The Dixie Belle's Guide to Love
I swear an oath on the collected works of the late, great Lewis Grizzard that the best humor in the United States comes from the South. That’s why, when I saw this book on the list of ones to be reviewed, I asked for it. I was hoping for something rather like a book equivalent of Designing Women. Humor with lots of lovable, eccentric characters who nevertheless are recognizable and real. I did get some good one-liners, but the characters did not come alive for me and a story didn’t engage me until I was well into the book.
Rita Stark lives in Hellon, Tennessee where she operates the Pig Rib Palace. She’s a former beauty queen, an older woman (she has a grown daughter) whose ex-husband Pernel has gone off to explore his inner RuPaul. Rita’s friends Cozie and Jillie worry about her. She pretty much stays in the cramped apartment above the Pig Rib Palace which has become pretty dumpy, and is all but a recluse. Clearly, Rita needs a life, so Jillie asks her brother William “Wild Billy” West to come by and renovate the Palace and get reaquainted with Rita.
Billy and Rita are both battered in life. He got tagged with the name Wild Billy as a young man and has grown to hate it, while Rita who has been burned by life is careful with her heart. But there is an attraction between the two of them and as the story progresses Billy begins to think of making his peace with Hellon, Tennessee and maybe even settling down, while Rita gets back some of her old-time beauty queen sass and self confidence.
It took more than one try to get into this book, so it gets one bad mark for being difficult to get into. Once past that initial hurdle, things began to move along, but for some reason the story was never truly engaging. It simmered in my mind but never caught fire. As for the characters, I really, really wanted to like them, but they remained elusive. I couldn’t even picture them in my mind, let alone the Pig Rib Palace.
It may just be me. Perhaps my expectations were pitched too high, but I simply never connected with this book. Others who like Southern humor may find The Dixie Belle’s Guide to Love more enjoyable, but for me it remains elusive.