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Monday, March 25, 2013

McBride's Books Similar, But Still Magical

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Toni Ashton never planned to return to Blue Hills, the small Missouri town where her family has been making  wine for over 100 years.  Not permanently anyway.  The 46-year-old has worked hard to make a successful life for herself in St. Louis.  With a flourishing wedding planning business and a relationship that could produce an engagement ring any day now, Toni's content in the city.  But when her mother, the indomitable Evie Ashton, suffers a devastating stroke, Toni knows she has no choice—she must go home.  

Shocked at the shabby state of her mother's property, Toni begins digging through the clutter, intent on finding something—anything—to help her understand the enigmatic woman who gave birth to her.  The two have never really seen eye-to-eye and Toni's determined to find out why.  As her mother lays comatose in a nearby hospital, Toni slowly sifts through Evie's debris, uncovering long-buried mysteries that could change the course of her life forever.  When Toni slips on the little black dress Evie was wearing when she had her stroke, she knows she's found the key to unlocking the secrets of the past, but does she dare confront the visions it's showing her of her own future?  Especially when they feature cozy scenes between her and the man who's trying to take over her family's vineyard?  Opening up the scars of the past is one thing, but toying with the perfect future Toni's so painstakingly built for herself is quite another.  

Can Toni trust the dress' peculiar magic to reveal the truth about her family's past?  It's powerful enough to shatter hearts, but can it mend them, too?  Toni's about to find out ...

After reading—and loving—Susan McBride's The Truth About Love & Lightning, I rushed over to my library's website to check out everything the author had ever written.  Neither her Cougar Club or The Debs series sounded like my kind of thing, but Little Black Dress sure did.  I wanted another atmospheric contemporary tale sprinkled with magic and I got it with this older novel.  True, the story's quite similar to Love & Lightning—a little too similar, in fact—but it's just as engaging.  The complex characters spoke to me, the vineyard setting enchanted me and the magical elements of the story tickled my imagination.  I enjoyed Little Black Dress for the same reasons I liked McBride's newest—it's a warm, magical read that's both sweet and satisfying.  Would I have liked a teensy bit more originality?  Sure, but overall, I'm not complaining.  I dig McBride's writing and will be keeping a lookout for more winsome books from this delightful, new-to-me author.   

(Readalikes:  Reminds me a lot of The Truth About Love & Lightning by Susan McBride and a little of both The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares and The Best Man by Kristan Higgins)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG-13 for language (no F-bombs) and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find 


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