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Pamela Morsi

REVIEW: The Bikini Car Wash by Pamela Morsi

REVIEW: The Bikini Car Wash by Pamela Morsi

Bikini Car Wash by Pamela MorsiDear Ms. Morsi,

I, for one, am glad that your husband sat you down in front of a typewriter all those years ago and urged you – in so many words – to write that novel that you wanted to. My reading would be the poorer if he hadn’t. “The Bikini Car Wash” is a book which is not quite the straight romances you used to write but has more romance than the usual fiction book.

Andrea, Andi, Walkowicz knew she was taking a risk by leaving her good job in Chicago but when her mother unexpectedly died, someone had to come home to help her father with Angela. Or so Andi thought. But Walt Walkowicz and Andi’s mentally impaired sister seem to be doing just fine delivering Meals on Wheels. Now Andi’s been pounding the pavement for months looking for any work in this small community of Plainview but with little luck.

Her latest rejection comes from Guthrie Foods, owned by the wealthy Guthrie family for four generations. Pete Guthrie runs it now. Pete the same person whom Andi still has some simmering resentments about left over from high school – and no, she’s not proud of that but that’s life. With few other options, Andi decides to turn her father’s closed car wash into another business. She would have thought the other downtown merchants would be delighted to see a shuttered business come back to life so she doesn’t take it well when Pete’s retired father, who’s now on the town council, stymies her efforts to turn the place into a drive through coffee shop.

Well, since she can’t get permission to change the business and her father can’t find a buyer for the property, Andi’s only other option is to reopen it. But she needs a gimmick and finds it from an unlikely source: two other out of work young women who also desperately need money. Together they decide to wash, buff and wax cars the old fashioned way… but in bikinis. Soon the town is in an uproar over the new business and Andi finds an unlikely friend in her corner. Could she have been wrong about Pete all those years ago?

Though I wouldn’t call this women’s fiction, it’s definitely more than about a romance between Pete and Andi. Both of them have to find out who the other person really is rather than merely relying on their old memories of each other as the town golden boy or the athletic math geek. Andi also needs to, as you say, “figure out her own life.” I like that after some initial reserve, they quickly form a friendship after a night of passion. But I’m also glad that they step on the brakes after that initial night rather than just jumping into true lurve.

And they’re actually a much closer fit than a lot of people might think. Both love running a business, both have had people assuming things about them rather than discovering who the real Andi and Pete truly are, and both have issues to deal with from their parents’ marriages. But they also laugh together and never run out of things to talk about with each other. They support each other but not blindly. They’re there for each other in the other’s moments of need. And the sex is great too. I like that Pete falls in love with the woman behind the bikini while Andi soon comes to see past Pete’s status in this small town.

Both Pete and Andi develop over the course of the book and this centers a lot on the other people in their lives. Pete has clashed with his domineering father for years over how Pete runs the store. He’s learned how to ignore his father’s bullying but when Hank Guthrie goes after Andi’s business, Pete finally hands Hank some public set downs. Andi thought she knew her parent’s marriage but discovers some things which shock her and rock her world. She has to reexamine what she knew and accept what truly was and is. I like that neither Pete nor Andi are perfect and both have their moments of jealousy, pay back and resentment. But they emerge stronger and seem ready to take their relationship to the next level.

At first I wasn’t sure why Jelly, who seems to serve as the ‘wise old grandmother/neighbor who says whatever is on her mind’ role, is written as mentally retarded. It wasn’t until I read some of your blog that I realized how RL she and Walt probably are. She’s not presented as “poor Jelly” or “brave Jelly” or “see how well Jelly copes with life” – thank you. Instead you show her matter of factly and without anyone stepping onto a soapbox about her. I found it hard to believe that Walt and his dead wife were so saintly over the years about all they had to be saintly over. But after reading your tribute to your father, it seems like Walt is probably based on RL too.

There’s more to this story than just a gimmick about women wearing bikinis – as the town of Plainview discovers. Though I do mourn the fact that you no longer write the historical romances I first loved from you, I’m no longer afraid of reading your second style of book. Some people I will follow away from traditional romances and you are one of them.

~Jayne

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Dear Author

REVIEW: Red’s Hot Honky-Tonk Bar by Pamela Morsi

Dear Ms. Morsi,

You’re a favorite author of mine from way back. Once I’d tried a few of your historicals, I went on a backlist hunting expedition and managed to track down most of them. When you moved in the direction of women’s fiction, I was reluctant to follow and this is, in fact, the first of these books I’ve read. I’m not sure if I’ll go back and check out the books I’ve missed but I did have a good time with this one.

