Breadfruit by Célestine Vaite
I've had Breadfruit, and Vaite's other novel, Frangipani, on my wishlist for quite some time. Recently a copy of Breadfruit popped up on BookMooch and I happily mooched it. After it arrived, I wasn't sure if I should read it right away. I knew both books featured the same protagonist, but couldn't figure out whether Breadfruit or Frangipani came first. The text on the Breadfruit's back cover confused me even more with its contradictory statements (Frangipani debuted a new character, Breadfruit won an award before Frangipani was published). Later I visited Fantasticfiction.co.uk, which I usually think of as a pretty reliable site and it told me that Frangipani and Breadfruit were alternate titles of the same book, and listed another novel entitled The Marriage Proposal, providing for it the same synopsis as my copy of Breadfruit.
As my readers will know, one of my biggest pet peeves is the unnecessary retitling of books for different audiences. As this is a perfect example of why publishers should not give books new titles when they are re-released. It creates confusion. In any case, I did a bit more research to confirm my suspicions and then emailed the webmaster of Fantasticfiction.co.uk with corrections for Vaite's author page. In my additional searching I was able to determine that Breadfruit was Vaite's first Matarena Mahi book (first published in 2000, though not released in the US until 2006 it seems).
All of this, of course, is a bit off topic. What I really should be writing about is the book and whether or not I liked it. I did like Breadfruit, but not as much as I thought I would. Vaite's Matarena Mahi books have been compared to Alexander McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books and I can see some similarities (exotic location, slow pace, sympathetic female protagonist). Matarena is charming, but at times I found myself wanting to yell out to her (like one does to a movie heroine on the television screen who is about to do just the wrong thing), a reaction that Precious Ramotswe has never elicited in me.
Breadfruit is primarily concerned with the differences between they way men and women think and how they interact with each other. It seems, at least compared to the synopsis for Frangipani and Tiare (in bloom)*, a little less zany than the other Matarena Mahi books, probably because it was the first book and Vaite was still developing both her characters and her sense of comedic timing.
* Again, two titles: Tiare and Tiare in Bloom.