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Posts Tagged ‘Best Staged Plans’

Chill out with your favorite cool beverage and a new novel. It’s summer, and hey, readers wanna  have fun.

So do the three women in Mary Kay  Andrews’ breezy Summer Rental, who used to channel Cyndi Lauper’s peppy anthem as Catholic schoolgirls in the 1980s. Now Ellis, Julia and Dorie have planned a reunion on  North Carolina’s Outer Banks, spending a few weeks relaxing in a rambling old  beach house.

But the likable trio arrives at Ebbtide towing extra emotional baggage. Career-woman Ellis has just lost her job in corporate banking and realizes she’s left with “a life as dull and colorless as the sand beneath  her toes.’’

Julia, a fashion model who lives  in London with a photographer, also is wondering what’s next, career-wise and relationship-wise. At least she  hasn’t been blindsided by a cheating husband like schoolteacher Dorie, who  impulsively invites a stranger to be a fourth housemate. Madison (not her real  name) is on the run from something or someone.

Andrews adds a grouchy landlord who only communicates by  e-mail and a good-looking single guy in the garage apartment. The mix makes for a sweet, refreshing cocktail of a tale – with a twist, of course, and an  unexpected punch when Madison’s past catches up with her.

Fans know that Andrews, who grew up in St. Pete, honed her skills with plot and pacing as mystery novelist Kathy Hogan Trocheck.  With such previous beach book hits as Savannah Blues, Hissy Fit and The Fixer-Upper, she’s not planning on  a return to crime. But e-reader owners can now find digital editions online of Lickety-Split and Crash Course, her capers featuring Florida senior sleuth Truman Kicklighter.  They’re replete with  Sunshine State color and characters. And Kicklighter is a kick.

Reading Claire Cook’s Best Staged Plans is like catching up with an old friend. You may not have talked in months, but you pick up right where you left off with what’s new and what’s next now you’re at mid-life.

This time, it’s Sandy Sullivan, a cheery Boston home stager with an early-retiree husband, a newly-wed daughter in Atlanta, and a slacker son in the basement of the renovated house she’s prepping for sale, even though she’s still wondering what’s her “postmom” mission in life.  She loves her tennis-playing husband — such a good guy — but she and Greg seem to be stuck in comfortable routines.

“Ah, the things you never thought to ask before you commited to a lifetime with another person. Will you get up with me to watch the sunrise, or will you snore the morning away? Will you write me poetry or take the easy way out with a Hallmark card for every occasion? Will you get the house ready to put on the market when I ask you to? Can you dance?”

Best Staged Plans begins slowly, as Sandy channels HGTV, obsesses over reading glasses, mourns past pets and family rituals. But the pace picks up when gal-pal Denise’s boyfriend Josh offers her a job staging a boutique hotel in Atlanta. Sandy’s Southern sojourn finds her getting to know her new son-in-law, meeting a homeless woman, and helping Denise deal with her bad boyfriend. It all helps her put her life in perspective as she picks out paint chips — you can’t go wrong with Benjamin Moore’s Million-Dollar Red.

Cook (Must Love Dogs, Seven Year Switch) spices her light-hearted tale with tips on home decorating and gourmet meal assembly.  At one point, Sandy notes that “the thing about staging is that you have to stay open to surprises, because they often turned out to be better the things you planned.” Good advice whether you’re making over a room or your life.

Open Book: This is my blog, and I can write about my friends’ books if I want to. St. Martin’s Press sent me an ARC of Mary Kay Andrews’ Summer Rental, and Hyperion Voice sent me a review copy of Claire Cook’s Best-Staged Plans. You girls have a blast on your book tours. I’ll just continue getting the popcorn off the ceiling and hum “Wanna Have Fun.”

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