There is something to be said for life in the American South. Eccentric old women, a laid-back lifestyle, gossiping without remorse or embarrassment, lemonade, flowers, old houses – I could go on and on. Sherryl Woods brings all of this to life in Amazing Gracie.
Gracie is used to excellence in her work. She resigns as manager of a luxury hotel chain when new management decides that bottom-line is more important than certain standards. Although she made the decision to quit after many weeks of thought, she never planned what she would do afterward, and ends up heading to Seagull Point, Virginia on a whim, due to a childhood memory she has of the place. Her goal is to regroup and relax over the summer, but falls immediately in love with an old Victorian house and realizes that it would make a perfect bed and breakfast – just the kind of thing she would like to take on. Of course, purchasing that particular mansion turns out to be more of a challenge than she planned.
Kevin is taking a break from his normal job as an estate lawyer by passing time as a good old boy. He plans to do nothing more than relax in his favorite hammock, and try to avoid his numerous cousins (for whom he is responsible since his uncle left him executor of his will). He is also responsible for an old Victorian house that belongs to his great aunt Delia. Aunt Delia was having trouble keeping up the place, so Kevin moved her in with him – an arrangement that has worked out well for both. She wasn’t ready to sell the house in the past, and when Gracie approaches Kevin with an offer, he automatically refuses. Gracie, being a woman who can not back down from a good fight, vows to make him change his mind, and Amazing Gracie takes off from there.
I love stories involving two very strong-willed people that butt heads, compromise, and find a way to get along without either of them giving up too much of themselves. Kevin and Gracie are two well-rounded people with some insecurities – both of the commitment kind – and manage delightfully to work things out. What happens to the house? Suffice it to say Aunt Delia, with the help of some of her women friends, manages to create a solution that is beneficial to everybody.
I had one minor problem with the story. Three elderly women matchmaking is one thing, but when Gracie starts matchmaking too, the story becomes a bit clunky and heavy-handed. Nothing can work out that perfectly, especially in a Contemporary. Other than that, I found Amazing Gracie to be a not-too-serious visit to a typical Southern small town with some pretty delightful characters. And don’t you just love a book where the heroine actually eats?