By Mary Kay Andrews
“They stood in a small semicircle, facing the Creedmore house. “Jesus, Mary, and Fred,” Tug exclaimed, wiping his sweaty brow with a handkerchief. “Hattie, what have gotten us into?”
I’ve finally read a Mary Kay Andrews book! Yay! I’ve seen her name many a time, and a former co-worker highly recommended her, but I just couldn’t decide which one to start with so I just kept putting it off. When this one came up on NetGalley, it seemed like a sign.
Hattie is a young widow who works with her father-in-law flipping houses. When we first meet her she is struggling to renovate a house in Savannah, her hometown, but it is a disaster and she ends up selling it at a loss. Eager to atone for her bad judgment in buying the house, she jumps on the opportunity of a lifetime to bid on a condemned beach house in foreclosure on nearby Tybee Island. Meanwhile, she has been discovered by a producer for an HGTV or Magnolia type media company who wants to feature her “Saving Savannah” reclaiming and renovating historic houses. Her decrepit beach house is perfect for the show. She is the successful bidder and gets it for a small fraction of the worth of the lot alone.
We follow the likable heroine as she deals with the jealous hostile former owners, the officious local building inspector, falling trees, fire, possible sabotage, a vain male diva of a co-lead, his fan-girls, constantly shrinking impossible deadlines, a tyrant of a network boss, hair, make-up, and wardrobe, and oh yes, that producer.
Everything bubbles along (Ms. Andrews is a talented storyteller) when a dead body is discovered in the property’s septic tank. And not a moment too soon, because the ante needed upping just a bit. From there, we learn about the victim, her family, some shocking history, many secrets, and meet the almost retired detective who investigates the 17-year-old murder with Hattie’s help.
A few things bothered me. Hattie loses all of her savings on her failed project because she didn’t get the house inspected first. Then she signs a contract with the network without a lawyer looking over it. It did not give me a good first impression of an essentially admirable character. Not to mention the guy she is initially attracted to doesn’t speak well for her taste or judgment either. There were other inconsistencies in the character building of two “baddies” as well and the timeline in a chain of events at the end, but it did not distract too much. The main thing, though, was this: Hattie wins the condemned property with a less than $30,000 bid. We are told the lot alone is worth at least half a million dollars. Yet the former owner offers her only $50,000 to get it back, and her rich father-in-law is appalled she spent $30,000 on it and wants her to sell it back to him “for a handsome profit.” What? I kept thinking “What am I missing? Is it me?”**Spoiler**She ends up selling it for almost a million, and should and would have probably gotten more if not for that pesky murder. **End Spoiler**
The ending was a little abrupt. I would have liked more closure for her love life, her pawned engagement ring, the victim’s family, her relationship with her father, and the outcome of the TV show we invested so much time in filming. I enjoyed the whodunit aspect, though once you rule out the obvious suspects, it could have only been one person.
My picky faultfinding aside, Homewreckers is a light fun read. It is mostly a mystery with a splash of chick-lit, and of course a bit of a romance. It doesn’t go very deep, and nothing truly upsetting or emotional happens, and that’s OK. Ms. Andrews keeps things moving with both the mystery and putting us behind the scenes of a challenging home renovation. Some nice entertaining banter, a lot of action and crises, southern charm, and lots of characters we are given good reason to root both for and against made this an enjoyable read. And one more thing. I liked that the chapters had titles. The first chapter, where the president and producer of the media company, Mo, meets Hattie by falling through the rotting floor on top of her is called “Do-Drop-In”. Definitely chuckled. I will certainly keep Mary Kay Andrews at the front of my back burner of TBRs in the future. **3 1/2 stars**
Thank-You to Net Galley and St. Martins Press for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
April 10, 2022