"Happily Ever Madder" by Stephanie McAfee
Reviewed by David Marshall James
You'd think Graciela "Ace" Jones-- former high-school art teacher from Bugtussle, Mississippi-- has it all:
(1) A sizable engagement rock from her on-again-off-again love since age 11, Mason McKenzie
(2) Residency in his seaside condo at Pelican Grove, Florida
(3) Did we mention that Mason comes from money, as they say down South, and that he's a successful attorney with his own practice?
(4) And, that Mason has set up Ace in her own art gallery?
Well, you can take the gal out of Bugtussle, but you can't take Bugtussle out of the gal. Or, at least, the tussle.
She misses her old pals although she's making some new ones in Florida. Unfortunately, she's making more than a few enemies, too. Ace isn't the greatest hand at charming old bats, especially when they're the sort of poseurs whom she encounters in Pelican Grove.
Naw, she'd sooner swat 'em than sweet-talk 'em.
Ace is also realizing that, although Mason loves her for who she is-- in all her pizza-munching, beer-swigging, mouth-off glory-- he nevertheless expects her to rein in and go with the flow of Pelican Grove society, such as it is.
IOW: It's okay for her to Ace Jones at home, but not so much in public.
Ouch, that could make for a thorny marriage. Better that she wed Uncle Poodle of "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo."
Thus, the latest chapter of the diary of Miss Jones will scarcely play out as a surprise to readers, who found her happier and funnier back in Bugtussle.
On top of it all, Ace has a fever-pitch case of the hots for Pelican Grove's Local Lothario. That, too, might could pose a mite bit of a problem to her trial marriage.
Ace has shaped up into an appealing character, fun and followable, but readers want to find her happier-- and funnier-- in the future. Neither Mason nor the Local Lothario seems a good fit for that future, and author Stephanie McAfee ought to leave them in the sands of Florida and have Ace hook up with someone else, back in Bugtussle:
(1) Someone who will accept her in all her flip-flopped, flip-the-bird glory, unlike Mason
(2) Someone who isn't a love-'em-and-leave-'em cad, unlike the Local Lothario
(3) Someone on the order of one of Uncle Poodle's straight friends-- someone with two names, first one ending in a "y," with second name of Earl (read: Bobby Earl, Ricky Earl, Johnny Earl, Jimmy Earl [hey, wasn't he President of the USA?]). To wit, some redneck royalty.
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