The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories
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The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories

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Jacey met the man of her dreams a year ago, and she hasn't seen him since. Finally relocating him as the pastor at her best friend's wedding was the last thing she expected. A year ago, Jacey was trapped on a rooftop during a flood with perfect strangers, including a family and a man named Colin. After two days there together, she had no doubt that Colin was the man of her dreams. When they were finally rescued, he tucked his number into her pocket, but an accident with the rescue boat left her hospitalized with amnesia and PTSD.           

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 320
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2017
Dimensions: 8.40 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 071803984X
ISBN-13: 9780718039844

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Publisher's Description

"There’s no time," Colin said. "You have to go. Find me, call me . . ."

 

Jacey and Colin shared the three most intense days of their lives together, waiting for help as Mississippi floodwaters surrounded them. Jacey knew Colin was the love of her life—until her rescue boat went under water, along with Colin’s last name and pieces of Jacey’s memory.

 

The last thing she remembered was being submerged in water. Again.

 

As Jacey walks down the aisle as the maid of honor in her friend’s wedding a year later, the last person she expects to see is Colin. The biggest surprise, though, is that the man of her dreams is not wearing jeans and flip-flops as he did when he held her through those long nights of the flood. He’s the preacher.

 

As Jacey’s memories come flooding back, it’s almost more than she can take. The fate of the young family trapped with them haunts her. The unwavering honesty—and support—of her best friend Georgia forces her to take a fresh look at herself. She’s spent her life afraid of love. But this flood is opening Jacey’s heart in the most unexpected ways.

Author Bio

Celeste Fletcher McHale lives on her family farm in Central Louisiana where she enjoys raising a variety of animals. Her hobbies include writing, football, baseball, and spending much time with her grandchildren. Website: fletchermchale.wordpress.com Facebook: FletcherMcHale Twitter: @FletcherMcHale

 

Editorial Reviews

'The writing is so beautifully done, the prose so delicately chosen, that the book is a treat to savor.'
'McHale’s (The Secret to Hummingbird Cake) conversational tone, flawed characters, and feel-good ending make for an uplifting read that incorporates themes.'
'McHale has a way of creating characters who are believably flawed and human. Her wit and hilarity are perfect matches for the heartfelt romance in this winsome book.'
“This interesting take on a different type of post-traumatic stress and how it may be overcome with faith, love, and friendship would be a good read for fans of Beth K. Vogt.”

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  1. Yvette K.
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Enjoyable Contemporary Southern Fiction
    November 15, 2017
    Yvette K.
    Quality: 5
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Having loved the author's debut novel last year, I was prepared. I waited until I was emotionally ready and had stocked up on tissue, poised to become a blubbering mess... It didn't happen, but I still enjoyed the pants off this book.

    The prologue is a bit of a red herring, setting the reader up for an emotional and compelling story. Then the first chapter drops you into a scene with a lighter, shallower feel. A bit jarring at first, but it is easy to adapt and just let the story unfold.

    Now, it isn't without flaws. Jacey Lang doesn't really come off as a credible magazine writer, but that bit of background isn't intrinsic to most of the story. While I found her somewhat relatable, and the arc of her memory loss/mental block interesting, the repeated desire to punch someone was a bit off-putting. Really, this story is full of some messed up people, including the man she fell for while stranded on a rooftop during a flood. Colin Jennings may have become ordained in the time between Jacey's rescue and finally finding each other again at her roommate Willow's wedding, but he has some serious baggage and a bit of growing up to do. All of which added layers to the story of this couple finding, losing, finding, losing, and finding each other again.

    Jacey's sporadic memories of the flood, and the magnolia branch of the title, are interspersed throughout the novel. The lost being found is a recurring theme in this book, as Jacey finally faces up to the losses that her mind has blocked and goes looking for the other survivors from that rooftop. This is a part of the story where coincidences come in to play, leading Colin and Jacey to separately come to terms with parts of their pasts.

    One of the things that the author does particularly well is close female friendships. Friendships that seem so real and relatable. While Willow doesn't figure into the story much, the third roommate Georgia does. Georgia is smart and smart-mouthed, supportive, funny, and woe to the man who does her friend wrong.

