Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Rules of Love and Grammar by Mary Simses

I read Mary Simses' first novel The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe last year, and while I enjoyed it, wasn't wowed by it.  In her second novel, Mary Simses does a much better job keeping my interest, but I still have some issues with characters and plot.  

Grace Hammond is a 33 year old New Yorker who comes home to Dorset, Connecticut one summer to stay with her parents while the ceiling in her apartment is repaired after a water leak in the apartment above hers.  She's also just broken up with her boyfriend, and lost her job.  A whole lot of misfortune all at once.  Fleeing to her parent's house gives her time to lick her wounds and figure out what she's going to do when she returns to New York.  

That summer, director Peter Brooks is in Dorset filming a movie that is semi-autobiographical.  He's a son of Dorset, and people are very excited to have a famous director and his stars descend on the town.  Grace and Peter were friends as teens, and were thisclose to a romance when Grace's older sister Renny was killed in a car accident at 18 and Peter's family moved away to Arizona just a few weeks after that.  Grace's longing to recapture that happiness with Peter comes roaring back when her friend Cluny tells Grace he's back in town.  

Grace has time to burn, so she's helping her parents get the house and yard ready for her father's 65th birthday party.  She finds Renny's old Schwinn in the garage, and decides to have it restored as a way to honor her sister and help Grace lay down the guilt she feels over her sister's death.  Mitch, a ruggedly handsome man, helps his father at the bike shop during the summer months. Grace and Mitch have a bit of an antagonistic relationship, and her focus is all on Peter.  The star of the movie, Sean, has a run in with Grace and seems to be smitten with her.  Gee, three men!  How will Grace ever decide where her heart lies?

Underlying all of the summer romance possibilities is Grace's floundering over her career and life in general.  She's haunted by Renny's death, and coming back home seems to have brought it to the forefront of her mind.  She feels like her parents always preferred Renny, and doesn't believe she has any talent.  I have to say this part of the novel seemed wrong, somehow.  It's been 18 years since Renny has died; I am a bit puzzled that Grace is still struggling over how she thinks her parents really feel about her. They've been nothing but encouraging, but I feel like her behavior belongs to someone much younger.  I could see this being a stronger plot if Grace was in her mid-twenties, not her early thirties.  She seems to bounce from one potential romance to another without any kind of real focus, and when the big talk happens with her parents, I felt like it was long overdue and made the ending a bit rushed.  I do, however, like the ending, and that we are left with a satisfying conclusion, but not a neat ending tied up in a bow.  There's room for perhaps another story, and I'd be happy to read it.  

Rating:  6/10 for a novel that was enjoyable and quick read.  The town of Dorset came alive, and sounds like a place I'd like to call home.  Grace seemed a bit immature for her age, and the main plot line would have worked better if she'd been in her twenties.  But overall,  a novel that would be a good choice for Moms, Grandmas, and those who like contemporary women's fiction.  

Available in hardcover, and e-book.

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