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PLEATING FOR MERCY
By Melissa Bourbon
Obsidian, 2011 ($6.99)
Kindle edition $6.99
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Before he met his end in an Argentinean shootout, Butch Cassidy tossed a coin in a fountain and wished that his firstborn child and all who followed would be blessed with special gifts. At least that's the story that's been handed down from Harlow Jane Cassidy's Great-great-great Grandmother, Texana, all the way down to Harlow Jane's mother. Her great-grandmother, Meemaw, could get anything she wanted, her grandmother is a goat whisperer, and her mother can make anything grow. Harlow Jane seems to have been passed over, which is both a disappointment and a blessing. The Cassidy women have always tried to keep their gifts secret to avoid those pesky accusations of witchcraft, but still, she feels deprived.
Several years ago, Harlow Jane left the small town of Bliss, Texas, where she grew up, for the fashion scene in New York City. She is doing fairly well working for a major designer, but she wants to create her own line. When Meemaw dies, Harlow Jane discovers the family home has been left to her. She feels a strong pull to return to Bliss and set up shop in the old farmhouse, and that's what she does. Just when she's wondering if her days will be spent hemming polyester pants and skirts, Josie Sandoval, an old friend from high school, waltzes through the door and tells Harlow Jane she needs a wedding dress and three bridesmaid dresses. Fast. The wedding is in twelve days. Sure, no problem.
Josie's fiancé is Nate Kincaid, son of the wealthiest family in town. Josie, raised on the poor side of town by a single mother, is moving up in the world. Harlow Jane had briefly dated Nate's brother Derek in high school, and thought he was a complete jerk, but Nate seems like a good guy.
Speaking of guys, Josie is shocked and steaming mad when she walks into her house and finds a complete stranger standing there with a hammer in his hand. He tells her his name is Will Flores, and that he and Meemaw had made an arrangement before her death: he'll make repairs on the house in exchange for Harlow Jane giving his daughter sewing lessons. She tells him she doesn't need his help, but Meemaw makes her wishes clear. So clear, Harlow Jane wonders if she's discovered her gift: sensing dead people. Yee-haw! Or not.
Things are going okay until one of the wedding party is murdered. Sheriff Hoss McClaine puts the bride-to-be at the top of the suspect list, and Josie asks Harlow Jane to help prove her innocence. What else can a pal do — and besides, if there's no wedding, there's no big bucks for making all the gowns. In the end, Meemaw gets what she wants, Josie discovers her true gift, and peace returns to Bliss, Texas once again.
This is the first in A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series, and it is a charming debut. It's full of Texas small town flavor, unique and interesting characters (Grandma the goat whisperer? I love it), good plotting and just enough romance.
The only quibble I have is that Harlow Jane found an important piece of evidence, so important someone might kill to get it. My inner voice was saying "take it to the sheriff," and then she did. Instead of putting it in the evidence lockup, however, the sheriff gave it back to her. It does play a part in the denouement, but really, this just doesn't ring true.
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