CBR14 BINGO: Cozy Square
(I slated this one for the New Square, but when I thought about how reading this book made me feel, Cozy hit the spot. Also, it includes a cozy little mystery.)
I read and really enjoyed Holmes’ debut novel Evvie Drake Starts Over. I appreciated the small town, Bull Durham-y, messy but realistic romance of it all. This novel takes place in the same Maine town and references a handful of characters from her debut novel. It’s not necessary to read the first book to understand this one. But if you already have, it’s like taking a walk around town and waving to a different neighbor.
After 20 years of living in Seattle, Laurie travels back to her hometown to clean out her great aunt Dot’s house after her death. While Dot never married or had children, she travelled, had whirlwind relationships and was constantly learning new things. While combing through the accumulated stuff of a full life, Laurie finds a carved wood duck decoy buried under a bunch of blankets. While Dot was a free spirit, a fan on wooden duck decoys was definitley not how Laurie remembered her.
The duck soon takes on a life of its own. Was it carved by a famous Maine artist and now a sought after collectible? A fake replica? A gift shop impulse buy? Laurie enlists the help of her life long friend, her high school sweetheart, her brother and an antique store employee to help her solve the mystery.
As the plot thickens and the clean up continues, Laurie starts to unbox her own life as well. She had always admired and found comfort in Dot’s choice to lead a happily independent lifestyle. The mystery duck, however, starts to upend Laurie’s assumptions about Dot. Was it truly Dot’s choice to remain unmarried and without children? Was the example that Laurie looked up to a lie?
It’s an interesting look at approaching relationships differently. Is there something between the traditional marriage and being single? Does a deep need for space and quiet mean you can’t share your life with someone else? Do you have to sacrifice the life you want to accomodate someone that you love?
Full of clever chit chat, an interesting little mystery and a lot of romantic spark, Holmes does a good job of shining new light on the “coming home” trope. There is also a nice generational balance to the story that I appreciated: well conceived octogenarian and beyond characters with vibrant lives who (gasp!) still have romantic relationships.
Holmes’ novels definitely have a rom-com when rom-com’s were great circa Meg Ryan vibe. I dislike the term “beach read” because it seems kind of dismissive, but if the definition of that is a quick read that has you laughing, shipping the main characters and wishing the protagonist’s best friend was your best friend, then “beach read” it is.