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Posts Tagged ‘Savannah’

savedateYou would think that the world of a wedding florist would be all hearts and flowers, sweetness and light. Think again. In Mary Kay Andrews’ new beach-worthy tale Save the Date (HarperCollins, paperback ARC), heroine Cara Kryzik faces a bunch of thorny problems. Her distant military father, the Colonel, is threatening to call in the loan she used to get her business Bloom established in downtown Savannah. He doesn’t understand that Cara, who divorced her cheating hubby a year ago, has had some unexpected expenses, like a broken cooler that ruins a wedding’s worth of flowers and a busted AC that the cranky landlord won’t fix. A couple of planned society weddings will pay the bills, if they aren’t derailed by a controlling MOB (mother of the bride) or a silver-tongued rival florist trying to ruin her reputation. But why is her best pal and assistant Bert so cranky all of a sudden? Cara feels besieged on all fronts, especially after handsome contractor Jack Finnerty dognaps her beloved pooch Poppy, mistaking her for the lookalike goldendoodle left to him by his ex.

But Andrews’ heroines aren’t ones to wilt in the face of adversity, and Cara’s no exception. She’s good at her job and with people (minus the occasional man), and she’s determined to grow her business, even it means staying up all night perfecting a bouquet or raiding her garden for just the right greenery. And so what if she’s an Army brat who lacks a Southern accent? No one’s going to put Cara in a corner, at least not for long.

Readers may well predict that Cara is headed for a happy ending — and a likely happy ever-after with Jack — but it’s her amusingly bumpy journey that will have them flipping pages. Highlights include a side trip to isolated Cumberland Island to talk a runaway bride down from a tree, the challenge to design an industrial-chic Goth wedding, a satisying show-down with her conniving competitor, and a plot to bamboozle Jack’s harpy of an ex.

Save the Date is one of my favorite MKA books, along with Spring Break, Hissy Fit and the Savannah series, but I am admittedly biased. Mary Kay Andrews, aka Kathy Trocheck, is a longtime friend and supporter of Caroline Cousins. It also happens that Cousin Meg is a wedding florist, both in the CC books and real life, which is how come I know a stargazer lily from lily of the valley and how to green in a centerpiece and wire a boutonniere in an emergency.

vacationersThe Posts are not the Griswolds, whose madcap misadventures are chronicled in the National Lampoon vacation movies. The Posts are much more believable, and so is their two-week summer trip to Mallorca in Emma Straub’s diverting The Vacationers (Penguin, purchased e-book). Still, there are enough misunderstandings, miscommunications and mishaps among family and friends to make this a pleasing comedy of manners, similar to the novels of Elinor Lipman and Jennifer Close.

Franny and Jim are supposed to be celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary, but Jim recently lost his job as a magazine editor due to an indiscretion that may yet cost him his marriage. Franny, a travel and food writer, hasn’t decided yet, as she confides in her old friend Charles, visiting with his husband Lawrence. Also on the trip are eldest son Bobby, a Miami real estate agent, and his older girfriend, Carmen, a personal trainer. Daughter Sylvia is getting ready to go off to college and senses the tension between her parents, but what she really wants to do in Mallorca is lose her virginity. Her sexy Spanish tutor holds promise.

And so, during meals around the table, dips in the pool, outings to the beach and games of Scrabble, the likeable characters reveal themselves to readers and one another. Carmen surprises Franny with her willingness to help with meals. Bobby disconcerts his sister when he takes her to a nightclub after a fight with Carmen. Lawrence tries not be jealous of the attention Charles showers on Franny as he anxiously awaits an e-mail from New York. Jim is so jealous of Franny flirting with a retired tennis pro that he enlists the help of a British cyclist to follow her. Sylvia thinks everyone is lame, except for her tutor, whose good looks outweigh his taste in music.

