Dear Mrs Andrews,
You seem to really like to knock your heroines down at the beginning of your books then slowly let them pick themselves back up again. Keeley Murdock’s problems fit the pattern. On the eve of her society wedding to a handsome young man from one of Madison, GA’s richest families, Keeley finds him and her BFF/maid of honor going at it like monkeys in the board room of the country club. Keeley’s subequent meldown and world class hissy fit cements her into town lore. But worse follows as the influential family of the “two-timing, lying, cheating son-of-a-bitch” try to use their financial influence to ruin the interior decorating business owned by Keeley and her aunt Gloria. Keeley becomes another version of your typical “Steel Magnolia” heroines as she pulls herself back from the brink of disaster and discovers just how strong she is. But while this book is a lot of things, it’s not really a romance.
As a “how to” redecorate a home in antiques, fine furnishings and luscious fabrics this book is to die for. I’d love to have Keeley’s job or just let her loose in my house with Will’s money. As a woman who enjoys buying architecture, decorating and design magazines then drooling over them, I was in heaven. Watching Keeley help return a lovely antebellum mansion to pristine condition for the wealthy client who’s bought it as well as the local, almost defunct bra plant was a joy. Following her through antique stores and auctions as she hunts down the perfect Federal and Empire pieces — all without any budget in sight — was a dream come true. And since I also love wandering through fine fabric stores — we have a great one here in town with bolts of drool worthy Brunswig & Fils to name just one — my heart sang at the mention of fabric swatches. Don’t get me started on tassels and trim.
As a slice of “southern style life in a small town,” it’s funny without being filled with cartoon ‘characters.’ Well, maybe Austin, Keeley’s gay florist friend is too much like a caricature but I guess most Southern set books have to have at least one. I’ve seen small towns like this one. Towns that banked their all on one or two factories and industries which are all being taken overseas now due to the cost of wages.
As a mystery story with a realistic if bittersweet ending, I enjoyed Keeley’s search for her missing mother, her desire to finally have closure and how her friends helped her achieve it. As a story about getting over a broken heart, growing and realizing she can stand on her own two feet, it’s fine. As a romance…. it’s not so good. But then I’m not sure a romance is exactly what you meant to write as after all, this is listed in “mainstream” at Fictionwise. I did enjoy Keeley’s relationship with her older aunt who helped raise her and with her father who adores his little girl but who doesn’t hesitate to jerk a knot in her when he thinks she’s gone too far. I like that Andrew, while a cad, turns out to be not such a terrible one – yes I like this. Instead of getting a total shit who it would be impossible to believe that Keeley could have ever thought she loved, we get a guy who had some problems with his parent’s marriage and the choices they made and who, yes there’s no doubt, screwed up royally but who is maybe not a total loss to humanity.
I did have problems with Keeley’s mother’s cousin. Does she have to haul God and Jesus into this? Not all people who are religious are this hypocritical. And for such a small town where 5 minutes after something happens, everybody knows everything, the secret was certainly kept for a long time by a lot of people. Will and Stephanie were disappointments. How can Will, a smart man who’s made a fortune at such a young age and who manages to revitalize the town, be so blind? And Stephanie becomes little more than a two dimensional paper doll, only interested in the cost of things who suddenly blows her lid just when it’s needed and in front of just who needs to see it. Though I’ve heard that at a certain age, men get the nesting urge and the first woman they see who might meet their preconceived notions is the one they subbornly set on.
I liked the book, I liked the characters but I felt the romance, even though it’s only beginning, at the ending was too quick. But in my heart of hearts I’ve got to admit that I’d love to pitch a hissy fit like Keeley did at least once in my life. A good old, down home, “raise the roof to get your point across to the moron in customer service” hissy fit. B