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The Perfect Manhattan    by Leanne Shear & Tracey Toomey order for
Perfect Manhattan
by Leanne Shear
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Shannon Bigham

Cassie Ellis, who recently graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Creative Writing, wants to write screenplays for a living. However, finances are tight and she needs a regular income to cover rent and basic necessities. She takes a job as a bartender at Finton's, an Irish bar located somewhat illogically in New York's Little Italy. Cassie plans to write during the day and tend bar at night. When given the opportunity to bartend at the Hamptons for the summer, Cassie takes on a position at a hot spot called Spark. Her well-heeled roommate Alexis pulls strings and finds a share for her friend in the Hamptons, as Cassie intends to work at Finton's in the city during the week, and at Spark in the Hamptons on weekends.

What transpires is a wild roller-coaster of a ride for Cassie as she becomes one of the better bartenders at Spark. This earns her a spot at the front bar, where she works with an experienced bartender. The pressure is on all of the bartenders to have 'high rings' each night or they risk being fired. Spark is a high brow nightspot in the Hamptons and Cassie quickly learns how to flirt to earn tips of several hundred dollars. She manages to snag a wealthy, handsome trust-fund boyfriend, James Edmonton III, who emotionally supports her dream and agrees to help her 'shop around' the screenplay after she finishes writing it. Unfortunately, Cassie does not fit into James's elite crowd and often feels like an outsider among the snobby, petty group of young women who are his friends (she secretly dubs them 'The Pearls Girls'). Nonetheless, Cassie is enamored of James and tries to grin and bear it when it comes to his friends, though she finds herself blowing tons of money on designer clothes to fit in with James's clan, which is really all for naught.

By Labor Day weekend, which marks the end of summer in the Hamptons, Cassie is physically and emotionally exhausted from working so many hours, partying it up (on and off work), and attempting to live the high life and keep up appearances around James. The novel serves up lots of juicy tidbits of the elite and wealthy and explains differences between those with old money and the nouveau riche. I enjoyed reading about life in the service industry, which obviously requires a lot of hard work even if it earns good money. While The Perfect Manhattan is what I consider a fluffy read, the tale of Cassie's wild summer is pleasantly tempered by her eventual insights that she is not cut out for such a crazed and competitive lifestyle, and that the wealthy have their own unique set of problems.

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