Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper


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☆☆➹⁀☆3.5 – 4 stars☆➹⁀☆☆


What it’s about:

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town’s most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

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My Thoughts:

I loved and loathed Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper. I love stories set in the South (the backstabbing “Bless your hearts” and the cordial title of “Miss”, etc.), so I snapped up Ms. Harper’s book as soon as I saw it was available for review.   There are some aspects of this book that I found absolutely perfect: the oh-so-southern characters, the small town drama, and the electric chemistry between Margot Cary and the principal, Kyle Archer. That said, I found Kyle’s push-pull behavior beyond annoying. It didn’t provide angst; it just made Kyle seem like an abominable jerk.

The open scene is a career changing disaster that absolutely hooked me. I loved how Ms. Harper escalated the chaos like the building destructive power of a hurricane as it approaches land. However, Margot assuming responsibility for the situation didn’t resonate with me.

The introduction of the extensive southern, small-town family was overwhelming, but it immerses readers into Margot’s world as the city slicker is forced to move to a small town, meet her biological father’s family, and try to restart her career. You don’t really have to imagine what that would be like for only-child Margot.

Kyle is a handsome single dad. All the older women in town are vying for their daughters to date him. However, his heart still belongs to his late wife. I loved him as a principal and as a dad of two adorable young daughters. The comical banter between Kyle and Margot is fantastic, but each time he loves her and leaves her by summarily dismissing her when she becomes inconvenient in a social situation was really irritating!

“…it turns out that I am sort of an asshole…”—Kyle

Going back to the aspects of the story that I loathed…why did Margot keep going back to him? She should have given him a “bless your heart” and left him to wallow in his grief. For a woman who doesn’t do relationships and is trying to kick start her failed career, I would have preferred that she had more self-respect than to let a man treat her that way.

Margot’s extended family, the McCready clan, are quirky secondary characters. However, it is Kyle’s daughters, Hazel and Juniper, who steal all the scenes. These young girls were huggable and yummy, and Kyle’s doting, patient, yet firm parenting somewhat makes up for his relationship faux pas with Margot.

The story has an easy flow, and Ms. Harper’s sense of humor is evident in both situational and conversational comedy. I loved the realistic love scenes and the snappy banter. I wasn’t won over by some of the cartoonish depictions of some characters or the stiff, awkward dialogue between Margot and her father. Some plot points were perfect—confrontations with the power-hungry PTA president—while others just didn’t work for me—drunken encounter with a stranger in the only bar in town.

Even though much of the storyline is about Margot’s interactions with Kyle via their shared project, Sweet Tea and Sympathy is more about Margot reconciling with her estranged biological father and finding her center and what makes her happy and fulfilled. Ultimately, what makes Margot happy? All the things she proclaimed she didn’t want in life.  She just needed her family to help her figure that out.

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