reviewed by Gail Byrd
Mary Kay Andrews has done it again…produced a feel-good book with just the right mix of tension, mystery, and human drama to satisfy almost any reader. It’s all in The Homewreckers, her latest book, written with the backdrop of beautiful Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia.
These places definitely take a back seat to the story; but provide just enough backdrop to share a bit of the relaxed pace of one of the US’s most beautiful cities and a hint of what it might be like to have a beach house overlooking the back river on Tybee Island.
Hattie Kavanaugh, the central character, works rehabilitating old houses, which are abundant in Savannah, and struggling with grieving for her husband, killed 5 years ago in an accident. When the story opens she has just suffered an enormous financial loss on the house she thought she could rehab. She is almost overcome by this stinging failure, plus trying to decide how she’s going to keep from losing everything she has when Hollywood comes calling in the form of Mo Lopez, a producer who has the idea for a new reality TV series called Saving Savannah. Of course, by the time all the contracts have been signed it’s turned into a show called The Homewreckers, starring Hattie and a fancy California designer named Trae. Your imagination can supply the sparks that will fly from that combination.
Secondary characters who round out the story and fill Hattie’s world include Tug, her father-in-law and owner of the reconstruction company, Cass, her best friend since high school who is her construction foreperson, Zenobia, Cass’s mother and the business manager, plus a host of Savannah people who are so real you have no problem picturing yourself walking past them as you stroll through one of Savannah’s beautiful squares. There also is the family who let the house fall into disrepair and are several years in arrears on their taxes. They feel the house was stolen from them by Hattie, who offered the highest bid when it was sold at auction. Their resentment is powerful and their behavior borders on criminal, but Hattie is determined to ignore them other than to reply she bought the house legally and is improving it.
The mystery itself is well plotted, a seven-year-old cold case that involved the disappearance of Lanier, Hattie’s favorite English teacher in high school. People who were around at the time are divided, with some of them believing she ran off and left her child and husband, others believing she was murdered. The police investigation was cursory, and now there is a new detective, retired from Atlanta, who picks up the threads and starts his own investigation. Questions abound. Was she the sainted teacher helping all her girls through times of troubles as some remember? Or was she the opposite, the woman who ran around on her husband, possibly with a football player from the husband’s football team? Would she really abandon her four year old child? She’ll have to be found to answer these questions.
As Hattie and her crew work late into the night trying to complete the job on the network’s time frame, the Tybee detective interviews people who were around at the time of Lanier’s disappearance. He finds the Creedmore family, former owners of the house, difficult to pin down and reluctant to discuss anything. The same exists for Lanier’s husband who is filled with anger because he blames Lanier’s disappearance for his being fired as the head coach of the boy’s private school.
Finally, there is the love triangle that forms between Hattie, Trae, and Mo. At outset, neither man appears to be headed in that direction. Trae has his exclusive California lifestyle and is completely wrapped up in his own success and future. Mo is always running from place to place, depending on where his current project is being filmed, but he, too, enjoys his California life. Hattie’s entire life is wrapped up in Savannah, could she leave it? Still, an unlikely interest in Hattie seems to develop in both men, as the reader has an opportunity to see the real man behind the public persona. Andrews resolves this triangle in a satisfying way while still leaving room for speculation about the future.
The book is an easy read, and holds the reader’s attention throughout. Pacing is excellent and whether the reader is interested in beach reading where they can read in spurts or someone who is looking to read straight through, this is a book to consider. My thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an advance copy for this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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