Moonlighting in Vermont by Kate George
Once upon a time, I lived in Vermont. I loved picking fresh blackberries in my backyard on a summer morning. I loved growing my organic garden. I loved going into the general store and choosing penny candy out of a jar and putting it on my "tab." I loved antiquing in an old barn, snowshoeing on fresh snow, and driving without fear of being run off the road by an enraged madman talking on a cell phone. Yes, I have very fond memories of Vermont and a distinct longing to move back there someday, preferably in a little cottage with a couple of wiener dogs.
Kate George's novel was wonderful for many reasons. One was the setting, of course. I loved hearing about my old favorite places in the "Upper Valley"--which is the area around Hanover, NH, where Dartmouth is located. The lifestyle there is a breath of fresh air, and I do mean that literally. The heroine Bree lives on a "farm" taking care of chickens, horses, dogs, cats, etc. She mucks about in mud and crap and wears hiking boots. The author's obvious love of animals is never more apparent than when she is describing Bree's menagerie of dogs, all with their own adorable personalities, heaping love and affection on the heroine. Well, I'm a dog person, so this really appealed to me. And I loved how the "city" folk were completely undone by this natural environment. When I lived in Vermont, we called city folks "flat-landers" and would make fun of their fancy clothes, luxury cars, and snooty attitudes. (Folks in Vermont drive pick-up trucks, wear sensible clothing, and are very down to earth. Seriously, it's my Shangri-La!).
Bree is a great heroine...plucky, always getting herself into scrapes, fiercely independent, loyal. And she has a wicked sense of humor. There are a lot of physical mishaps, including a motorcycle wipe-out, getting stabbed with a pair of sewing scissors, and a hilarious mud wrestling scene with Bree's best friend. I also love the fact that the heroine is juggling a bunch of guys, including a lawyer, auto mechanic, police officer, and stone mason (Go Bree!). There are a lot of flirtations and sexy interludes going on, which adds great sexual tension to the story.
The "mystery" was actually the weakest link of the story, mostly because Bree is more of a passive observer than an active participant in solving the crime. Instead of sitting at home waiting for something to happen, she should have been out badgering the cops and looking for clues. That seemed more in line with her personality. I'm praying there will be another book about Bree, and hopefully she will take a more active role in the mystery.
I am very impressed with Ms. George's writing. She has a fabulous voice....fresh, funny, irreverent. It lends itself perfectly to this genre. I can't wait to find out which of the hunky Vermonters will win Bree's heart! And in the meantime, I'm booking a weekend at an inn in Woodstock. Only this time, I'll be the flatlander tourist from Massachusetts with my SUV and cell phone. How embarrassing!