Disclaimer: I rec’d a review copy of this book from the publisher as part of their Blogging for Books review program. I rec’d no other compensation and was only required to write an honest review of this work of fiction.

Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh

Restless in Carolina by Tamara Leigh is not worth the time spent slogging through it’s chapters.

And it’s a shame, too, since I really wanted to like this book. I felt a certain affinity to the main character, Bridget, a woman at 33 who has been widowed four years and may be finally ready to jump back into life. After all, I was widowed at the age of 31 and also wore “widows weeds” for a few years before jump-starting my life over. Also, the book is set in the Western mountains of North Carolina — a place I love dearly.

Here’s the premise of the story: Bridget is asked by the family to help find a buyer for the family’s large estate, patterned after the Biltmore, so that the decreasing family funds can be used to pay restitution to those they’ve hurt through the centuries. Uncle Obadiah is the reigning patriarch and conscience for the family and owner of the mountain but is slipping into longer and longer phases of Alzheimers. I never did figure out why Bridget was asked to find the buyer, since there seem to be other, more business savvy family members … but whatever. There are a myriad of cousins, aunts, uncles, estranged family members and marriage ceremonies all round. A fun mish-mash of family life.

I give this book a 2 — don’t HATE it, just don’t like it. Why such a poor rating for this book?

Bridget’s character is just plain annoying — self-centered, self-obsessed, a tree-hugger (but happy to drive a gas-guzzling old pickup all over the place and hop a commercial flight to and from Atlanta — a four hour drive!). When her mom is sick, Bridget is upset because now she has responsibility for her niece and nephew; her uncle’s developing Alzheimers interrupts Bridget’s life as a nursery owner; she’s worn her hair in dreadlocks in lieu of sack-cloth and ashes so everyone is always aware of poor Bridget’s widowhood. When her brother gets married at the beginning of the book, Bridget hides in the library because “there’s no such thing as happily ever after”. Her screeching at God through the 75-80 percent of the book is only slightly less irritating than her “finding” Jesus again after being shamed into attending Sunday morning service … after all, God “let” her first husband die and now her mom is sick. She’s whiny, self-absorbed and just plain irritating.

The other characters, eccentric though they may be, are more fun and I wish the author had put them in the story more and written less about Bridget. I particularly like JC’s character and Bridget’s cousin Piper was soft-spoken but got the truth-zingers in pretty constantly. Uncle Obe’s lucid moments are wonderfully written.

The book is pure, predictable pablum. When I started reading I thought this might be the author’s first book … but no, she’s been writing since 1994 with many novels to her credit. Maybe this is just the clunker in the batch. Early in the book, she has 5’6″ Bridget put her arm around her uncle’s shoulder while they walk down the road — but her uncle is supposed to be 6’6″! There are such convoluted, comma-heavy sentences, I often had to go back and re-read the beginning to figure out what the heck the author was saying. The voice of the book is written in the present — which always grates a bit unless done by a real author; Leigh is not a pro.

This book is the third in a series (the other two I have not read) that Leigh titled “Southern Discomfort”. It’s a discomfort to read this trite, obvious novel that continues the stereotypical eccentric Southern “royal” family that is in-bred and in debt and in trouble. To say the Pickwicks are quirky is putting it mildly. For a woman who lives in Tennessee, Leigh should know better than to keep these stereotypes alive.

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