C is for cupcakes and why I am sick of them

Author: Anne

Date Published: May 6th 2017, 1:54pm

I originally wrote this blog over a year ago - I don't think that anything has changed in the world of romantic and "women's" fiction - sadly ....


I have nothing against cupcakes or cake in general but the increasing presence of them in (mostly romantic) fiction is beginning to disturb me. It is not the actual presence of the cake related item that is the problem but the fact that more and more often the main female character is making her living from making and selling cake, cupcakes, gingerbread or other sweet items – think of the number of recently published titles about cake shops in unlikely places, sweetshops, chocolate products or cafes. There is nothing wrong with any of these books themselves but it is the trend that concerns me.

I am slightly alarmed at the number of female main characters in books who make their living by developing their own business. Firstly, I feel that there are a disproportionate number of these as actually starting a new business requires quite a lot of capital, a tremendous amount of hard work, and some serious business knowledge especially in the current unsettled economic condition. It does provide a challenge for the character though and a situation that can be developed into an undemanding but interesting scenario for a plot. Authors need their characters to have some change in their life and a bit of a challenge as well as an opportunity to interact with a variety of other people and a new business, especially in retail, is ideal.

The second, and most concerning issue for me, however, is the purpose of the businesses which are set up. They so often seem to be what I consider to be traditionally female occupations. Cooking and baking seem to be the most often used but I have recently read novels about women who run florist shops, wool shops with associated knitting classes, opening B and Bs, arranging weddings, and businesses related to gardening and growing food. It seems to some extent that these may have been chosen because they are a natural extension of activities that are enjoyed by many women and also that they don’t require much in the way of qualifications and training to deliver on a commercial basis (at least very few books ever mention this – they just assume that talent and experience are enough).

I accept that women are the majority in these occupations but I would really like to see, for a change, more women in novels setting up businesses, or even being employed, in less traditional occupations. Where are the romances about women till operators, women who work in banks, women who run successful charities, women machine operators, etc. etc. ?

Of course I can point you to excellent books where women do have these occupations. Sheila O’Flanagan is an excellent example as her female characters tend to have occupations that are banking or finance based. Marian Keyes’ characters are often in magazine editing and PR (although usually for women’s magazines and female type products such as clothes and make-up) and Patricia Briggs’ heroine Mercy Thompson is a garage mechanic with her own business. But for every one of these more innovative occupations there seem to be half a dozen women characters renovating a café or selling cupcakes or planning weddings.

My appeal is for writers of fiction which has women main characters to consider whether they could provide for them a more unusual or non-traditional occupation. I would welcome the change.