Jolie Wyatt (Mistletoe in Purple Sage, 1997, etc.) is giving a party for two of her favorite people: her friend Beverly Kendall, returning to the little Texas town of Purple Sage after an ugly divorce, and her hero Dr. Bill Marchak, retiring from the hospital. There’s only one problem: An hour before the party, Jolie finds that the site, her friend Diane Atwood’s living room, is under two inches of water. Although next-door neighbor Tom Greer obligingly offers his house instead, Tom is Beverly’s ex-husband, and Jolie and Diane are darned sure Beverly would not enjoy being feted in her old house while Tom’s much younger wife plays hostess. Without alternatives, however, Diane and Jolie capitulate, and Beverly responds to the change in venue graciously—except for an irrepressible antipathy toward the Marchaks that Jolie, who thinks Dr. Bill is Marcus Welby reincarnated, can’t fathom. Then Beverly’s elderly father, Henry Kendall, suffering from chronic bad temper and the recent onset of Alzheimer’s, disappears from the party. He turns up safe and sound later that night, but Dr. Bill isn’t so lucky. When his dead body is fished out of Calvary Creek, Jolie sets out to quash rumors of her hero’s suicide, mend fences with her mother, now dating the Sheriff of Purple Sage, and support Beverly as she deals with her needy father and ex-husband.
Like Diane’s living-room floor, the unusual murder motive is inundated by Jolie’s periodic bouts of guilt and Smith’s tendency to overexplain them.