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The grand opening of a Virginia bed-and-breakfast is the setting for Ball’s (High in Trial, 2013, etc.) latest novel full of comedy and sentiment.

This spinoff from the author’s Ladybug Farm series turns from best friends Bridget, Cici and Lindsay to their Shenandoah Valley neighbors, Paul and Derrick. The couple leaves the social whirl of Washington, D.C., behind and buys a bed-and-breakfast called the Hummingbird House. After much renovation, the two are just about ready to open—but are “now beginning to realize they had not entirely thought this through.” They have enough towels, but how will they get publicity and attract guests? Meanwhile, 97-year-old Annabelle wants her granddaughter Megan to take her on one last trip; she’s not sure of the destination, but she says that she’ll know it when she sees it. At the same time, Joshua Whitman, a young man with a past, is also on the road, trying to find someone. As Paul and Derrick deal with unexpected problems—and unexpected help, including a chiffon-draped spiritualist—they find that the Hummingbird House has the power to bring the right people together. Ball, who has written scores of novels in several genres, knows how to construct a plot, and the pieces of this one fit together handily. Many readers will find it satisfying and uplifting, although others may find its plot too pat. Similarly, many but not all readers will enjoy the book’s heavy emphasis on eating, drinking, interior decorating and gardening, as these well-described sections tend to put more emphasis on lifestyle than on relationships. The book shies away from being too contentious. Confederate soldiers, for example, are called “romantic….Perfectly respectable young men, land owners, classically educated,” but Southern slave-owning goes unmentioned. Also, Paul and Derrick never kiss, although they’re clearly a couple, and the word “gay” never appears. There are touches of real magic, however, including a particularly affecting, gnomish character who helps Josh.

An amusing, undemanding tale likely to warm readers’ hearts.

Pub Date: Oct. 9th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0985774837
Page count: 316pp
Publisher: Blue Merle Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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FictionTHE ALCHEMIST by Donna Boyd
by Donna Boyd