The Cul de Sac War
Let me say this right up front. I’m not fond of practical jokes. I don’t see the humor in going out of your way to annoy someone, and it’s not a style of humor that I enjoy. But if you like pranks and love watching inventiveness play out between two worthy opponents, The Cul-de-Sac War may be the book for you.
Bree Leake is a free spirit flitting from job-to-job, looking for the right vocation. Now, she is playing a spirit – a faery, in fact – in a production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Although her mint green face paint works perfectly, she is experiencing a disastrous malfunction of costume wings only minutes before she must appear on stage and recite her one line. While running to find the seamstress for a repair, she runs (literally) into Chip who owns his own construction company and is very handy with duct tape. Banter, instant attraction, and a dash for the tape ensue, and Bree reaches the stage just in time, wings intact. Battling a range of emotions about her rescuer, Bree looks over the audience from her place on stage and spots Chip… seated beside a lovely companion.
Chip McBride was raised in the construction business run by his father but chafes against his father’s firm business rules. Wanting more freedom and fun in design and reconstruction, Chip created Redpoint Construction three weeks earlier and stepped out on his own. He’s got a steady girlfriend on whom he can depend for support and devotion, and an overly large dog named Russell whose positive attributes are slobber and affection. On the day Chip moves into a 1906 gingerbread fixer-upper house, the truck hauling his dumpster sinks into wet ground and crushes a water pipe, leaving his new neighbor without water. His new neighbor happens to be Bree.
Living with no running water, enduring Russell’s overzealous admiration, and her housemate’s newfound fascination with the minimalist lifestyle – all of which she blames on Chip – Bree insists that Chip install an invisible fence to keep Russell away. That project sets off a humorous series of events that result in Chip and Bree vying to annoy each other at every turn.
Online vendors classify this as a Christian Romance, but there is little God-talk or spiritual message. Both Chip and Bree’s family attend church and prayer is mentioned in passing. The author does present a valuable life lesson here. Practical jokes and pranks can escalate from simply annoying to causing harmful consequences in a heartbeat. In real life, it’s not unusual to hear a sorrowful prankster say after a prank has gone awry… ‘It was a joke. I didn’t mean that to happen.’ Bree learns this truth about unintended consequences all too well.
The writing is fast-paced to keep up with Bree’s energy and the energy of everyone around her – Chip working long hours, her best friend with four kids, and her housemate who works sewing costumes while adopting minimalism. The author’s words have a delightful rhythm, and she chooses those words carefully to provide detailed, insightful descriptions resulting in quick, powerful images of the characters and the setting. There’s a smile on almost every page from the foibles of characters and action. But she allows genuine sadness to surface when the characters face truly distressing events.
One thing that bothered me throughout the novel was the author’s handling of the dog’s role in the story. No matter the reason for Bree’s first encounter with Russell – a Slim Jim in this case – a large dog charged her and knocked her down. I saw the humor in the Slim Jim, but the occurrence itself was no laughing matter. Chip is sorry and installs the electric fence, but his reaction leans toward the dog’s behavior being Bree’s fault in some way. Even after Russell continues to “greet” Bree by charging her car and pawing at the car’s window, Chip protests about moving the electric fence closer to his house. Bree should understand the dog needs room to run. Many readers may find humor in the situation; I felt Bree should have been considering legal action.
Except for my concerns about Russell’s behavior and Chip’s reaction, I enjoyed the love story and the eventual happy ending. If pranks, quirky characters, and a sweet romance are your style, The Cul-de-Sac-War is a light read filled with humor, something we all can use while facing the challenges of life.