This is another book on the DABWAHA list. I was drawn to it because the blurb reminded me of my favourite Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel, Ain't She Sweet.
This book starts with a very depressed chef in New York, Queenie Wake, being fired from her job and returning reluctantly to her home town after 10 years to spend time with her sister and nephew. I remember thinking when I got to chapter 3 that Queenie would cheer up a bit now that she was headed home but no... She stays depressed and lost and lacking in self-esteem like a limp piece of seaweed for pretty much the whole book.
Some parts of the book were interesting. I enjoyed reading about the food she cooks, her relationship with her family, the things that happen at the prison, and the story about Cal and his half-brother West. Texas, as usual, is a great setting.
But the moral of this book is 'there's no place like home' and unfortunately the author didn't sell that to me. Many times I was shaking my head at why Queenie even returned to that horrible town. Even years later, despite the sisters improving their lives, the townsfolk are still treating them like pariahs. No-one in the town seems to have grown up or changed in any way. It was like the whole town was caught up in a time warp of unforgiving gossip, resentments and judgments.
The romantic element is one of the weaker points in this story. But to be fair I don't think this book was written as a romance. Queenie has been in love with Everett, one of the elite members of the town's upper class, all their lives. Supposedly he loves her too (although it's hard to see it). Their secret love affair continues until Queenie runs away when Everett caves to his father's demands and marries one of the upper class girls. Queenie and Everett only have about three scenes together in the book and only exchange a handful of sentences. There is no growth for Everett either.(show spoiler)
The POV is 1st person (which I like) in the present tense (which I'm not that keen on).