All of the characters are well-observed, but my heart goes out to Sylvia, who is working her way through the Brontes. “She’d read all of Jane Austen that year — Austen was good, but when you told people you liked Pride and Prejudice, they expected you to be all sunshine and wedding veils, and Sylvia preferred the rainy moors. The Brontes weren’t afraid to let someone die of consumption, which Sylvia respected.”

 

 

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I picked up Katie Crouch’s YA novel The Magnolia League thinking it sounded something like last year’s Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. Forget that.

Despite a similarity in plot — motherless girls whisked away to genteel Savannah — Hoffman’s coming-of-age tale is sweetly conventional. Not so with Crouch’s spicy story, in which 16-year-old Alexandra Lee lands among the mean Magnolias and discovers “nothing in Savannah is what it seems.”

Wicked fun ensues as dreadlocked Alex, raised on an organic farm commune in California, is taken in hand by her formidable grandmother after her bohemian mother Louise is killed in a car accident. Grandmother Lee heads the elite Magnolia League and immediately deputizes two of its younger members, the impossibly privileged and pretty Hayes and Madison, to transform Alex into a designer-clad debutante so she can assume her rightful place in society.

Alex is an uneasy Cinderella, comfortable in her vintage T-shirts, aghast at her new friends’ consumerism, longing for the boyfriend she left behind who seems to have forgotten her. She finds a pal in Dexter, another high school outsider who doesn’t care about the Magnolias, but she’s still impressed by Hayes’ handsome prepster brother. She’s curious, too, as to why her grandmother keeps her mom’s girlhood room locked and warns her to stay away from Dr. Sam Buzzard and his family, who appear to have a strange hold on the Magnolias. Can you say hoo-doo?

Alex is both fascinated and repelled as she learns more of the old African rituals and potions. Suspense builds as the annual debutante ball approaches. Will Alex accept her “destiny”? It’s no mistake that “That Old Black Magic” (Savannah’s Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics) is playing in the background as Crouch adroitly sets the stage for a sequel. Can’t wait.

In such previous books as Garden Spells and The Girl Who Chased the Moon, Sarah Addison Allen has captivated with her own brand of dreamy Southern magical realism.  She’s a kinder, gentler Alice Hoffman, so her tales are not as dark nor deep.

The Peach Keeper, set in a North Carolina mountain town, offers family rivalries, secrets, superstitions and an actual skeleton that appears when old peach tree is uprooted during the renovation of the old Jackson family mansion, The Blue Ridge Madame, into a ritzy inn.

 Willa Jackson, who has returned to her hometown after a disappointing decade, runs a small sporting goods/coffee shop catering to out-of-town hikers. Paxton Osgood, whose family ascended into society after scandal befell the Jacksons, is overseeing the opening of the Madam with the same poise and efficiency with which she runs the local women’s club founded by hers and Willia’s grandmothers.

 Both old ladies reside in the same senior home, but Willa’s grandmother Georgie has slipped into senility. Paxton’s grandmother remains sharp as a tack but keeps secrets as well, especially as regards Tucker Devlin, the traveling salesman who long ago charmed her, Georgie and every other young woman in town.

Paxton and Willa have their own romantic troubles. Paxton believes her love for her handsome best  friend is unrequited, while Willa won’t admit her attraction to Paxton’s twin brother, in town for the gala opening. Oh, what fools these mortals be! Can’t they feel the magic stirring in the shadows, smell the scent of smoke and peaches?

Allen displays her usual light touch. The story’s not much in the way of suprises, but the resolution should please readers. My favorite scene remains one midway through when Willa rescues an unusually drunk Paxton from some local thugs, and the two begin to sift through years of misunderstanding on both sides.

Open Book: I read a digital advance of The Magnolia League (Little, Brown) through NetGalley. I’m probably going to buy a copy to go with my other Katie Crouch books, Girls in Trucks and Men and Dogs, both set in the South Carolina lowcountry. Crouch has family on Edisto Island, as do I, and really knows the local color. I bought my copy of Sarah Addison Allen’s The Peach Keeper (Bantam).

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