Tim Farrington (THE MONK DOWNSTAIRS) made Sandra want to swoon with this review:
I finished The Awful Mess with that wonderful/melancholy sense you get finishing a good book, of a kind joy mixed with sadness that it was over. It is such a lovely novel, in the classic way, with interesting, exquisitely human characters deftly drawn and fascinating in all their particularity, and a story that keeps the pages turning. Despite the comic recurrent note from the characters, that “This isn’t The Scarlet Letter, after all!” this is in fact a book in lovely dialogue with Hawthorne’s story, a New England story of a fiercely independent heroine struggling for a life worthy of aspirations, and her entwinement, in a small town, with a minister of the Lord, among others; and so a story of conscience, passion, and hypocrisy, of souls tested not only the fire of moral truths but in the glaring but often unilluminating light of a tiny community’s gossip, prejudices, and presumptions.
Mary Bellamy is wonderfully contemporary, and utterly sympathetic character, and her growth in both knowledge and self-knowledge throughout the book gives us some of the novel’s most satisfying substance. As a self-described “heathen” with a sharp mind, a good heart, and a wicked sense of humor, she also acts as a sort of acid test for the varieties of faith she encounters, and when she falls by the wayside to a violent catastrophe,it is through her eyes that we see the parable of the Good Samaritan enacted in fresh contemporary garb, with vivid and specific contemporary characters. And Mary herself, through her struggles, comes to see the real difference between the sheep and the goats: there is bathwater aplenty in this unsparing look at human piety and human self-delusion, but there is a baby as well, and a lovely awareness of that real heart of humanity is one of the many things that make the novel so completely satisfying.
It puts me in mind of Jane Austen, the moral mathematics here, that almost algebraic Austenesque precision in the characters ultimately reaping what they sow, and paying to the last farthing, is so strong and rings so exquisitely true in every case.
It’s wonderful, in short! It renews me as a reader, to enjoy a book so much; and as a writer, see it done so well.”
Tim Farrington, author of The Monk Downstairs and Lizzie’s War
The Awful Mess was an engrossing, well written story. It’s made more so for being so easy to believe it could really happen. I just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone I know.
BigAl from BigAl’s Books and Pals
This lovely and humorous love story is about a book editor who moves to a small New England town after her divorce. She quickly learns just how small the new town is when she realizes she’s the only eligible woman for miles around. She is pursued by the town’s police officer and the priest of the local church. But, Mary is true to her beliefs and stubborn, and fends off both men as well as she can. All of the townspeople are rendered in delicate and careful detail. This funny and witty novel brings to vivid life the small New England town with its religious beliefs and rowdy bars, all viewed through the lens of an endearing and intelligent woman.
Publishers Weekly – review of the ABNA submission manuscript (which is the same as the Amazon book, minus two graphic sex scenes)
Whether you’re the kind of reader who reads on the run, devouring delicious novels and never looking back, or the kind of reader who savors beautiful language, ironic dialogue and subtle commentary on the human condition, you will fall in love with the heroine of this book by the end of page one. Wonderfully written and slyly plotted, “The Awful Mess” follows the emotional and spiritual journey of Mary Bellamy from loneliness and rejection to love and redemption with surprising twists and turns. A word of warning: any female reader who prides herself on her self-honesty will find herself duly out-performed by our irresistible heroine (and may even envy Mary’s awful mess!).