Sweet Tea and Sympathy
(Book #1 of Southern Eclectic)
By Molly Harper
Simon and Schuster | Gallery Books
November 21, 2017
Reviewed on Trade Paperback e-book/Trade Paperback/audio
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
Beloved author Molly Harper launches a brand-new contemporary romance series, Southern Eclectic, with this story of a big-city party planner who finds true love in a small Georgia town.
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? http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Sweet-Tea-and-Sympathy/Molly-Harper/Southern-Eclectic/9781501151224
I always love Molly Harper’s characters, especially the characters in her Half Moon Hollow series. And, I am eager to read any of her releases. Molly offers snark with southern hospitality.
And this story goes south to Georgia. As a New Englander of NY descent, the geographical limitations of the south elude me and while fascinating and appealing the cuisine is 99% stuff I cannot eat. I am aware the south is not all cotillions, church, rednecks and deep fried twinkies. But here we get all of the above except for cotillion.
We get a stereotypical south here, complete with those deep fried almost-anything treats.
We also get a stereotype of the big city girl who doesn’t know enough not to wear Manolos on gravel.
The beginning of the book didn’t attract me to the story: I didn’t entirely believe the premise that someone who was about to get a promotion would get fired because a client demanded a particular caterer whose choice to sneakily ignore precise instructions result in disaster. And, although the premise of the funeral home and bait shop is funny, I did not believe operation of the family business in Georgia.
I did like the cousins in the book, and the hottie love interest with the tragic past. The confused feelings of each character is interesting and believable given the situations of the characters. I could see each character dressed in their outfits – this COULD make a great TV series. I also liked the way family is held central to the story in a very tangible way.
I also like the way Margot discovers her place in the town where her father’s family lives, as well as the culture of the American South. A lot of the book talks about food: particularly deep fried food, sweet tea, pork products, and a little moonshine. Her family honestly want to get to know her and they need her expertise to save the town.
I didn’t warm up to the main character, Margot, at the beginning – she seemed petulant and childish, and citified inflexible. I just didn’t get some of the family members or their relationships to each other, although I had an Aunt Tootie too.
By the end of the story the Margot does change and become much nicer so she was tolerable.
There is a wee bit of supernatural stuff only briefly mentioned, maybe it is being held in abeyance for another book in the series.
While I liked the book, and feel it is likely I will continue with the series, it is not my favorite of her stories. The Half-Moon Hollow series hit the ground running whereas this feels like it is still warming-up.