Sara reviews The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews, St. Martin’s Press, 2022, 437 pages
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the personal lives of HGTV reality TV shows, here’s a book for you. This story has a lot going on: a televised home renovation on an incredibly tight deadline, new developments in a seventeen-year-old unsolved murder case, a cute romance with a tense (but not too cringy) love triangle, and a whole host of sketchy characters getting in the way of the show. But all publicity is good publicity, right?
The story takes place in Tybee, Georgia, near Savannah. Hattie Kavanaugh is a young widow who flips houses for a living, along with her best friend Cass and her father-in-law, Tug. At the beginning of the book, she finds herself in debt from a project-gone wrong, and has a chance encounter with a TV director, Mo, who wants to hire her for a last-minute new show. She’s reluctant, but she needs the money, so she agrees.
During production, everything that can go wrong goes wrong. The house has “bad juju” some people say, as the former owners are an unpleasant family who left it to rot when they couldn’t agree on who would take care of it. In addition to the usual renovation hiccups (termites, water damage), some disturbing secrets are discovered in the walls, and the media nightmare and investigation that follows end up putting both Hattie’s reputation, and her life, on the line.
I have never read a Mary Kay Andrews book before, but given her popularity, I was very curious to see if her stories hold up. And I have to say: this one absolutely does. Mystery and Romance are not my preferred genres, but I had a great time reading her work. The characters have depth and rich histories, the chapters are short and full of dialogue for a quick pace, and the details about the renovation and the murder case were realistic and grounding. The ending, I will admit, is a bit predictable: I knew who the killer was by the time I was about halfway through the book. However, I think Andrews ties everything up in a satisfying way, so I wasn’t bothered by that.
Considering this book takes place at a beach house, I’d call it the perfect “beach read.” It’s a lighthearted mystery; while there is a murder, and some dark moments, I wouldn’t say that any of it is too heavy. The romance has a few spicy moments, but it generally follows the “fade-to-black” rule, which I think was nice. It’s really more about the characters and the story than the eroticism. I can absolutely see why people love this author, and despite my disdain for romance, I may actually have to read some more!