The Romance Readers’ Book Club
Julie L. Cannon
Plume, Dec 2007, $13.00
In 1974 Rigby, Georgia, fifteen year old Tammi Elco avoids her guardian Granny as the older woman is deeply religious. Granny’s spouse Pepaw begs the Heavenly Father to end the draught that is destroying his farm whereas Granny believes God is punishing the family for their transgressions. Granny insists there will be no trick or treating as that is a pagan sin. After church, Tammi and her thirty years old childlike cousin Orr sneak out to go trick or treating. Dell Terhune gives Orr candy and Tammi romance novels.
Tammi comes up with the idea of the ROMANCE READERS’ BOOK CLUB. At school she asks LaDonna Tallchief to join the club; Donna says yes. Next she needs a place to meet so she asks her Aunt Minna, if they can come to her home. Minna says yes and joins the club. Minna tells Tammi that her Uncle Finch is dying and his wife Nanette and their teenage son Leon will come to stay.
At the first club meeting, LaDonna brings her older cousin Park. They agree to meet in a month with each having one week to read the first six chapters of a book. Nanette and Leon arrive and Tammi thinks her cousin by marriage not blood is a hunk. Meanwhile Reverend Goodlow warns people that lust is causing the drought, which worries a guilt laden Tammi as she dreams of kisses with Leon as the stars of the romance novels.
This is a well written southern family drama, but the lack of references to the civil rights movement that impacted the region in the 1970s fails to provide an anchor to the period. Still the storyline stars fully developed characters that bring to life 1970s rural Georgia while the use of “trashy” romance novels is a clever device that enables the audience to see the power religious beliefs hold on people. Readers who appreciate something unique will want to read this fine coming of age historical.