Title: Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel (Dear Daphne # 1)
Author: Melody Carlson
Published: June 2013 by B&H Publishing Group
My Rating: 4/5!
Blurb from the cover!
With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?
When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.
Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms -- personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.
And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.
This book was a very different Melody Carlson that I read, the previous reads being Harsh Pink and Deep Green from the Truecolors series. Though this book doesn't have teenagers as protagonists, all these books are categorized under the label 'Christian', because all of them have this underlying theme relating to God, prayers and living life as a believer in the Almighty. It is subtle, not too overpowering and comes into the picture only towards the end when the protagonist and characters need support. Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel is a contemporary story of a young woman, Daphne Ballinger, living in New York since the past 12 years, writing wedding stories for The New York Times. She belongs to a small town called Appleton, but moved to New York with big dreams, including climbing to the top of the ladder as a journalist. Just that she seems stuck and unable to do much, mostly because of her cautious personality. She'd had her heart broken once while in New York, which makes her overly cautious and an 'avoider'.
When she learns that her Aunt Dee in Appleton has passed away, she decides to move back into Appleton, especially after learning that she's the heiress to everything her aunt owned. This is when she discovers how little she truly knew about her aunt. Aunt Dee is a mystery with secrets left behind, known only to the lawyer and now, Daphne. She isn't really all she made people believe. She was much more than that, and it is truly fascinating. I mean, as it mostly pertained to literary stuff, I felt really excited about those prospects, about the possibility of stuff like that actually happening. So cool! The writing style is descriptive and simple. Not too simple, but it seems to have a nice flow and ring to it that you get used to the way you're understanding the story without any intermissions in between. I like books that successfully recreate the aura of a place I haven't seen, so that I can easily imagine and 'be there' as if I'm a close observer. This book does all that beautifully! I would almost like to live in a place like Appleton. Such a sweet town!
I liked all the characters, who seemed to have clear distinctive personalities, so that you can try hazarding guesses about their actions. Fun people! Except for Ryan, Daphne's heart-breaker-ex-lover, who is such a snob! Sometimes I did wish Daphne would stop being so under-confident and be clearer about her feelings. And it was pleasant to see how she grew as a mature person in the book. I didn't find myself rooting for any one guy to be her future love interest, though. They all seemed nice enough, but not the perfect kind of guy I wished she had. True, that's what the book wants to convey, it's not all dreamy-dreams in reality. Sometimes you gotta settle for what's available. Maybe. Then there's this wonderfully mysterious Dear Daphne column, the secret to which I can't divulge here, but I found the questions and answer-giving very enjoyable and meaningful. This book's got some solid meaning!
Overall, the essence of the book is simple. The life of an ordinary girl who wants to fulfill her dreams, who gets heart-broken, who gets the opportunity to revive her life again, who feels confused because she's human and she's got to deal with many different personalities and trying to figure them out in light of the situation, dealing with secrets and making decisions, being given tremendous responsibilities, wanting to feel loved, then understanding and realizing that life is meant to be lived, whatever the circumstances, it is important to focus on being happy and believing that God would take you there, that everything has its own course, that things take time to settle sometimes, that it's important to have faith. There is no over-dramatization of any sort, even though I felt it seemed a bit underplayed. The blurb focuses on Aunt Dee's secrets and the book gives off a vibe that it'll be oh-so-exciting! For me it was slightly less exciting than I had anticipated, mostly because the 'secrets' thing is not the essence of the book. 'Life isn't perfect but how some people choose to deal with it is what matters', is what the book truly stands for.
There is an important clause in Aunt Dee's will which just wasn't getting any closer to completion as the book neared the end and I was anxious, because that was something that you can't just deal with in the last few pages! Turns out it has been left for the next book in the series! Which didn't make me particularly happy, but it's okay. The wait would be worth it! ;) I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a light yet meaningful contemporary read, it's easy and fast. Young Adult readers, Adult readers, anyone. There isn't any explicit content as such.
Thank you B&H publishers for this book! :)