Over the Moon at the Big Lizard Diner
Grade : B

Occasionally I like to dip into Women’s Fiction, where the stories have sharper depictions of today’s real problems and less fairy tale-like resolutions than straight contemporary romances. Lisa Wingate’s Over the Moon at the Big Lizard Diner was an angst-filled read, but warmth and great comic relief tempered the angst.

Single mother Lindsey is a basket case. Her ex-husband, who ignored their eight-year-old daughter Sydney for her entire life, now decides to take custody of her for the summer. In Mexico. Far, far away from Denver where Lindsey and Sydney live. Sydney is ecstatic for the chance to make a relationship with her father; Lindsey is miserable to be separated from her daughter for the first time since her birth.

Unable to concentrate on her paleontology job, Lindsey accepts her sister Laura’s offer to visit her in Texas. Laura tells Lindsey about the Jubilee Ranch, an unusual combination of a working ranch and a therapy camp that mixes psychology with working with horses. The Jubilee Ranch is also a big attraction in the area for the dinosaur tracks on its property. Two weeks ago, someone stole the dinosaur tracks, chiseling them out of the riverbed and driving away with them. Intrigued, Lindsey eagerly agrees to use her specialized knowledge to help a writer and the local sheriff with the theft. Not so eagerly, she agrees to pretend to be a therapy camp patient in order to sleuth around the Jubilee Ranch.

On the way to the ranch, Lindsey rescues a stray sheepdog from a gang of cowboys. She especially tangles with the head cowboy who was considering shooting the dog for apparently chasing cattle into a barbed wire fence. Lindsey again runs into the head cowboy at the Jubilee Ranch and finds out he works there. Zach explains he had only wanted to catch the dog, not shoot it, because it has been causing troubles for everyone in the area. Despite Lindsey looking exhausted, wearing grubby clothes, and posing as a therapy patient, Zach starts to flirt with her, which Lindsey returns with enthusiasm.

Told from the first person point of view of Lindsey, we find out she is a control freak who believes she has lost control of her life. She’s desperately unhappy because of her separation from her daughter. She’s worried that her ex-husband isn’t paying any attention to Sydney while in Mexico. Her budding romance with Zach thrills her, but she fears he only thinks it is a vacation fling. After her divorce, Lindsey avoided dating because she didn’t want to be rejected again as her husband rejected her.

Zach is an appealing nice guy. Personally, I’m not fond of cowboy heroes due to the smell of cattle, sweat, and leather that obviously comes with them, but Zach’s intelligence, sensitivity, and gentlemanly nature got me sighing for the man. He is rather stubborn, almost closed-minded in his opinions, when he turns out to be right only half the time, but he still wins my heart for telling Lindsey she’s good-looking even though she was wearing ratty Birkenstocks and looking like death warmed over.

We have the mystery of the missing dinosaur tracks, the comic antics of the exasperating but irrepressible Mr. Grits, the sheepdog, and the romance developing between Zach and Lindsey, but mainly Over the Moon is about Lindsey’s emotional struggles. Readers might find her struggles wearying, but I appreciate that she did not easily and or quickly overcome them. Lindsey’s trust was shattered when her husband abandoned her after she refused to give up her pregnancy. Ever since then, she has avoided taking any chances in life and love, devoting herself wholly to the upbringing of her daughter, a life questioned when her daughter spends time with her father and Zach shows an interest in her. For every step in courage that she takes, supplied with support from her family, her friends, Zach, and her own pep talks, fear drags her two steps back. I found this pattern to be consistently realistic.

Not so convincing as Lindsey’s loss of trust was her loss of faith. Lindsey has family and friends enough not to lose faith in her fellow humans over a jerk of a husband’s abandonment. Zach also didn’t endear himself to me for keeping a Big Secret from Lindsey, which impeded his relationship with her, and when revealed, didn’t seem necessary at all even to hide from her.

But those detractions aside, I enjoyed the story of Lindsey’s struggles to gain courage and rooted for her to find happiness with Zach. Wingate’s writing is very good and imbued with warmth. Over the Moon should please fans of Women’s Fiction and any reader interested in dipping into the genre and looking for one with an upbeat and satisfying ending.

Reviewed by Jeanne W
Grade : B
Book Type: Women's Fiction

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : March 3, 2006

Publication Date: 2005

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