A Middling Sort – Jud Widing

Original, smart, delightful!

A Middling Sort is as if Christopher Moore grabbed a thesaurus and started writing historical fiction.

middlingsortIt’s 1767, and Denton Hedges, a talented but insecure lawyer, heads to Fidget’s Mill, a small hamlet near Boston, to convince the three reigning wealthy families, who’ve made their money on importation, to refuse goods from England. The problem is, no one wants to listen to Denton, and he needs a way in to their inner circle. He’s also naive and unsure of himself.

Enter Miss Carsis, resident witch with her own aims for the town; her Familiar, No-Good Bulstrode (a turkey-demon with a British accent and his own motivations); her co-conspirator and underestimated side-kick, Mr. Increase; and members of these wealthy families, some of whom want Denton dead and some who just want to hang out and be friends.

This book made me laugh out loud. The story is original, the writing above par with droll intelligence, and just all-around entertaining. The ending, however, I found somewhat unexpected, but not in a good way.

Recommended for the reader who appreciates smart writing and tomfoolery balanced with tender insight.

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners – Gretchen Anthony

evergreenEvergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners has a family of cracked characters just trying to do their best for one another, and often failing.

Violet Baumgartner is the quintessential formidable matriarch. She loves her family fiercely, but sometimes that fierceness can be smothering. She is a busybody and a perfectionist who is obsessed with tradition, but every annoying thing she does is done out of love. Her husband, Ed, is just trying to endure her frenetic antics while he’s stuck at home adjusting to retirement. And their daughter, Cerise, has a secret she’s been waiting to share that just erupted unexpectedly at her father’s retirement party. Throughout the story are Violet’s annual Christmas letters that are often as earnest as they are snarky.

Throw in Violet’s best friend whose marriage is crumbling and the other child, a son, who’s being investigated by the feds, and you have a cocktail of crazy for the holidays.

The crisis in Evergreen Tidings leads to some hilarious family blow-ups worthy of “Arrested Development”. I couldn’t stop reading even though the book was shaking in my hands from laughter. Underneath it all, however, are some tender insights about how familial roles change with time.

Definitely pick this up in time for Christmas. It’s one you’ll want to re-read every year.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Harlequin Hanover Square Press for the review copy.