It’s April in the south and that means warm weather, riotous blooming flowers, sandals and making sure the air conditioner is checked for the coming months. I grew up in Atlanta where every other street has peach in its name, at least half of the people are known by double names, and everyone knows not only everyone else, but usually all their secrets as well.
The south has grown, and things are changing, but I can recall growing up where everyone knew my parents, my grandparents, in fact, basically my entire extended family. Hard to believe when you think of Atlanta as the huge metropolis it now is, but when I was young it was much smaller. My grandfather had a barbershop in what is now one of the more famous areas of Atlanta. After he retired, he developed dementia and it was a challenge to keep him home and safe.
From time to time he would sneak out, catch the bus and head downtown. Invariably an hour or so later we would get a phone call from a policeman who would politely introduce himself to my father or mother. They would then kindly inform my parents they had found my grandfather wandering the streets, looking for his old shop and not really knowing where he was. My parents would then pile into the car and head to town to retrieve him. This continued for several years until it got too difficult to keep Granddaddy at home. At that point we had no choice but to put him in a nursing home, close to the house, where he was unable to sneak out and we were able to visit.
That was a south that is hard to find these day except in some of the smaller communities on the backroads of the state. Progress has come to Georgia, as it has everywhere, and there is much good to say about that. Still, there was a closeness that came from being able to know instantly who someone’s parents, grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins, etc. were. We were instantly connected in ways that are now lost to us.
I grew up, moved away to Colorado for a dozen years, and then returned. My experiences outside the south opened my eyes to other sections of the country and I learned that small towns were much the same no matter the state. Still, being fifth generation Atlantan, my roots were deep and I finally told my husband I needed to go back home. We returned to Atlanta only to find it so vastly changed and so much bigger, it was only home in my memory. Longing for a slower pace than Atlanta offered any more, we moved away again, this time to a smaller place in Georgia so we could still grow decent tomatoes, know at least some of our neighbors, and easily strike up a friendship with someone while standing in the checkout lane at the grocery store.
This is the background I brought to reading Southern Sass and Killer Cravings by Kate Young. While the story takes place on the fictional island of Peach Cove off the Georgia coast, the relationships, the give and take between residents, the overall knowing of everyone’s business, were familiar themes to me as they were part and parcel of my upbringing. I don’t regret being in a different world now, but I am grateful for the one in which I grew up.
That said, it was nice to see some reminders of it as I read Ms. Young’s book. For what it’s worth, here’s my review.
SOUTHERN SASS AND KILLER CRAVINGS by Kate Young introduces Marygene Brown, one of the Brown sisters who has just returned to the fictional island of Peach Cove, Georgia after escaping an abusive marriage. From the opening pages we are made aware of her sense of guilt for having left her family and for having been foolish enough to fall for a man who turned out to be an abuser. Having finally gotten the courage to leave him, she has moved home, full of shame and regret at having abandoned her family.
The Brown family has owned the Peach Diner in Peach Cove for generations, and Marygene is the gifted baker of the family. She has a talent for taking a good recipe, tasting it and determining what tiny tweak will make it great. However, she isn’t sure how to fit back in to the family dynamics.
As she is just getting started reintegrating herself to home, a regular at the diner drops dead while in the diner. The police almost immediately accuse Marygene’s step-sister Jena, shut down the diner, and eventually arrest her. This is disastrous for the family as well as for the employees of the diner who rely on the diner for their living. Convinced of her sister’s innocence, Marygene sets out to find the true culprit and release her sister from prison.
The murder plot is well developed, with good clues and some excellent red herrings. Still, it was easy for me to determine the murderer almost from the outset. It was still entertaining to read Marygene’s exploits as she moves around town on her investigations, putting herself in more and more danger. Her activity frustrates her former boyfriend and current sheriff deputy Alex as well as her biological father, Eddie, the town in sheriff. Complicating things even further is how she feels toward Eddie, having only learned a few years ago how they are related. Her mother didn’t share the news with Marygene until she was dying. Eddie is trying to be a father to her, keep her safe and be part of her life, and Marygene is not sure she wants any part of that.
The book is filled with interesting side characters. In addition to Alex and Eddie there’s Betsy, Marygene’s long time friend and a waitress at the diner who provides a humorous side to the book, Sam her step-brother, and the town of Peach Cove itself which sounds charming enough to want to move there. An added bonus for those who like new recipes are the recipes appended to the back of the book.
This is the first book in a new series featuring Marygene, her cohorts, and Peach Cove, Georgia. The mystery stands alone so the book can be enjoyed as a stand alone. However, the relationships between secondary characters look to be just beginning and this book seems to be offering the reader a front row seat to see how those relationships grow and change.
My thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing for providing me an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. I will look forward to seeing how Peach Cove and it’s residents grow over the next few books.
There you have it. Check it out and see what you think. As for me, I think I’m going to go out and check on my tomato plants. Happy reading.