“Red” Cullen is a forty-something owner of a San Antonio honky-tonk bar. It’s not much but it’s hers and is something she’s proud of. From literally living on the streets after she was kicked out by her own mother at the age of sixteen, Red has raised a daughter and started this business.

I like how we get to see Red in this world she’s created. She’s good at what she does, genuinely enjoys her work and both the regular patrons who she knows by name and the newcomers just discovering the place. She cares for her employees and they care for her. Right now, she’s got a thing going with the fiddler from one of the bands who regularly play at the bar. Red has no sexual hang ups despite her past but has never looked for nor wanted a long term romantic relationship. Campbell Early is fifteen years younger than Red so she’s fine with enjoying him while he lasts but not looking for much more.

This attitude of hers makes sense given the fact that she hasn’t been able to count on many men in her life since her father died when Red was a teenager. She then fell into a bad relationship, got pregnant and got kicked out. She had to do things she wasn’t proud of to survive and provide for herself and her daughter. Thank you for not turning Red into an intentional martyr about all this. She doesn’t wail that she’s unworthy of love, even if, unconsciously, she might end relationships so she won’t be hurt.

A phone call from her Army daughter serving overseas twists Red’s world around. Bridge needs her mother to look after her own two children, Olivia age 9 and Daniel age 6, since their paternal grandmother has suffered a stroke. Sputtering and flustered at the thought, Red tries to work out any other arrangement. She owns a bar, works until late in the evening and doesn’t know these children at all. But the facts remain that she’s the only one who can step in on a moments notice so she reluctantly becomes a grandmother in truth.

With a mother in the Army and a dad in the Air Force, and both of them overseas, Olivia has had to grow up a bit faster than most girls her age. She easily spots that Red has no clue what to do with them despite having raised a daughter. Red freely admits that Bridge pretty much raised herself but I still found her total lack of almost a single clue about what to do with Olivia and Daniel hard to swallow.

And the fact that they all live in the same city and Red appears to never have interacted with the children up til this point, despite what she later tells Cam about seeing them once or twice a year, is strange. Red and Bridge are not estranged so the whole setup makes little sense and is something that just has to be accepted.

At this point, Red is certain that her boy toy will quickly hit the road. What 31 year old footloose bachelor wants to suddenly take on a couple of kids? Plus there’s the fact that up until now, he had no idea Red even had any grandchildren. But despite the revelation and in the face of Red’s efforts to alienate him enough to get the break over quickly, Cam proves to be a natural with children.

And despite the fact that I generally don’t care for children in romance books, I care for Olivia and Daniel. They strike just the right note for me. Olivia is not too worldly wise and has her moments of whiny behavior, impatience, and, in the emails to her mother, ALL CAPS and !!!!!. Daniel’s retreat into Spanish – the language of their father’s mother – and worry about starting school seem like something a six year old would do. His trust in Red is a long time coming but it’s lovely to watch these two slowly move towards a relationship. Olivia takes even longer to care for Red which, as the older child, also makes sense to me.

I can also see why the children get along with Cam. They have no predetermined feelings about him nor he for them. Plus he’s the type of person who naturally gets along with children while Red is more awkward which fits with the personal history you’ve given her. Her own mother displayed few parenting skills so I can see that Red would be almost afraid of messing up Bridge and reluctant to interact with her grandchildren. But Red did make sure that Bridge learned from the mistakes Red had made.

The book moves along at a leisurely pace. When The Issues from Cam’s past appear, they fit together and show how he’s evolved into the person he is now. With what he tells Red about his mother, I wonder if Red truly knows what she’s signing on for. It’s just a niggle on my part from knowing something about the disease. However, I do like that Cam doesn’t suddenly pull an angst bunny move.

By the end, I felt that perhaps some of the issues were too easily wrapped up. Money wonderfully appears just when it’s needed, Red and Bridge skim over Red’s past with barely a ripple, and it looks like the children will stay in their school due to Cam’s talent as a landlord. The future of Red’s bar is dealt with in more detail than just about anything else. The book finishes with a feel good ending that isn’t all bad but I do wish Red had kept a little more of her tartness. B-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.