Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sugarhouse Blues - Contemporary Fiction Review

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Allie, Des, and Cara, each having her own reasons for wanting a share of their father's estate, meet in the grand Victorian home in which he grew up, only to be greeted by another secret he purposely hid from them: his sister Bonnie. The women reluctantly band together to take on Fritz's challenge, working with a local contractor to begin the renovations financed by an account Fritz had set up for the task. While the restoration appears to go smoothly at first, it soon becomes apparent that the work will be more extensive than originally thought, and Des, elected to handle the money, needs to find ways to stretch out the remaining savings while searching for new sources of funding.

As strangers linked only by their DNA try to become a family, the Hudson sisters also try to come to terms with the father they only thought they knew. In the process, each woman discovers her own capacity for understanding, forgiveness, love, and the true meaning of family.

Genre: Fiction - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:
  The first book in this series was in my top ten favorite reads for 2017.  I couldn't wait for Des's story.

My Impression:
  One of the reasons I loved the first book so much was because it was exactly what I was looking at the time I read it.  It also really focused on the complicated relationships between three sisters as well as the same three sisters discovering their family history for the first time all of which are in my favorites things list.  My mood lately has been a bit on the meh side.  I'm not so much in a reading slump but more in kind of a reading slump lately.  I was worried that my mood would seriously impact my enjoyment of this second story.  While I didn't love it and connect with it quite as much as I did Last Chance Matinee it was a read that pulled me and knocked me out of my grumpiness for a bit.

This book focuses on the middle sister, Des.  She was a very reluctant child star which damaged her relationship with her sister Allie and caused her to avoid people as much as possible.  She focuses her time, attention, and affection on animal shelters and misses the one that she was involved with in Montana.  She's also in charge of the money aspect of the theater restoration.  The theater restoration has made significant progress since we last saw it though it is now being plagued by what always plagues projects like this - setbacks, catastrophes and annoyances, all with the intention of pushing the budget beyond its breaking point.  I enjoyed seeing the bits of bookkeeping and how Des tried to figure out not only how to stretch the budget but bring in money to increase it.  She's smart and creative but not an accountant or marketing professional by trade.  As well I love the relationship between Des and Cara.  It's fun seeing the genuine affection grow as they get to know each other.  Allie is a bit tougher both to like from the POV of the reader and to relax in the world that Stewart has created.  She has a lot of challenges - some of her own doing and others not so much.  Her sharpness got on my nerves sometimes even though I did feel sorry for her.  Her book is next and it'll be interesting to see how Stewart handles her rather strident personality.

I love seeing more of the sisters and their aunt Barney.  As well the community of Hudson Falls is always entertaining.  I enjoyed the focus on Seth in this book.  He's an interesting character with a somewhat troubled backstory but without a whole lot of baggage.  He's got just enough flaws that he feels like a real guy but not so many that it overtakes the goodness.  The research into the history of the theater and the involvement of the local college added a bit of enjoyment to the story and developed a broader picture of the town.

This was an enjoyable read with a strong family connection.  The only things that kept it from being a perfect read for me was Des's insistence that she was going back to Montana and her lack of awareness about the effects if her statements on those around her as well as Allie's hostility at times.  However, my delight with the relationships that are developed throughout the rest of the book far outweighs any negatives.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  I'm already anxiously awaiting the third book in this series but have had less consistent results with books in her Chesapeake Bay Diaries series.

Would I Recommend this Book? 
I would recommend this series if you enjoy books about family relationships though they are best read in order.  I've found her other series a little less consistent.


  1. This sounds good, I love stories about families. I love the cover.

  2. That cover is adorable and peaceful, and I like the idea of sisters and family. Hugs..RO

  3. A very thoughtful review, Katherine. Hope you enjoy the third book when you get it.

  4. I am so pleased you enjoyed this. I loved book one and have this to devour.

  5. I’m glad I read your review because I was sent a copy of this book but I haven’t yet read the first one. Sounds like I better grab book one from library first!

  6. I've never read Mariah Stewart before, but I have heard good things. Although this didn't live up to the first book, I"m glad you liked it. Being in a little reading funk is never fun!

  7. I see your point about Des but I still really really liked this book and look forward to the next one - Allie's story. Can't wait to see how it plays out! Loved your thoughts on this one.

  8. How far is your drive home from Mississippi? Is it a marathon like how most ppl drive from SF to LA which is about 8 hours?
    Yeah, my daughter knows how I felt about that not knowing but she is in general is a good kid and helps me with stuff. I had her bake my grandmother brownies as our birthday gift from us and that really helped me last Friday as I was exhausted after my trip up to the city.

  9. Hmm that reminds me I read the first one and looking back I see I listened to it and it was great on audio so will look to see if this one is available. I love coming to your reviews and seeing Very Good at the top.

  10. Very good review, Katherine! I used to really enjoy Mariah Stewart's suspense novels from years ago. Then I noticed that she switched gears to small-town dramas. I read the first Chesapeake installment and wasn't blown away, unfortunately. Maybe this series would be a better bet for me.

  11. The theme of family connection is what really makes me want to read this one.

  12. Ooo not an author I've read but thinking I really need to try them out. That cover is lovely, too!