The Bikini Car Wash / Pamela Morsi. 2010
During May and June I read--and loved--three popular historicals by Pamela Morsi. Then I discovered she had a new book out which was released just over a week ago. I managed to be first in line at the library for it. Technically, this is probably more "chick lit" than romance, although there's a strong romantic relationship featured in the book. Normally I avoid this kind of book, but I was curious to see what Morsi's current writing is like compared to her older books. I dove right in and found myself captivated by this very engaging story.
Andi Wolkowicz leaves her successful corporate career to move back to her small home town. Andi has a mentally disabled twin sister and Andi believes her father needs help caring for her twin, Jelly, now that their mother has passed away. She moves in with them and begins looking for a job. Andi's father is retired from his car wash business and the car wash sits empty in the town's center, which is slowly dying because of the growth of "big box" stores on the edge of town. Andi can't find a job, and she meets two other women who are similarly desperate for jobs. Together they decide to re-open the car wash, and to attract customers they'll do it wearing bikinis. There is a predictable uproar and Andi has to deal with the town's wrath and so much more.
This book takes a funny and poignant look at how what we think we know about others--even those closest to us--is never the whole truth. Andi is blessed with a father who loves her unconditionally. He is prepared to support whatever decision she wants to make regarding her future. When she re-opens his old car wash, he is there to help. And as Andi gets to know her father in a new light, she discovers that there is much she never really knew about either of her parents. At the same time, Andi gets to know Pete Guthrie, the heir to and manager of Guthrie's, a locally-owned grocery store that sits next to the car wash. Pete and Andi had gone to school together, but ran in different circles; now they meet one another as adults and Andi sees that there is more to Pete than she would have imagined. Pete, too, is supportive of Andi's new business and this puts him in direct opposition to his father, a powerful town leader.
Andi deals with the questions about using sex to attract customers. She needs to answer these questions to her own satisfaction not to mention defend herself before the town council when they threaten to close her down. I thought this aspect of the book was particularly well done; the scenes with the town leaders felt realistic as well as humorous.
As is typical of a Morsi book, the secondary characters are just as interesting as the central characters. There are also interludes where we see life through Jelly's POV, and because of her disability that POV is filtered through the unique lens Jelly has on life. Jelly sees things that no one else can see. I loved the way Morsi did this.
Morsi may have moved away from traditional romance with her most recent books, but this is still a winner with terrific characters and a lot of humor. I would think that anyone who enjoys contemporary romance would like this book. And let me add, without giving out any spoilers, if you are a fan of the TV show Law & Order, you absolutely, positively have to read this book. Trust me on this.