Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rhythm & Blues by Molly Harper - Book Review

I bought Molly Harper's Rhythm &Bluegrass (Pocket Star. Simon & Shuster digital, $3.79, 180 pages, Kindle edition) thinking it might have something to do with bluegrass music, which is much of what I write about. Since I try to get ahold of all books (which I also review here on my blog) dealing with bluegrass, I thought this one might be a natural. It turns out that the bluegrass is more about the name of the state where it is set (Kentucky) than it is about the music that Bill Monroe created there, although both it and he are mentioned in this engaging and short romance about a young woman historical preservationist who comes to Mud Gap Kentucky to save a once flourishing country music venue and encounters life changing experiences.

When Bonnie Turkle travels from her Kentucky Tourism Commission office in Frankfort, the state capital, to Mud Creek in the East Kentucky hills, she doesn't fully appreciate that she's making a cultural as well as physical move. She is making the journey to rescue McBride's Music Hall, once an important country music and blues venue, but now fallen into disrepair as Mud Creek has deteriorated with the end of the tobacco industry and the move of several industries from town. As she approaches Mud Creek, her car bursts into flame. She escapes, but the car is destroyed, while a passing motorist puts out the flames and helps her rescue her computer, but little more. He's a dashing man who turns out to be both the fire chief and newly appointed mayor of Mud Creek named Will McBride. He's also the son of the late owner of the Music Hall, and sees its preservation as a threat to his hope to attract industry to its site and to eliminate the last vestiges of a place he sees as a blight on his own life.

The book progresses through a fairly predictable girl meets boy, girl gets boy....series of incidents, but is enlivened by the characters inhabiting the town of Mud Creek, including the spinster librarian, Will McBride's mother, and an elderly woman who, it turns out, was the source material for a famous country song called “Lurlene,” which was written at McBride's and makes the site eminently worth saving. Bonnie is perky, smart, and likable. Will is handsome, hurt, and worthy. Perhaps the most interesting underlying idea motivating the book is the conflict between an outsider coming to town to save it and its people when the people don't realize they need saving and don't want to be saved. This conflict between do-gooder from outside and the native caution and suspicion of local people in rural America serves as the core for a pretty good story. Oh...and there's a pretty steamy R rated sex scene in there, too.

Molly Harper
Romances are not generally my preferred genre, but I found this one engaging enough to complete reading it without feeling I was wasting my time. Bonnie is a pleasant person, as is Will McBride. Their growing relationship is believable and warm. The surrounding characters represent well rendered stereotypes of small town people who are suspicious, but likeable and amusing. The resolution is satisfying, while leaving room for further development if Harper want to continue with it. For what the book is, I found it enjoyable and diverting. I particularly liked Harper's use of quick and saucy dialogue to build her characters. Molly Harper worked for six years as a reporter and humor columnist for The Paducah Sun. Her reporting duties included covering courts, school board meetings, quilt shows, and once, the arrest of a Florida man who faked his suicide by shark attack and spent the next few months tossing pies at a local pizzeria. Molly lives in western Kentucky with her family.

Rhythm & Bluegrass by Molly Harper (Pocket Star. Simon & Shuster digital, $3.79, 180 pages, Kindle edition) provides a quick look into a world many are not familiar with and makes it real. I enjoyed it more that I thought I would, and recommend it for readers a little outside the general run of romance novels. Rhythm &Bluegrass was provided to me by the publisher as a digital e-galley through Edelweiss: Beyond the Treeline. I read it on my Kindle.