Book Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Sweet Tea and Sympathy
A Southern Eclectic Novel #2
Molly Harper
Gallery Books, November 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-5122-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town’s most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

I don’t even know where to begin with this review but let me just say this is one of the funniest, most charming, heartwarming novels I’ve ever read…and it’s Southern fiction and comfort fiction at its best. The whole idea of a high-powered event planner from the big city having to relocate to a backwater town in Georgia is great enough but what really makes it perfect is that Margot doesn’t complain about her misfortune. She knows she has to escape the public relations nightmare from her last event and the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop comes to her rescue at just the right moment.

So here she is in Lake Sackett learning the family business and, unbeknownst to Margot, running a bait shop and comforting the bereaved are just the tip of the iceberg. Her sprawling family (that she hasn’t seen or heard from since she was tiny) are determined to show the prodigal daughter what she’s been missing all these years including the chance to reconnect with her estranged father. Margot is also going to find that the possibility of love can come from the most unlikely places and she’ll even get a chance to use her event planning talents with the Founders’ Festival.

I love this book so much that I’ve rushed right out to get the introductory novella, Save a Truck, Ride a Redneck. I mean, how can I go wrong with a title like that? And do I need to say that Sweet Tea and Sympathy is going on my list of best books read in 2018?

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

Book Reviews: The Fear Artist by Timothy Hallinan, How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner, and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Livia J. Washburn

The Fear Artist
Timothy Hallinan
Soho Crime, July 2012
ISBN No. 978-1616951122
Hardcover

Poke Rafferty’s wife, Rose, has taken their daughter Miaow out of town to visit Rose’s mother.  Poke is left to his own devices and decides to paint the apartment while they are gone. But Poke has a lot of hoops to jump through before he gets the apartment painted.  As he exits the paint store a large man runs into him and lands on top of him. As Poke struggles to get up he sees that the man has been shot.  Before he dies the man whispers three words to Poke.  The words have no meaning to Poke but he soon realizes that other people are very concerned about what the man whispered.  They suspect that Poke has information about something, but he is clueless.

Thai secret agents interrogate Poke, but he has nothing to tell. He is released only to find that his apartment has been ransacked.  Next thing he knows he is accused of murdering the man from the street.  Poke goes into hiding and is determined to discover the identity of the man and the meaning of the whispered message.  This time as Poke searches for answers he has to go it alone.  Fearing for his wife and daughter, he orders them to stay away from Bangkok until he can find a way to dig out of the hole he finds himself in.

Tragic things that happened in the past all come to light as Poke finally goes after the person responsible for not only the death of the man in the street but for many more tragedies. The final confrontation makes for an exciting and terrifying conclusion.

I love the Bangkok series and find it very difficult to pick a favorite.  The characters are strong and the reader will either love them or hate them.  Even though I’ve just finished The Fear Artist, I can’t wait for the next addition to the series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, July 2012.

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How To Party With A Killer Vampire
(A Party Planning Mystery)

Penny Warner
Obsidian, October 2011
ISBN No. 978-0451235015
Mass Market Paperback

Where is the best place to hold a film wrap party for producer Lucas Cruz?  The film is a vampire parody and party planner Presley Parker manages to wheel, deal, and line up a cemetery for the party.  Not everyone would be brave enough to throw a party in a cemetery but Presley thinks it is the ideal location.

The day before the party is to take place Presley runs into a group of young people practicing the art of Parkour.  Parkour includes vaulting, running, jumping and climbing around obstacles and a cemetery offers plenty of obstacles.

Presley warns the group that they are trespassing but this does not seem to bother them at all.  The next morning the body of one of the participants in Parkour is found in the cemetery.  This does not bode well for Presley’s party.  Presley begins her own investigation and soon has plenty of suspects but before she narrows the suspects down more violence occurs.

Presley has a strong and persistent character that drives her to jump into situations that she should leave to the police but she does tend to get to the bottom of the story in her determined manner.  Following the clues, she makes some wrong turns but eventually winds up with the correct answer but not without putting herself in danger.

The characters in the book are fun and make for a fast read.  Each chapter begins with a tip on how to host your own Vampire party.  The book also offers a sneak peek at the next Party Planning Mystery.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, December 2011.

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For Whom the Funeral Bell Tolls
Livia J. Washburn
CreateSpace, February 2012
ISBN No. 978-1470050306
Also available as an ebook in multiple formats

A trip to Key West and a stay at the Brandenton Beach Resort is the latest on Delilah Dickinson Literary Tours.  Fans of Ernest Hemingway were all looking forward to an adventurous vacation but no one, not even Delilah Dickinson, had any idea just how adventurous this trip would turn out to be.

The participants on the tour were a diversified group and some had something more than Hemingway on their mind.  Luke, Delilah’s son-in-law and assistant, comes along on the tour and does his best to help Delilah keep everyone under control.

Walter Harvick who is on the tour alone feels that he knows more about Hemingway than the author knew about himself and does not hesitate to let everyone know that he is an expert.  He even goes so far as to start a fight in “Sloppy Joe’s”, a bar with the same name as the bar that Hemingway was known to frequent.

Delilah found the owner of Brandenton Beach Resort to be an attractive single man and was dividing her time between keeping the tour guests to the schedule, flirting with the new man in her life and keeping Walter out of trouble.

The juggling act was working out pretty well until Doris Horton and Julia Dunn, two widows on the tour, happened to find a body on the beach as they took an early morning stroll.   It would appear that the victim had committed suicide.  The police investigation put a halt to the activities of the tour group but not to Delilah and her curiosity about the death and whether or not it was really a suicide or murder.

Washburn writes an interesting story with some good information about the Key West area.  The characters are interesting and the ending is a surprise.  Readers are sure to enjoy Livia Washburn’s travel agent series.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2012.