Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday Review: The Bentleys Buy a Buick

The Bentleys Buy a Buick 
By Pamela Morsi
Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: August 23, 2011


Erica and Tom Bentley have been married for almost ten years. Erica has just returned to work in the medical records department of a local hospital after spending six years as a stay-at-home mom. Tom’s dream business, Bentley’s Classic Cars, is growing, and first-grader Quent is doing well in school with a teacher he adores. The Bentleys are not wealthy. They make do with old appliances, struggle to save for their son’s education, and juggle child care. They are an ordinary young family, extraordinarily happy with one another.

Then one day Tom falls in love with an older woman, a 1956 Buick Roadmaster convertible in two tones of blue, christened Clara by her 80ish owner. Tom knows that he can’t afford Clara, but he pours his heart and his considerable skills into restoring her. Taking care of Clara takes time, and Tom’s time is stretched further when his top employee, who is also his long-time, married best friend, slacks off work to have hot adulterous sex with an auto supplies clerk. Tom is working longer hours, missing family dinners, and growing increasingly uncomfortable with lying to cover for his friend.

Erica is doing well with her job, enjoying being part of the working world again and winning praise and added responsibility from her supervisor. But her co-workers are addicted to their lunchtime gossip and prone to airing their cynical views of men and marriage. When Tom starts exhibiting all the signs of adulterous behavior that the lunch bunch has warned against, Erica begins to wonder if the man she loves and trusts is just another faithless husband.

A summary fails to do justice to the humor, sweetness, and poignancy of this book.  Morsi has a history of creating memorable, engaging protagonists who are far removed from typical fare in romance and women’s fiction, and she is on her game here. Practical Erica, determined to avoid the mistakes of her many-times-married mother and devoted to her husband and son, is an appealing character. And the scene where she turns detective and follows Tom to the home of the “other woman” is a comic gem worthy of Lucy herself. Tom, a big bear of a man still crazily in love with his wife, is a heart-stealer. Having grown up with no father and an irresponsible mother, he is grateful for every day as part of a “real family” and thinks Erica is the best thing that ever happened to him.

The Bentleys Buy a Buick is a quiet book. There are no explosions here, no serial killers, no tycoons running the world, no great beauties enslaving with a glance. Instead Morsi gives us a couple much like people we know, perhaps much like the people you and your spouse are, and she shows us the glory and the risks of love for these ordinary people. Each character is drawn with such precision and grace that the reader feels as if she knows them. This is true not only of Erica and Tom but also of six-year-old Quent with his love of big words; of Letty, Erica’s younger sister, wise beyond her years; of Erica’s mom whose cynicism masks her insecurity; of Melvin who sees the cynicism and the insecurity and loves her anyway; of Guffy, Clara’s owner, who embraces life and accepts the imminence of death; of Briscoe, the young man Tom mentors, who is trying to grow up to his responsibilities.

Even the Buick becomes a pivotal character, one that brings to Tom a forgotten but defining moment when he learned that finding love and family could transform a life and causes him to consider the depth of his love for Erica.

I love you, he’d said that morning to his wife. Those were very small words that couldn’t begin to encompass the fullness of his feelings for her, about her. It was too big a meaning to be held in his brain. Too grand a concept for a regular guy to be able to express. He loved her. And that was a driving force, an engine that could never be contained with internal combustion.

 I’m so glad Pamela Morsi writes such books and so grateful that I can read them.

Have you read any of Pamela Morsi's books? How do you feel about quiet books?


MsHellion said...

I've always loved Pamela Morsi's genius at making ordinary characters heroic and heartbreaking. This sounds like a wonderful book and I can't wait to read it.

My favorite book by her is Runabout--with Tessa with the red hair and the hot "half-Indian" hero. But I also adored her book about Hattie (who was named horse-faced Hattie...)

I loved her historicals; she's always written great stuff. Great with detail and setting and character.

Janga said...

Hellie, I was sad when Morsi stopped writing American historicals. I loved so many of hers in that subgenre that I'd be hardpressed to choose a favorite, although I do think Simple Jess is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. I've loved her women's fiction/contemporary romance hybrids too, particularly Last Dance at the Jitterbug Lounge and Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar. Bentleys didn't quite reach the level of those two IMO, but it is an extraordinary book, one I know I'll reread.

quantum said...

I've only read one Morsi, 'Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar'.
I thoroughly enjoyed that one and fully intend to try more in due course.

I'm actually like a little boy at a party with all this choice.
Shall I try the trifle or that cream merangue or the chef's special pudding! *grin*

I'm having a Lisa Kleypas season at the moment, starting with 'Seduce me at Sunrise'. Kleypas is always mentioned in your 'top 100' lists but I'm finding the reality of her writing is stunning!

But your tempting me again Janga! *smile*

Janga said...

Q, I envy you all the wonderful books you still have to experience. Morsi's RHHTB is definitely an all-time favorite. How often do you find a grandmother heroine with a hot younger hero? LOL

And Lisa Kleypas is a wonderful writer. I love the Hathaway books, although Lady Sophia's Lover and Dreaming of You are my favorites by LK. Both are on my all-time favorites list.

irisheyes said...

I love Pamela Morsi, Janga! Thanks to you, I've read a bunch of her titles and have never come away sorry I invested the time.

My favorites by her have to be Simple Jess and Red's Hot Honky-Tonk Bar.

As for your other question - I absolutely LOVE quiet books. There's no nail biting or wondering what catastrophe is about to befall my beloved H/H. If you get an awesome writer (which Pamela Morsi is), it is simply a nice relaxing, fun couple of hours immersed in a wonderful story.

Janga said...

Yay for more Morsi love, Irish! Isn't her writing wonderful? I think you'll enjoy Bentleys too.

And I'm glad I'm not alone in finding joy in quiet books. My sister, who reads tons of mysteries and thrillers, is always accusing me of reading books "where nothing happens."