Small Towns and B&B’s Are A Perfect Combination

Years ago I took a business trip to Warner Robins Air Force Base. Not wanting to stay in a conventional hotel, I decided to find a bed and breakfast inn for a few nights and happened upon one in a nearby small town. I guess you might say that began my love affair with bed and breakfasts. The house itself was a gorgeous three story Greek Revival, built with the same plans that had been used for the Georgia governor’s mansion that was destroyed by a tornado in 1975. The woman who owned it was one of the most delightful people I”ve met staying in B&B’s over the years, and my stay was both gracious and relaxing. Even though that was over ten years ago, I still have fond memories of that stay. That stay inspired one of my latest  reads, Peach Clobbered by Anna Gerrard. For my review, read on.

PEACH CLOBBERED by Anna Gerrard takes place in the fictional town of Cymbelline and is filled with small tourist friendly shops and an atmosphere that evokes everything you’ve heard about the friendly, small town south. The protagonist, Nina (pronounced Nine-Ah) Fleet, has come to town to visit, fallen in love with it and bought the Queen Anne style house. Although initially turned down in her request to turn it into a B&B, the sudden need for a place to house a contingent of nuns who are being displaced turns that around. In true small-town fashion, when it benefits the mayor or perhaps her view of the town, the red-tape is miraculously run through in record time and Nina opens her brand new B&B.

Nothing is that simple, though. Although Nina bought the house from the estate of its former resident, a nephew has now turned up with a letter saying the owner intended to leave the house to him and is threatening to sue for ownership. He further informs Nina he has talked with an attorney who says he has a good case. Resolution of this issue is high on Nina’s list of priorities, but first she has to accompany the nuns as they plan a picket march downtown.

Seems the nuns are being forced off their properties by the real estate developer who owned the property where their convent was located, forcing them to close their cheese making business and move from the area. This isn’t the first time the developer has engaged in a less-than upstanding real estate deal, and he is one of the less popular people in town. The nuns are picketing his office for his unfair practices while Nina also learns of another group of home owners who were cheated out of their property by this same developer.

The heat gets to the nuns quickly and they pause in their march to hydrate. Nina joins one of the nuns on a nearby bench while the rest of them scatter in various directions to accomplish different tasks. Before anyone returns, Nina is approached by a strange woman declaring “he” is dead in the alley. At first Nina thinks the “he” is the nephew who has been moonlighting as a penguin for the local ice cream shop and the injured man is wearing the penguin suit. Once the head is removed it becomes apparent that instead of the nephew, the injured man is the real estate developer.

Things escalate from that point. The victim dies, the nephew talks Nina into letting him move into the tower room of her house because his life is being threatened, the nuns explore the delights of living in the town as opposed to their convent and secrets are uncovered in the house. The activity takes place at a good pace, pulling you through the book quickly. It’s an easy book to read, fairly light and fluffy, at least for a murder, and the reader can enjoy a few hours of reading that is entertaining without being demanding.

The book is a good example of a cozy, “beach read” being easy to put down and pick up all while keeping the story and characters straight. I read it in a couple of days, and that was putting it down on numerous occasions to do other things. It was also easy to solve in terms of who was the murderer. The town of Cymballine will make you want to schedule a trip to Georgia, sampling some of the peach cobbler and making new friends along the way. It also reads as the first in a new cozy mystery, so if you enjoy this trip to the friendly sun-drenched south you will want to come back again and again to learn what Nina and her friends are up to next. Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy of this novel in exchange for an unbiased review.

So, for anyone who wants to spend some time in an uncomplicated version of small-town south, complete with friendly people and lovely treats like peach cobbler, this may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. I particularly enjoyed the chance to sit back and enjoy the small town south of my memory, especially without having to experience the hot and humid weather with which it is occasionally blessed (or cursed, depending on your preference). No matter where you decide to visit, take along a book in case you get some time to sit and enjoy a park or square. If not, when you are relaxing from a day of sightseeing you’ll have something to enjoy back in your B&B room (or hotel if you prefer). Happy reading.