Saturday, March 18, 2017

What I Read in May 2016 Part VIII . . .

What I Read in May 2016 Part VIII . . .

Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything: A MysteryMiss Ruffles Inherits Everything: A Mystery by Nancy Martin--Cozy Mystery

Sunny McKillip has moved to the small town of Mule Stop, Texas from Ohio where it seems like another planet. She was hired to be the personal assistant of the town's wealthiest citizen, Honeybelle Hensley, a dyed in the wool Texan. Sunny's job duties mainly consist of wrangling Honeybelle's beloved dog Miss Ruffles, a Texas Cattle Cur. Miss Ruffles has a lot to learn about manners and if she doesn't like someone she isn't afraid to nip at them. When Honeybelle dies suddenly, the whole town has strong feelings about their matriarch. Some revered her but others wanted to "bump her off" and those negative feelings only increase after the will is read. Honeybelle, angry at the betrayal of her so-called friends, rewrote her will just before her death. She promised to leave $1 million each to Sunny; Mae Mae, the old cook and Mr. Carver, the old butler IF they stayed on in Honeybelle's home caring for Miss Ruffles. As long as Miss Ruffles is well and happy, the they get the money. Sunny's life is about to get more complicated as the news travels through town. Everyone wants something from her now and she worries Honeybelle did not die of natural causes. Someone killed Honeybelle and Sunny fears for the safety of Miss Ruffles. When Miss Ruffles is dognapped, it's up to Sunny to take the lead and figure out how the events are connected and get Miss Ruffles back.

This is a really cute cozy mystery. Unlike most cozies, it begins after the death of Miss Honeybelle which made the story more interesting as the reader gets to know Honeybelle through the eyes of all the other characters. Though I figured out the secrets, I wasn't sure if I was right or how Sunny would figure it all out. I stayed up way too late and woke up early to finish the book. I especially liked the small town Texas charm. Like Sunny, I'm a Yankee and the author does a fabulous job of showing Texas through the eyes of a transplant. Texas sure does seem like another planet but the details were so descriptive, I was certainly transported to Texas right along with Sunny. I'm positive the author lives in Mule Stop, Texas even though her bio says she lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! I really loved learning about Texas, the place where women can past on a sugary sweet smile and deliver a scathing insult disguised as a kind comment. This book gets an A+ for descriptive content.

Naturally, my favorite characters are Miss Ruffles and Fred. I picked this up because my "niece" Rupee (camera shy, sorry) is part Blue Heeler (Texas Cattle Cur maybe?). I'm a sucker for a good dog story and this one melted my heart. It provides an honest portrayal a young herding dog in need of guidance and training. Miss Ruffles has great instincts. She knows who she likes and whom she wants to bite. Go Miss Ruffles! She's unpolished but she has a ginormous heart and just wants to be loved and love in return. That's the true spirit of a dog. Likewise, Fred took my heart and made me teary eyed. The story of an old dog who can still do what they were bred to do resonated with me. Mischief, Cairn Terrier Queen of the World never met a chipmunk, skunk or other critter she liked and let them know they were in HER yard even when she could no longer chase them. If you are as crazy about dogs as I am or have been owned by that special 4 legged companion, you will love Miss Ruffles and Fred.

The humans in the book were a lot more complicated and difficult to figure out. Sunny wasn't all that appealing at first., she was a bit too eager to please and put up with a lot of stuff she didn't need to deal with. As the story progressed and she grew attached to Miss Ruffles, her role started to change. Instead of searching for a mother to guide her, Sunny became the mother figure in the relationship and grew up a lot. Her introspection at the end is a bit heavy handed but I enjoyed her character development.

I have complicated feelings about Miss Honeybelle. In some ways she had a big heart and was very kind but if she didn't get her own way, she turned into a peevish child wanting to spite those who crossed her. Her reaction to the garden club coup was unladylike. At first I thought Posie was just nasty and scheming but she had a point about the water. Though I value tradition, I thought they could have talked about it in a civilized manner and reached a compromise. Honeybelle really was using a LOT of water. I see her point about gardens on bleak landscape but if water is scarce, she shouldn't have extra water because of her garden. Posie ended up growing on me at the end when I started to dislike Honeybelle. The writer does a good job of making up complicated characters. Posie's sister Poppy is also complicated. She acts like a dumb blond stereotype but she's not and she has hopes, dreams and ambitions just like Sunny, which is apparently unusual for small town Texas. I was happy with the way her story turned out. I was expecting the usual plot line but it went down much better than that.

Like all cozy mysteries, this one has a cast of colorful characters. In addition to the above mentioned, I also liked Ten. I read his voice in my head as sounding like the actor Matthew McConaughey. He gave off the same kind of genteel cowboy swagger. I didn't like the "meet cute" at all and I didn't like that he is engaged to Poppy. He should have had a larger role in the book than he did. Then there's Mae Mae, the crusty cook from New Orleans. She adds some comic relief to the story with her endless "refined Creole" NOT Cajun cooking. I didn't really like her too much though. I felt sorry for her but didn't like her. I liked Mr. Carver better but he had secrets and seemed a little distant from Sunny. He didn't ever really trust her or want to get to know her. Honeybelle's family round out the cast of major supporting characters. The only one I really liked was the youngest grandson and only because he was so young and innocent. Hut, Jr. seems nice enough but he is overruled by Posie. There are a number of eccentric minor characters who pop up in the book to either pad the novel or advance the action or both

I would recommend this to dog lovers and cozy mystery fans.

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