Gone with a Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (337 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Camellia
Take one out-of-work pastry chef . . .
Teeny Templeton believes that her life is finally on track. She’s getting married, she’s baking her own wedding cake, and she’s leaving her troubled past behind. And then? She finds her fiancé playing naked badminton with a couple of gorgeous, skanky chicks.
Add a whole lot of trouble . . .
Needless to say, the wedding is off. Adding insult to injury, her fiancé slaps a restraining order on her. When he’s found dead a few days later, all fingers point to Teeny.
And stir like crazy!
Her only hope is through an old boyfriend-turned-lawyer, the guy who broke her heart a decade ago. But dredging up the past brings more than skeletons out of the closet, and Teeny doesn’t know who she can trust. With evidence mounting and the heat turning up, Teeny must also figure out where to live, how to support herself, how to clear her name, and how to protect her heart.
Recipes, some with an add-on of poisoning ingredients (if needed) and some with Bible verses cited, have been added to the Templeton family recipe book over generations. The Templeton women, while excellent cooks, did have a perverse quirk in their way of thinking. Teenykins (Teeny) Templeton knows she needs to get the old family recipe book out of her dead fiancé’s house. The law officers might get the wrong idea if they found it.
Gone With a Handsomer Man, teeming with mysteries, replete with greed, and bubbling over with humor, takes the reader on a breathtaking adventure in Charleston, an old city steeped in Southern charm and full of history. Seeing it all from naïve Teeny’s point of view gives it an extra wide-eyed wonder.
Teeny never knew her dad, and survived with her psychotic mother until age eight then landed with her Aunt Bluette on the old family peach farm in Georgia where she was loved and nurtured. Teeny knew poverty and second-hand clothes, but survived and thrived. After the death of Aunt Bluette, The Man, now her dead fiancé, swept her away to Charleston and set her on a course full of mystery, emotional stress, danger, and finally to the reawakening of a love that had hunkered down deep in her heart after a rejection back in high school.
Teeny, steeped in Baptist “no-nos”, counts every lie she tells and panics at being suspected of killing her cheating fiancé. She is in over her head with worldly-wise, greedy people who have agendas that she is not privy to. When her first and only true love, Cooper O’Malley, now a lawyer, comes back into her life as her defense attorney, Teeny must come to terms with many things in her life before she can move on to a better future.
Cooper O’Malley admits, when he broke up with Teeny during his senior year in high school, that a part of his anatomy other than his brain ruled his decision making. Now, eleven years later he is “a straight-as-an-arrow’ lawyer who goes by the rules. He is not a risk taker. His estranged rich wife Ava, who is an archeologist, is impulsive, competitive, and exciting. She needs Cooper for stability and really truly wants to reconcile with him.
Red Butler (I thought of Rhett Butler in another book that started with Gone With…) is the private investigator who works with Cooper. He is one of the most interesting personalities in the unique cast of characters. He understands women and how they think. He can even cook almost as if it is his second nature. He has no illusions about people and their willingness to do whatever it takes to get what they want.
Miss Dora, the dead fiancé’s step-mother, along with his disinherited sister Eileen, and his business associate (and more) Natalie add mystery and a good dose of Southern “ladies” eccentric behavior that fuels the fun and furor as the story unfolds. There are some surprises!
Michael Lee West has a writing style with a unique humor that reveals so much about the characters as she propels the plot along with lots of twists and turns. Gone With a Handsomer Man is a sparkling, fun story that takes one’s mind off the everyday world and transports it to the colorful, sultry, historical district of Charleston where lots of new exciting things are happening.