Monday, December 5, 2022

Champagne and Lemon Drops (Blueberry Springs 0.5), by Jean Oram (author), Cris Dukehart (narrator)

Oram Productions, ISBN 9781928198758, January 2015

I had very mixed feelings about this book.

Beth is a very likable character, who wants a quiet life in her hometown of Blueberry Springs, her career helping people in and out of the local hospital as a recreational therapist, and marriage, a white picket fence, and kids. A big family around the table for every holiday. She's planning her wedding to her sweetheart, Oz.

Except that Oz, who has seemed a bit "off" for a little while, announces they need to take a break. He hates his work as an accountant in his father's firm. He's living the life his father wants him to live. He needs to find himself.

It's not clear to Beth why she can't help him find himself, but what can she do? She agrees--and moves out of the trailer home they bought together. The friend best able to put her up temporarily is her best friend Katie. Awkwardly, she's also Oz's kid sister, but they make it work.

This where things start to get weird. Their "break" goes on longer than Oz had originally suggested, months in fact. His father has given him the business, signed it over to him--but with the killer clause that if he sells the business sooner than five years, most of the value will go to his father. He's feeling more trapped than ever. He's been drinking, and transferring clients to the rival firm, and he says, more than once, that Beth needs to move on. He doesn't know who he is, and can't be who she needs.

But every time Beth does something that even looks like moving on, Oz does something crazy. Gets into fights, causes scenes, comes to the hospital where Beth is doing a dance session for the seniors in continuing care, including her grandmother. He's drunk, and Beth orders him to leave, but he won't--and her grandmother is quite eager to dance with him, while her sort-of boyfriend in the continuing care program takes exception, and in the idiocy that follows, her grandmother falls and fractures her hip.

For this incident as with all the others, in this small, gossipy town, everyone blames Beth, and tells her she needs to get back together with Oz, because they're right for each other, and she's ruining him by not getting back together with him. No amount of pointing out that he broke up with her and has made it clear that he's not ready to change that now, or possibly ever

And Beth, being no dummy, is starting to wonder if Oz was ever right fore her.

I haven't mentioned Dr. Nash Liam, doctor from the "big city" of Dakota, in Blueberry Springs to work at the local hospital for a few years, and gain experience to advance his plans to move into hospital administration. He's a genuinely nice guy, and becomes the friend whom Beth can turn to when she needs to talk to someone who doesn't think she should just fix things by getting back together with Oz. He also encourages her to try some paths in her career than she hasn't considered before. He sees Beth the way she wants to be seen, and values the independence that no one else sees.

He's a city guy, though, and doesn't really like Blueberry Springs. That they're being hard on Beth doesn't help his impression of it, but that's not the main problem. He's just fundamentally a city, frustrated that a lot of things he enjoys can't be found closer than Dakota. The way things are done in Blueberry Springs, such as the time, later in their budding relationship, the only local mechanic who can work on his Volvo "breaks into his car." It set off his alarm, and Nash of course came running, and punched the guy out for trying to steal things from his car. But what he was really intending to do was put a part on the seat that Beth needed for her car. She'd called and asked him to, both she and the mechanic taking it for granted that the car would be unlocked. This is just incomprehensible to Nash.

It's frustrating; at first I wanted him to be the right guy for Beth. As the story progressed, I didn't want her to wind up with either of them. I wanted her to truly spread her wings.

Yet when we finally get Oz's version of what's been happening and why, on the one hand it's a much more attractive and understandable view of Oz, and really, he just should have talked to Beth.

On the other hand, he was getting drunk regularly instead of talking to Beth about what was really going on, and nobody, not one person, ever suggests that Oz needs to do something about his alcohol problem. No. It's Beth who has to get back together with Oz and save him. Beth is on her own trying to figure out the right thing to do. No real support, in this town where she knows everyone, and says repeatedly, really is her family. Who needs family like that?

I like Oram's writing. and the characters in this book are complex and interesting. I can't honestly say that I liked this story.

I bought this audiobook.

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