    If you are looking for a touching, sweet romance with enough Southern sass to keep it from being a tear-jerker, then this is a good choice. A quick read that might make you wish it wasn't a stand-alone novel.

    This review refers to a finished copy I voluntarily received from Thomas Nelson and Zondervan's Fiction Guild. All opinions expressed are my own.
  2. ADFehl
    Arden, NC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    3 Stars Out Of 5
    Plot was a little Swiss-cheesy
    September 24, 2017
    ADFehl
    Arden, NC
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 3
    Value: 3
    Meets Expectations: 3
    Jacey is a writer for a regional Southern life magazine, on location for a story in Mississippi. Colin is a traveling minister specializing in disaster relief (specifically, building houses for the needy). As life would have it, Colin finds himself caught in one such disaster when the Mississippi town he's currently located in -- the same as our Miss Jacey -- is hit with a storm that brings devastating flooding. Both caught in the storm, Jacey and Colin meet when Colin pulls her onto the roof he and a local family are clinging to while awaiting rescue.

    Three days pass while the sodden group awaits rescue of any kind. The reader is told that something magical happened between Colin and Jacey, but honestly we're not given many details about what went down that was so world-rocking between them other than some hints that they talked about the need for survival and then there was some time for cuddles and make-out sessions. But what led to those stolen kisses? Your guess is as good as mine 'cause I kept waiting for those deets that never seemed to come. A couple swears they fell in love in 3 days -- is that not a story the reader deserves to know in ally its swoon-worthy details?!

    Anyway, when help finally does arrive, Colin makes sure Jacey and Lillian, the mother with the 4 boys that shared the roof with them, all make it into the boat, his plan being that the boat now looks crowded so he'd just wait for the next boat to come around. But he doesn't let Jacey go without writing down all his contact info on a piece of paper and shoving it in her pocket. Just moments after being saved, Jacey's rescue boat collides with another, throwing all the passengers back into the water. Jacey suffers injuries that leave her hospitalized for a time with months of physical rehab after. She also finds that the trauma has left her with not only PTSD but also temporary amnesia regarding events of that harrowing day.

    Fast forward a year later and we meet the chick-lit standards McHale includes in the plot: the group of besties who met in college and have sailed through thick & thin together since. Best girl Willow is now getting married while other best girl Georgia is struggling with having recently lost the love of her life to his lapse in fidelity. Jacey is at Willow's side as maid of honor and gets the shock of her life to find that none other than Colin is officiating! Now back in each other's lives, the two have to discover if what felt real truly was or if it was just a case of fear-of-death-fueled emotions.

    This one proved to be yet another case of a novel where the secondary characters entertained me far more than our leads. Maybe it was because I as the reader wasn't made privy to any of the heart-melting conversations that must have went down between Colin & Jacey... must have been something pretty heady to feel love after 3 days ... but I don't know the details of their romance, if it can be called that, so for much of the book I wasn't that invested in their story. In fact, their back and forth cold-shoulder drama and hurt feelings based on assumptions got tiring.

    It's generally presented as a given in romances that our female lead be irresistible to those around her but I wasn't entirely sold on Jacey in this sense. It was undeniably kind and moving what she did for Lillian's boys later on in the book but the way she was with Colin at times struck me as gratingly childish. Especially a moment near the close of the book, where Colin just wants to put all the miscommunication behind them -- he approaches her humbled, ready to explain his side of things -- and can I just say, about the worst thing he did IMO is send an insensitive text which masked some of his unspoken insecurities, a text he shortly after profusely tried to apologize for -- and she bald-face lies to him (more than once in one convo!) and then boots him out her door! Girl, what?! And then she has the gall to call Georgia and whine that she wishes Colin would just explain things if he really care. He tried, you goob! Then the inevitable make-up scene -- she admits to lying but gets away with giggling and telling him, "It's your fault though!" which he seems to gladly accept? Colin, in response, admits to being tempted to take her right there on his buddy's ottoman.. okay, I'm done with these two and I see them as the type that ends up divorced in 5 years or less lol

    But yes, those secondary characters came in to save my interest! Colin's bartender friend Julie was an admirable tough-as-nails type with a quick wit, and my heart immediately warmed to the elderly Mrs. Ernestine. Shame she didn't have more book time.

