Everyone is talking about Jennie Sue Baker and the mess she made of her life in New York. The former high school queen bee—and wealthy darling of Bloom, Texas—has returned home after all these years, riding on a common bus and bearing two bounced alimony checks. In a town that thrives on gossip, Jennie’s fall from grace has shamed her mother, set the town buzzing, and caused old, jealous enemies to whisper in delight. They say she’s taken a job as a housekeeper, gotten a garage apartment, and might be crushing on Rick Lawson, a simple farmer with modest dreams. As romance starts to bud, Jennie relishes what it means to follow her heart, find real new friends, and finally be herself—regardless of all the lying town chatter. But fate has another twist in store. Rumor has it that Jennie now stands to lose what matters most…unless she can convince Rick of one true thing—and that’s love.
Source: Netgalley My Rating: 4½/5 stars
Holy Hannah is it hot in Bloom, Texas!! Jennie Sue Baker is back in town and the town is alight with gossip. Not only is she back in town, but she showed up on a bus, doesn’t have her husband in tow, and only brought one suitcase with her. The icing on the cake, she looks terrible and her momma is the first one to tell her so.
Jennie Sue Baker doesn’t particularly care what anyone thinks about her. Yes, she’s gained ten pounds, yes, she’s wearing jeans and sneakers, and yes, her ex husband ran off with another woman right before the IRS seized all their property and froze their accounts. To say Jennie Sue Baker has more important things to worry about than what other people think, doesn’t even scratch the surface. With less than a thousand dollars, no job, and only her parent’s home to run to, Jennie Sue Baker is home and determined to turn her life around. Jennie Sue is resolved in her mission, she will never again be a pretty piece of arm candy to a man who doesn’t love or even care about her, and she will never again be dependent on anyone other than herself.
Jennie Sue’s momma has other plans . . . .
In less than 24 hours, Jennie Sue’s momma has made her position clear: her only daughter will lose weight, she’ll get a proper wardrobe, she’ll take her overall appearance and attitude more seriously, and by Christmas, she’ll have a new fiancé if not husband, of proper social standing. What’s more, in order to secure the first part of her plan, there will need to be a damn good cover story spread around town to account for Jennie Sue’s sudden appearance in Bloom and her lack of a husband and money. Nothing is going to get in the way of Jennie Sue’s momma and her grand plan, and if something does, well, she just may die from the humiliation.
Jennie Sue has other plans . . . .
Determined to thwart her momma and her momma’s ridiculous plans, Jennie Sue leaves her childhood home and heads into town. A bus got her there and a bus can get her out too. But, before she can hop the next bus out of town, Jennie Sue runs into Lettie and Nadine, two of Bloom’s oldest and wealthiest woman who happen to be looking for a new house keeper. If Jennie Sue will clean the ladies’ homes and help them run errands, she can take up residence in the garage apartment and share meals with the old girls as needed. House cleaning will only take up a couple days a week which leaves Jennie Sue three more days of the week to run the old bookstore. In short order, Jennie Sue has herself two jobs with some benefits, a place to live and call her own, and a few new friends who seem truly interested in helping her. Oh yes, her momma is going to absolutely die from the shame and humiliation!
As Jennie Sue begins to settle into her new life and routine, she finds she is truly happy for the first time in many years. Lettie and Nadine are positively blessings, the bookstore is a Godsend, and her time with Rick Lawson, local farmer, is an exciting new prospect. For the first time in her life, Jennie Sue is standing on her own, doing as she pleases, and sincerely enjoying the modest lifestyle she is carving out for herself. Among her new friends, there are no pretensions, no judgements (OK, there is Cricket!), and nothing but kindness and support. This is well and truly a whole new world for Jennie Sue and she can’t ever see herself going back to the false, fake, horribly judgmental world of her mother. All that’s left to do is settle with the ghosts of her past, find some common ground with her momma, and move forward with her newfound happiness.
The Bottom Line: I just sunk right into this crazy story and didn’t care to crawl out until the very end. Bloom, Texas is one crazy place that would positively dry up if it weren’t for the rumor mill. 😊 Jennie Sue Baker is a character who’s hard to dislike and as her story unfolds, I found myself liking her more and more. Though she clearly loves her momma and daddy, she has had enough of their fake world/existence and wants something far more authentic for herself and her future. To be sure, there are a lot of obstacles, but with the small group of new friends she’s made, Jennie Sue is more confident than ever in her ability to succeed. At its core, Small Town Rumors is about love, friendship, loyalty, overcoming, and living the best life possible, with or without a boatload of money. This book has a bit of everything I adore in my books: there’s light romance, there’s light conflict, there’s a great deal of backstory/history, and there are some crazy little old ladies who just keep the overall mood light. Though there are some truly sad moments throughout this story, it is ultimately a happy ending I found to be immensely satisfying.