Talk of the Town
by Lisa Wingate

Bethany House, 2008. ISBN 978-0-7642-0490-6.
Reviewed by Susan Ideus
Posted on 05/20/2008

Fiction: Chick Lit; Fiction: Romance; Fiction: Spirituality

They say timing is everything. I received this book just as the famous reality TV show, American Idol, was winding down to their finalists for the year. In Talk of the Town, Lisa Wingate tells the story of Amber Anderson, one of the five finalists of American Megastar. As is the case with the real reality show, finalists are filmed going to their hometowns for a reunion concert. Enter our main character, Mandalay Florentino, whose job it is to pull together the whole visit. But she has to pull it off without actually telling anyone what she's doing. Texas author Wingate, as she does frequently, sets the scene in a small Texas town, this one called Daily.

Definitely not a small town devotee, Manda is very conspicuous going about town talking to town folks. They figure out what she's about as soon as she arrives on the scene, but they do their best not to let her catch on to the fact that they've caught on. The townspeople, in the persons of Imagene Doll and all the beauty shop ladies, "adopt" Manda and try to help, although she's never sure she really needs their help. But Daily is just like that—neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend, never knowing a stranger. Of course, the gossip hotline is well and alive. They wouldn't like to think they're gossiping, though; they're really just looking out for their own. One of their own is Amber, and they'll do anything to help her overcome a difficult childhood. As far as Daily is concerned, there is only one American Megastar.

Manda's professional nemesis is boss Ursula, who gives orders like a staff sergeant and expects complete compliance. No is not a word in her repertoire. Manda is "sort of" engaged to David, who hasn't managed to find time to buy a ring. Between the lukewarm fiancé and the job stress, Manda is ready to have a personal crisis. Once in Daily, she meets Carter, who manages in a very short time to intrigue Manda as David never has. Who is this handsome stranger and why is he here sharing the Elvis suite with Manda?

After a week filled with debacles and disasters, the hometown trip and reunion concert turn out... Well, you'll have to read the book to find out. And, Manda decides... No, I'm not giving that away either. You'll love sharing this story with these wonderful folks!

Wingate writes tender and romantic stories that have a point to make. Her character development is good, introducing each character, giving the reader important background, and letting the reader get to know them. Soon they are the friends and neighbors we've known for a long time. Her books are light reads but never so syrupy sweet that the story is overpowered by marshmallow fluff. With a surprise or two for good measure, they stand on their own as modern day parables. Wingate espouses wholesomeness, family, friends and old-fashioned values. Her stories are readable and enjoyable, and I never have the feeling I've been preached to. Instead, I've usually learned a lesson. Though published by a Christian publishing house, I believe Wingate's novels attract a wide readership because her stories have universal appeal.

Talk of the Town is no exception. This latest offering by Wingate is very enjoyable, a good summer read. It's like going back home for a family reunion.

Lisa Wingate is a popular inspirational speaker, magazine columnist, and national bestselling author. Her work was recently honored by the Americans for More Civility for promoting greater kindness and civility in American life. Lisa and her family live in the Texas Hill Country. Visit the author's website.

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