Friday, January 5, 2018

Sweet Tea and Sympathy (A Southern Eclectic Novel) by Molly Harper

I picked this novel out at my library and decided to read it last weekend while the temperature outside had a high of -10 (without the wind chill) and I went deep into hermit mode. I reluctantly left the house Sunday morning for a grocery run, and then returned, not leaving until Tuesday morning for work.  January through March, I prefer to stay home every night, out of the cold.  The bitter cold Iowa has had for the past week or so has made it even easier to just say "Nope, not going out!" and plopping myself on the couch.  I haven't even turned the TV on; preferring quiet and a good book. 

I recognized Molly Harper's name from the years of shelving romance novels at Barnes and Noble.  She's pretty popular, and has fun, paranormal romance down.  I may have even read one or two of her books in the past, so I was willing to give this one a try.  The subtitle: A Southern Eclectic Novel had me wondering just what the heck that was--does it go along with country sophistication?

I think I figured it out.  It just means you're going to read about a big family and a town that has some oddballs in it.  And yes, running a funeral home/bait shop is unusual.  Margot Clary lives in Chicago, and is a successful event planner, on the cusp of getting a huge promotion.  But then what should be a successful party turns into a disaster after the chef disregards her directions and serves shrimp to the crowd, not understanding that one of the big-wigs is allergic to shrimp in a horrible way.  Cue the allergic reaction, waiters tripping, fire starting, and media there to capture the whole disaster.  She's fired, and basically blackballed from the industry.  

Margot is saved by a phone call from her Aunt Tootie, living in Georgia in the small lakeside town of Sackett.  Margot's paternal cousins (and her father) are complete strangers to her, but she's got nowhere to go, and Tootie's offer of a full-time job and a place to live have Margot leaving Chicago for Georgia.  It's the typical big city girl moves to small, rural Southern town schtick, and there are no surprises here as Margot puts her foot in her mouth, dresses inappropriately for the hot, humid weather, and realizes she's actually working in the town's funeral parlor.  There is the hot principal that she meets on her second day in town; he's an intriguing guy.  There's Margot's difficult relationship with her father, who she hasn't heard from or seen since she was a very small child.  And there are the small town politics she needs to navigate.  It's a pretty formulaic novel with no surprises, but that's okay.  My only beef was that it seemed as if every character just had to be quirky and endearing in some way; I got exhausted and went looking for just a normal, small town character.  I didn't really find one.  But, I enjoyed the novel enough that I want to read the second in the series, coming out in June: Ain't She a Peach, which focuses on Frankie, Margot's cousin, the colorful and quirky mortician.  Yes, that's what I said: colorful and quirky mortician.

If you like to read light southern fiction with a big splash of romance, this is your cup of tea.  Or your glass of sweet tea.  

Rating:  3/6 for a light novel about finding family and your place, along with plenty of quirky characters and a small town struggling to survive.  I felt that there were too many quirky characters, and longed for just your average Joe.  I will, however, read the sequel, coming out in June.  Cause I'm quirky that way. :)

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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