Oct 15 2013 3:30pm

First Look: Mary Kay Andrews’s Christmas Bliss (October 15, 2013)

Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay AndrewsMary Kay Andrews
Christmas Bliss
St. Martin's Press / October 15, 2013 / $16.99 print / $8.89 digital

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and Savannah was breezy

But there's trouble afoot - and it's heading toward Weezie.

Seems BeBe’s been holding a big secret back

that would make Santa’s reindeer stop dead in their tracks.

Can these two best friends wriggle out of these twists?

Will they do it in time to ensure CHRISTMAS BLISS?

For those of you who have read Mary Kay Andrews’ books before, you know a sizeable portion of her appeal is her books' Southern flavor. Although I haven’t lived north of the Mason-Dixon line, I think her books have universal appeal. Ms. Andrews captures our humanity and gently pokes fun at it. She writes the type of books I love to read—light and breezy, and full of friendship, family, and love. Her heroines and heroes usually face some type of misfortune and must find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Having read all her single titles, I was still hesitating about reading her series books. I have gone that route before, and gotten burned. Either the main character didn’t have a romance interest or it changed from book to book or it had a soap opera feel—together, not together, together. But Christmas Bliss, her newest release, looked so appealing that I took the plunge. I read the first book in the series, Savannah Blues, to get an impression of the characters and then started Christmas Bliss.

I suspect that Ms. Andrews loves antiques and doing what I call junking, because so many of her characters have a love for it. In Christmas Bliss, Weezie suffers from this affliction. Now I know many of you can think of nothing more exciting than looking for treasures in second hand or antique stores—or even going to garage sales. If so, then you will get a big kick out of Weezie’s obsession. I can think of no worst torture. I have no desire to own something because it is old or vintage, especially when the original owner holds no significance for me. But surprisingly, her characters’ love for something I have no interest in, still worked. When her characters scores a big find, I was reminded of my own treasures passed down from the women in my family—from my great grandmother to my grandmother to mother and then me. And aren’t we all washed in memories over simple objects, especially during the Holidays like Christmas ornaments and decorations.

The two main characters, BFF Jean Eloise “Weezie” Foley and BeBe Loudermilk, have both found “the one,” and are on their way to happy ever after. Weezie is in the midst of tying up the final loose ends on her wedding—just a week away—and BeBe is four weeks away from giving birth to her first baby, but as always, life’s challenges don’t stop intruding even when you are experiencing two of the happiest events in your life. And that is one of the appeals of this book. Not that I don’t enjoy the “fairytale” ending, but real life isn’t that way. The ring on your finger or the two blue lines aren’t a guarantee for a trouble free life. So like us, Weezie and BeBe have some major stressors going.

Weezie’s fiancé Daniel is away in New York City, which is nerve-wracking enough, but then there is the Page Six gossip clipping showing him about town with his sexy boss, a doppelganger of the young Sophia Loren.

BeBe is worrying about her partner as he faces the challenges of mother nature and the sea, and then of course there is the fact that she feels as fat as an elephant. With four weeks to go, the doctor already told her that baby probably weighs seven pounds. And to top it off, she receives very disturbing news from her ex-husband’s former law office. And if that is not enough to turn her hair grey, she's having her first baby shower at thirty seven:

We scooted our chairs into a semicircle. Merijoy’s eyes gleamed with excitement as she brought out a large cardboard box. She reached in and brought out what looked suspiciously like a stack of disposable diapers.

“Now, girls, everybody take a diaper but don’t unfold it yet. No peeking!”

I stared dumbly down at the diaper in my lap.

“When I say ‘Go!’ everybody open your diaper. There’s a little surprise in there. You can touch it and smell it – but you can’t taste it. Write down what you think it is on your little notepad, and then pass it along to the next person. Keep it moving! When I say stop, the first person who has all the correct answers wins a prize. No cheating, now!”

“Yay!” chirped Mary Elizabeth, at twenty-three the youngest of the Marys. “I love the doody in the diaper game!”

Seeing my expression, Weezie leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Don’t worry. It’s just some melted candy. You know, like a Butterfinger or a Tootsie Roll.”

“That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever heard of,” I whispered back.

Most books now are not just about the romance or mystery but about the characters’ relationship with other people. Ms. Andrews’ dialog is just so realistic. You actually feel like you are listening in on a conversation between two close friends:

“Stop staring, she ordered, unzipping the dress. “I already feel like a freak.”

“You’re not a freak,” I said. “But I had no idea being pregnant made the blood vessels in your stomach look so blue. Or that you had an outie belly button.”

“I didn’t until I got knocked up. Isn’t this gross? I have to put a Band-Aid over it if I want to wear anything the least bit stretchy.”

“It’s not gross at all. It’s kind of cool, I think. Especially the boobs. You used to just barely be an A-cup, right? Now you’re what, a C?”

“You sound just like Harry,” BeeBe said, sliding the dress over her head. “He seems to think my body is some fascinating new amusement park. You’d think he’d be turned off, but not old Harry.” She rolled her eyes meaningfully, then turned back to the mirror to appraise her appearance.

Along with the genuine sounding dialogue between friends, the characters face scenarios that many of us have face or will face:

She was helping me unfasten the row of tiny satin-covered buttons when the kitchen door opened and my daddy, balding and still in his pajama bottoms and house slippers, walked slowly into the kitchen, sniffing the air expectantly.

“Marian, when’s lunch?” he asked plaintively. “I’m getting pretty hungry.”

“Joe, honey, you know you just had lunch an hour ago,” Mama said, rolling her eyes. “Remember? You had a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup and some Christmas cookies Weezie brought you.”

Daddy rubbed the graying stubble on his chin. “I already ate?”

“Sure did” I said. “You even ate the other half of my sandwich.”

Oh, well, all right then, he said. He looked me up and down and beamed his usual loving smile “Shug, you look real pretty in that dress. Are you going to a party?”

Mama’s face paled and two bright pink circles bloomed on her cheeks. “You know Weezie’s getting married in a week. This was my wedding dress. Weezie’s going to wear it when she marries Daniel on Christmas Eve. Remember? We’ve been talking about it for months now.”

Daddy bristled “I know that, Marian. Think I don’t know my own daughter is getting married? She’s marrying that boy at the restaurant. Some name that starts with a D. You don’t have to treat me like a child, Marian.”

I found plenty to enjoy with Christmas Bliss. While the Christmas in the title has more to do with the time of year, rather than a major plot device, it easily invokes the feelings that we get around the holidays—that the love we have for our family and friends is one of our biggest blessings. And maybe it was the history of the antiques, but I was also reminded of past Christmases and how blessed I was to have those memories. Christmas Bliss is a simple story that arouses warm feelings and lovely memories, so don’t miss it.

Learn more or order a copy of Christmas Bliss by Mary Kay Andrews, out now:

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Leigh Davis, Blogger

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Maggie Boyd
2. maggieboyd66
I like series and am looking forward to reading this too.

As an aside I should add that once Thanksgiving comes I am a Christmas book junkie. This will make a nice addition to my small pile of holiday reading.
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