REVIEW: Gimme Some Sugar by Molly Harper
Lucy Brewer would never have guessed that her best friend, Duffy McCready (of McCready’s Bait Shop & Funeral Home) has been in love with her since they were kids. Fear of rejection and his own romantic complications prevented Duffy from confessing his true feelings in high school, so he stood by and watched her wed Wayne Bowman right after high school. Wayne had always been a cheapskate, so it comes as no surprise when he suffers a fatal accident while fixing his own truck.
Even as her family and friends invade Lucy’s life and insist that the new widow is too fragile to do much beyond weeping, Lucy is ashamed to admit that life without Wayne is easier, less complicated. After all, no one knew what a relentless, soul-grinding trudge marriage to Wayne had been. Only Duffy can tell she’s hiding something.
In need of a fresh start, Lucy asks Duffy to put his cabinet-building skills to use, transforming the town’s meat shop into a bake shop. As the bakery takes shape, Lucy and Duffy discover the spark that pulled them together so many years ago. Could this finally be the second chance he’s always hoped for?
Dear Ms. Harper,
This is the book I’ve been waiting for, the one that’s been slowly building my interest as the hero’s sister and the rest of his involved family have been calling him a dipshit for continuing to engage in “divorcees with benefits” activities with his skanky ex-wife. I knew Duffy was better than that. Hell, he knew he was better than that and shouldn’t have been messing there but we all make mistakes and I knew someone who once did things like that with an ex who cheated on him so, yeah.
Duffy was once the kid who Lucy shared her Goo Goo Clusters with out of her lunch box (which in the South, is saying something). But friendship doesn’t always lead to a relationship especially given the opinion the McCready women have about the men in their family. At first not willing to risk their friendship and then slow off the mark to ask Lucy to the prom, Duffy was beaten out by another and, well, shit happened. Duffy did something stupid and got trapped and Lucy got asked to marry and follow to Texas a man she thought was smart and ambitious. Neither relationship lasted only Lucy didn’t call it quits for various understandable reasons.
Now a widow, she’s returned to Lake Sackett to raise her son among friends and family – even though Wayne’s family is slightly batshit crazy. Wanting to provide for her son, she’s going to put those pastry lessons to good use and open a bakery with an inspired name based on Southern slang. Her friend Duffy is there to help but still afraid of losing a good friend if he asks her out. Various family members call his chickenshit on that and in various colorful ways. But even after Lucy appears more than interested in pursuing a relationship – though slowly so her son Sam isn’t confused by it – can the two of them overcome their past hesitations, the failed marriages, and their families?
First off – brava for including enough of the past series events and the McCready family relationships without it turning into the info dump that has occurred in one or two of the past stories. (A Few Pecans Short of a Pie (Southern Eclectic Book 5) I’m looking at you.) Though it would be a task of concentrated effort to try and jump into this book with no past Southern Eclectric series experience, I think it can be done. New readers might just need to roll with the information until it all becomes clear which it will eventually.
Both Lucy and Duffy have some people issues they need to address. While they each initially attempt to be mannerly about them (which is the Southern way of doing things and the way I was raised, myself), the perpetrators of their problems just don’t seem to “get it.” Both eventually have to and do lay down the law but in the meantime, Lucy stands up for herself a few times rather than just wilting as a lot of romance heroines are made to act. Some of the women in Duffy’s family are a mite scary too but they’re slightly older and we Southern women get tangy with age.
I enjoyed the family relationships and loved getting to see Frankie and Marianne on a girls’ night out with Lucy. Those two are dangerous and an example of how Southern women are not all sugar and sweetness. Carl and Duffy’s porch-sitting-while-drinking beer is great too. The eccentricities of the rest of the McCready clan are there yet held a bit more in check and serve to spice up the book without taking it over. Lucy and her son Sam are sweet without being saccharine and thank gawd Sam doesn’t lisp or spurt other insipid child vocal-isms.
Life in Lake Sackett is a mix of both the good and the bad of small towns. Everyone knows everyone and all about your mamma and what you did in school. They’re all related somehow which leads to some problems and in the end, nepotism used the right way to achieve justice. It’s a nice place to raise your child and why Lucy came back home.
Yeah but what about the romance? It’s nice and slow and filled with cupcakes and flirting.
… Duffy was looking at those cupcakes like they were the very last ones on earth, and she didn’t have the heart to deny him.
“Would you like to try one?” she asked super casually, holding it out to him as he rounded the counter.
“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly,” he said, even as he peeled the liner away from his chosen cupcake. “I mean, really, I wouldn’t want to put you out.”
He took an enormous bite of the cupcake and seemed to be completely frozen.
“I don’t want to scare you by making blatantly sexual sounds,” he said, swallowing the bite of cake.
“You want me to leave you alone with the cupcake?” she asked.
He dropped his head until his chin touched his chest. “I might need a minute.”
Duffy also fixes Lucy’s drooping shutters which is just such guy-in-love thing to do.
“Did you fix my shutters?”
“I may have,” he admitted. “I figured it might be harder for you to lift them and fix them on your own. And I had the tools to tighten the bolts in my truck. And I was on your porch for a long time . . . That sounds creepy. I’m sorry. I’m not stalking you.”
“That was very sweet of you. Thank you.”
“Well, yeah. I’m courting you, Lucy Bowman. I’m gonna woo the hell out of you.”
It also features talking and not hiding secrets. True, not everything is immediately laid out but Lucy and Duffy try to be honest with each other and even when they’re not quite ready to reveal everything, they tell each other that and that in time they will have nice, long talks about specific things. They laugh and aren’t too slick and unbelievable.
She laughed, pressing her lips together. “… Are you nervous about our date?”
“I wouldn’t say nervous, because that sort of implies that I’m dreading something. I mean, I get nervous about going to the dentist or paying taxes. And I’m definitely looking forward to our date a lot more than paying taxes.”
“That’s good to know.”
Duffy sighed. “None of this is coming out right.”
Duffy proves that he’s there for the good, the bad, and the four year old child with the stomach bug. He knows that he loves how Lucy has grown as a person. When the conflict does erupt, it features the issues, worries and things we already know about and Duffy and Lucy already know about but with heightened emotions and stress. It feels natural rather than engineered. And after they both realize they’re sorry and messed up, apologies are truly offered and accepted and – glory be – therapy is discussed to help move forward beyond past events. When they decide that yes, they want a future, they don’t rush it and I feel totally okay with that.
I do hope there will be more books in this series because we just have to know how Duffy’s grandparents enjoy their cruise and if the slick Atlanta developers are going to buy that property and what gender Margot and Kyle’s child is and – Lord help us – what Frankie and Eric’s wedding will look like (zombie bride, maybe?). In the meantime, I had a great time with this one. A-