Georgia Elliot is a founding member of the Tiara Club, a support group in small-town Mississippi for “recovering beauty queens.” She’s also an inventor, but she keeps that passion to herself. Such a vocation is hardly appropriate for a well-bred lady, particularly one who learned deportment on the pageant circuit and whose mama, herself a pageant veteran, is the very embodiment of gentility. When Georgia gave a Miracle Chef—her finest creation—to her best friend, she just wanted to help a busy single mother put food on the table, but friend Callie’s appreciation for this kitchen marvel—she has no idea her friend invented it—goes a little too far for Georgia’s liking: Callie writes a letter about the Miracle Chef to the host of a cooking show, and he comes to Ocean Sands to challenge the wonder appliance to a cook-off. Unfortunately for Georgia, not only does TV gourmet Daniel Rogers know her secret (he found out through some nifty research at the U.S. Patent Office Website), but he’s a Yankee, and he’s gorgeous. Yes, this plotline is farcical in both its complexity and its improbability, and, yes, a romance between star-crossed Georgia and Daniel is clearly inevitable, but Brandt (four previous mass-market titles) turns this potentially trite material into a charming, funny and big-hearted entertainment. It would have been easy for Brandt to people her story with a generically colorful cast of slapstick rubes and Southern eccentrics, but, instead, she creates a vivid community populated by unique and believable characters. The Tiara Club is an inviting bunch, as are the other inhabitants of Ocean Sands; Georgia is a thoroughly appealing heroine, and Daniel is the perfect match both for her sass and smarts.
Romantic comedy below the Mason-Dixon Line: fast-paced, funny and as sweet as iced tea.