Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesday Review: Midnight Promises

Midnight Promises
Sweet Magnolias #8
By Sherryl Woods
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Release Date: June 26, 2012

Fans of Sherryl Woods’s Sweet Magnolia series will remember Karen Ames, a divorcee with two children who is sous chef at Dana Sue Sullivan’s restaurant, and Elliott Cruz, personal trainer at the Corner Spa owned by the original Magnolias—Madie Maddox, Dana Sue Sullivan, and Helen Decatur Whitney. Karen and Elliot’s love story is a secondary plot in Feels Like Family (Sweet Magnolias #3).

Midnight Promises picks up a few years and five books later. Karen and Elliott married against the objections of his devout Catholic family who aren’t happy that their son and brother married a divorced woman, but except for some in-law problems, the two are happy together, building a family and saving money for a baby. Then some of the men in town, most of them Sweet Magnolia spouses, decide Serenity, South Carolina, needs a gym that will offer a masculine equivalent of the services the Corner Spa offers women. Elliott has a chance to be part of the new business. It could pay off big in income and personal satisfaction, but it will mean using all the savings he and Karen have accumulated, including their baby fund. He knows Karen’s insecurities about money stemming from the load of debt her ex left her with make it unlikely that she will support using their savings for the new venture, and so he delays sharing information about the opportunity with her. When Karen hears the news from another source, she’s angry. Now they have two things to argue about—money and secrets.

Woods offers a surprisingly realistic look at the problems that can arise and create friction even in a solid marriage when unresolved issues linger. Experts tell us that money disputes are a leading cause of divorce, as are communication problems. In Karen and Elliot’s case, Karen’s reluctance to allow Elliott to adopt her children and Elliott’s unconscious adopting some of the patriarchal attitudes of his Hispanic heritage add to the pressures on their marriage.  A subplot involves infidelity, another leading cause of divorce. The question of divorce for Adelia Hernandez, one of Elliott’s sisters whose husband is a flagrant, unrepentant cheater, is complicated by the Cruz family’s Catholicism and by Adelia’s fears that she will be unable to support herself and her children.  

It’s been two years since Woods has given her fans a Sweet Magnolias book. Fans of the series will be delighted to see most of their favorites from the earlier books make an appearance in Midnight Promises. Three generations of Magnolias prove their loyalty to their sisters of the heart as they share good times and bad, laughter and tears, advice and margaritas. Karen and Elliott’s story is a refreshing look at what happens after the HEA. The continuation of their story is complex and credible, but it is also filled with the humor and warmth that are characteristic of Sherryl Woods’s books.

I’ve been disappointed in some of her recent Chesapeake Shores books, and thus I was especially pleased to find the kind of story that made her a favorite author in Midnight Promises. I’ve already read Catching Fireflies (July 31) and Where Azaleas Bloom (August 28), and they continue the strong storytelling and unexpected twists that makes Midnight Promises a winner. If you are a Woods fan, I suggest you preorder all three of this summer’s trilogy now. If you’ve never read Woods, Midnight Promises is a good place to start. You don’t have to have read the first seven books in the series to enjoy this one, although it may set you to glomming Woods—or at least her Sweet Magnolia books.

Food and drink are an important part of the Magnolias’ girls nights. In fact, August 28 will see the release of The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook, which will include the recipe for Helen’s Lethal Margaritas. Are you a fan of mixing recipes with your fiction? Have you ever tried a recipe from a novel?


Kathleen O said...

I am a lover of all things Sherryl Woods.. I don't think I have tested any of her receipes... But when this bookbook comes out, you can be sure it will be purchased..

quantum said...

I have read and enjoyed the first three 'Chesapeake Bay' books and also 'Amazing Gracie' which I found amazing LOL.

I read the first of the 'Sweet Magnolias' series and did enjoy it, though in places I felt that I had stumbled into a hen party.

So Karen and Elliot eventually married!

I think I might try Midnight Promises, then if inspired I could glom back.

My cooking abilities are basic, derived from a survival instict while living in a student bed-sit. So I would have to give the recipes to Mrs Q ..... though I might keep the lethal margarita formula a secret! LOL

irisheyes said...

I don't really mind the food aspect of some of the stories I've been reading lately. If the character is into food it plays a big part in their character. If the author does it right, it also helps to set the mood of a get together whether it's between H/H or friends. I just don't want pages and pages of recipes instead of story. Then I think I'd get a little irritated.

I don't think I've ever read Sherryl Woods. Who would you compare her to, Janga?

Janga said...

Kathleen, Amazing Gracie is my favorite Sherryl Woods book, but I have enjoyed many of them over the years. I'm looking forward to the cookbook too.

Janga said...

Q, I love Gracie, but it's Kevin who totally captured me. I can't resist that Southern charm. :)

Mrs. Q. might like some of those Southern recipes--or the margaritas. Like some of the Magnolias, I have a low tolerance for alcohol. One lethal margarita is probably over my limit.

Janga said...

Irish, I agree the recipes shouldn't distract from the story. My favorite books with recipes are actually mysteries. I love the Way Nancy Atherton always works a particular food into the Aunt Dimity books and then gives that single recipe at the end. Susan Wiggs uses them effectively too.

Who is Woods like? Hmm. Maybe Susan Mallery but not as spicy or Debbie Macomber with a little spice added.