My extended family recently went on a quiet vacation to historic Virginia, and I chose a couple of light novels to read during the week.
Gods in Alabama, by Joshilyn Jackson
This was my second title by Jackson. I reviewed The Almost Sisters here. Gods in Alabama was Jackson’s first big hit, and a librarian friend had recommended it for me a couple of years ago.
Arlene Fleet is busy living in Chicago, working hard as a graduate assistant and happily dating an African-American man. In other words, she is trying her best to completely reject her white, Southern Baptist upbringing. Just as she thinks she has succeeded in leaving Alabama behind, one of the strangest girls from high school shows up at her door, hoping to involve Arlene in her attempt to cleanse her past and achieve perfect, holistic, self-actualization. Zany as this may sound, Arlene had serious reasons to leave home, and her classmate is veering dangerously close to uncovering a dark secret. Eventually, Arlene realizes that she has to go home, boyfriend in tow, to face her mentally-ill mother, her severe, overbearing aunt, and her beautiful, angelic cousin. Will her boyfriend still marry her if she’s headed to prison?
This book was far darker and grittier than The Almost Sisters. One of the major themes of the book requires some fairly graphic language and sexual content, so I spent some of the time feeling uncomfortable. On the other hand, Jackson sends the plot through so many twists and turns that the reader is constantly questioning her assumptions. Absolutely a page-turner, and the conclusion was not exactly what I was expecting.
The Saturday Night Supper Club, by Carla Laureano
Rachel Bishop was too busy working as the star chef of a hot new Denver restaurant to pay attention when a friend told her that an article about her was going viral. Social media lit up over Alex Kanin’s essay, but Rachel figured it would all fizzle away if she ignored it and dealt instead with staffing issues and tomorrow night’s menu. When she walked out of the restaurant into a reporter’s microphone, she wasn’t prepared, and she said enough to be clipped and reworked into a very damaging statement. Before long, there was a social media movement against her, and her partners decided that the best way to save their shirts was to buy her out of her investment in the restaurant. Rachel went from rising star to unemployed in a day.
Alex had had one big hit book, but the contract on his next book was completely unfilled— and his agent was getting nervous. He kept on writing, mostly articles for good magazines, but the ideas he had for the book just wouldn’t come together. He was glad that his article about the anonymous chef had been such a success until someone told him that he had single-handedly destroyed her life. How could he make it up to her?
Good friends, food trucks, family, and the wealthy foodie scene in Denver keep this light romance moving. There is talk of faith and healing troubled pasts, but nothing gets too heavy or, actually, resolved in that arena. Readers who enjoy the writing process (check) or the food scene (check) will have fun with this novel, the first of a series.
Disclaimer: I read library copies of both of these novels. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.