when she started things up again with her ex. After having nothing but bad thoughts and suspicions about him for most of the book, and realizing that she never actually loved him (which made it easier for her to jump to conclusions about him and break off the engagement). How frustrating! How can she decide on one page that she never had true feelings for him and then a couple of pages later, all of a sudden she's torn between him and Phelps? Sorry, but that seemed more like a plot device to ramp up tension than a logical development (at least to me). Aside from this, Lydia is a likable character, which is the main reason why I kept on reading. If she weren't, I would've given up on this book after a few pages. Another redeeming quality is her friends. I really liked Bethany and Fiona and how they always had Lydia's back.
Final verdict: It was an okay read, but it left me wanting. And not candy.