Thursday, July 8, 2010

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.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Phyl's 5 Phaves from June

I discovered Pamela Morsi in May. I've begun a glom, so 2 of the titles below should come as no surprise.

5. The Time Weaver by Shana Abé. At least one review I read about this book described it as "lyrical." I think that's a good word to use--there's a beauty to the descriptions in this book that draws you in. Plus the way it is constructed reminds me of a symphony. There are several parts, all quite different, that come together to make a whole. Abé's latest book is the 5th title in her dragon series. In this book, Honor Carlisle is a dragon who cannot shift, but instead finds herself going back and forth through time. Her gift is that of "weaving" through time. She is drawn again and again to Prince Alexandru of the Zaharen dragons and their relationship is seen as threatening by the dragons in England. This book uses three different narrative voices: 1st person for Honor, 3rd person POV for scenes involving Alexandru, Lia, and Zane, and an omniscient voice to set the stage. Lia and Zane had their story told in The Dream Thief and figure prominently in this book. I would not recommend reading this without having read the previous 4 books. But if you enjoyed those, I'm sure you will like this one as much as I did. It's not a conventional romance, but it is romantic, has a fascinating setting, and is beautifully written.

4. Courting Miss Hattie by Pamela Morsi. After I raved about Simple Jess a couple of weeks ago, Hilcia suggested I try this one as well. I'm so glad I did. This is a wonderful friends-to-lovers story set in turn of the (20th) century Arkansas. Miss Hattie is a spinster farmer and her long-time sharecropper Reed Tyler has become her good friend over the years. Hattie longs to be married and have a family, but she's not very attractive and her prospects are few. When a widowed farmer with 7 children begins to court Hattie, Reed finds himself growing jealous. But Reed is already engaged to be married and he is too honorable to break it off. This is another engrossing story by Morsi with vibrant characters, including the secondary characters. I found this to be extremely emotional as Hattie deals with her hopes and dreams. Just a wonderful book.

3. Fade to Midnight by Shannon McKenna. This was the long-awaited conclusion to the McCloud brothers series as at last we learn what happened to Kevin and his story is told. This was trademark McKenna--suspenseful, fast-paced, and sexy. The villains are over-the-top, there's lots of high-tech gadgetry, and the McCloud brothers' trademark testosterone-fueled actions carry the story. Edie is a great heroine who has a unique gift and artistic talent that actually ends up leading the brothers back together again. Definitely campy is spots, there is even a scene with all of the characters from past books either in the room or mentioned (along with all of their offspring) which momentarily reminded me of Mary Balogh's Huxtables or Bedwyns. But then a bomb (or something) was discovered and the moment ended. Great fun if you're a fan of McKenna. But I'd read the earlier books first. And while all of the McClouds are now accounted for, there was still a new character who will be the next hero. He sounds fun. Can't wait for that one.

2. Silent Scream by Karen Rose. I got to meet Rose at the RT booksigning in April and tell her how much I like her books. What a nice lady. It's hard to believe that someone who seems so nice and benign can dream up such creepy villains. But she can and does. Then she writes them into the tightest plots that are out there and meticulously crafts these books that give equal attention to the mystery and the romantic relationship. In this book, detective Olivia Sutherland reunites with fireman David Hunter--someone she had a very brief, but intense, encounter with once before. This book is also part of a series, but it does stand on its own very well.

1. Simple Jess by Pamela Morsi was one of those books that so filled my head that it took me awhile to get interested in another book after I finished it. Then I had to talk about it. So I did.