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Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter    by Lisa Patton order for
Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter
by Lisa Patton
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Leelee Satterfield has the perfect life - in her home town of Memphis, Tennessee with a husband (Baker) she's adored since tenth grade; two sweet little girls (Sarah and Isabella); three close friends (Virginia, Mary Jule, and Alice) who have been there for her since kindergarten and are closer than sisters; and her beloved Yorkie, Princess Grace Kelly, still frisky despite being 'in her golden years'. Though her parents are dead, Leelee loves Kissie (who raised her), and her small family is well cushioned by the comfortable trust fund her Daddy left her.

Then sportsaholic Baker (who is unhappy with his work in insurance) puts her idyllic existence in turmoil with the announcement that he wants to buy the Vermont Haus Inn (which also operates a gourmet restaurant) in subzero Vermont and to transplant the family there! Leelee has always wanted to make Baker happy (she finds it hard to say no to anyone) and has put his needs first. She reluctantly does it once more. With a warm song-and-dance sendoff from her friends, she heads north to both a new house and a new occupation (as an innkeeper and 'aspiring martini mixer').

Of course there are surprises - from the very cramped owner's quarters to the pervasive odor and the joys of the two off seasons (Stick Season and Mud Season) in Vermont. Then there are the previous owners, who hold the mortgage and have stayed on to protect their investment - Rolf Schloygin as chef training Baker, and his sister Helga, a chain-smoker with a domineering personality, who insists that nothing be changed. Gradually Leelee adjusts to the demands of this new life (which forces her to work long hours away from her girls) and even makes friends, especially of the housekeeper, Roberta.

Then the second shoe falls in Baker's mid-life crisis - he leaves Leelee in the lurch to run the inn and raise their children 'for a fifty-year-old Yankee divorcée with tons of money, counterfeit bosoms, and a fake face'. How does this wilting hothouse flower react? With hilarious help from her friends, Leelee demonstrates that there's much more to this Southern belle than shows on the surface. They Southernize the Peach Blossom inn and Leelee (egged on by her trusty trio) fires the Schloygins (causing a 'hoedown of happiness' for current staff) and hires a hot new chef.

Of course you can see where the story is heading, but it's all in the journey, which is a delightful one. Leelee laughs at her own foibles (her ignorance of Vermont winters, her hope to spot a moose, and her disastrous naiveté in real estate transactions) as she makes the best of a heartrending situation, puts the inn back on its shaky feet, and finally heads home to her strong support system in Memphis, where her friend have one last favor up their sleeves. Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter is a charmer, the perfect book to warm your heart on a cold autumn night.

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