    The real show-stealer though -- Miss Georgia. Girl had SASS for days and I loved every bit of it!

    Jacey :(after a date with Colin): He was quite the gentleman.

    Georgia: Oh, how boring.

    Colin: Gotta be some kind of record, eight seconds in the door and the interrogation begins.

    Georgia: I must be slipping.

    Georgia was the definition of the perfect best friend. Day or night, if Jacey called and said she needed her, Georgia was there in minutes. If someone hurt Jacey, she was quick to say, "Oh no, I'm not having that." But she also wasn't shy to set Jacey right when her behavior was sometimes slightly out of line. Also, in a nod to McHale's previous novel, The Secret To Hummingbird Cake, Georgia has a story about binging on hummingbird cake while working through a heavy bout of depression, "And I hate hummingbird cake!" {Sidenote: In the author acknowledgements it is revealed that Georgia and Jacey are named after two close friends of McHale.}

    There are some good thought-provoking themes that stand out in this novel. For one, the reader is introduced to Colin's moneyed background. His story of stepping away from the family fortune to pursue a life of service and the challenges that brought him, in regards to familial relationships, will give the reader pause, having one consider that yes, maybe now that grass over there doesn't seem so green! Colin, through his family struggles, is also given a rough crash-course in the lesson of forgiveness. He carries a lot of deep-seated anger and resentment towards his parents, but over time discovers that perceived sins or mistakes often have more complicated backstories to them that must be considered. As one line in this novel points out, "Forgive people even if they're not sorry." Again, something that readers will likely find applicable in difficult areas of their own lives.

    Aside from the dud of a romance (at least for me) between Jacey & Colin, another area of the story that left me somewhat troubled was how the topic of race was handled. It was disappointing to see McHale lean on racial stereotypes to craft the personalities of so many of the African-American characters in this book. Lillian, the mother of the four boys, was a single mother, the father of her children serving a life sentence in prison, Lillian herself described as having little education, living what seemed (by the few descriptions given) to be a low-income neighborhood. The black servant working for Colin's rich white parents, even though this story takes place in present day... Sometimes it just struck me as there being this whispered tone of "well, that's just the way things are around here." I feel as if an opportunity was missed to shed life on these impoverished communities that do indeed exist but also commonly have a rich sense of community behind them. Had that been worked in a bit better, I think the novel would have had some more depth to it. Instead, the plot's focus, in regards to the African-American characters, seemed to be on how the misfortunes of these characters ended up (in a roundabout way) bettering the lives of already-privileged white characters. That undertone made me a bit sad, if I'm being honest. But again, I can appreciate what Jacey ended up doing for those boys, and the willingness to serve and love that that act demonstrated.

    While the plot itself wasn't a slam dunk for me personally, I applaud author Celeste Fletcher McHale for announcing her intent to donate a portion of the proceeds for this book to the victims of Louisiana's devastating floods of 2016. She also provides contact info for relief organizations working in the area should you yourself wish to contribute to relief / rebuilding efforts there.

    FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
  3. Angela Bycroft
    Owhango, New Zealand
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Unique, compelling and above all fun.
    August 20, 2017
    Angela Bycroft
    Owhango, New Zealand
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    The Sweet Smell of Magnolias was a fantastic contemporary read which transported the reader into the rich vibrant world of Louisiana and particularly the devastating floods of 2016. Jacey finds herself caught literally clinging to a roof top next to a strange man she doesnt know but over the course of the long flooded hours they develop a strong unbreakable bond - until in the final minutes of rescue - Jacey hits her head and all memory of their ordeal initially disappears along with her handsome stranger.

    It was quite the original and compelling opening and one that kept a readers interest piqued. Fast forward to the present - and Jacey is a bridesmaid at her friends wedding, now recovered from her injuries - and who should be the officiating minister at said wedding? Colin - her rooftop confidant and flood companions.

    What follows is Jacey and Colin trying to sort through the returning memories and confusion which surrounds Jaceys memories and rekindling what might have been an amazing start to a relationship.

    This is no mere run of the mill romance novel - its setting and characters are so vivid and real they live beyond the page and for all the serious setting, there are fantastic touches of humour and literal laugh out loud dialogue.

    I would recommend this book to anyone weary of the stock standard romance genre which can become predictable and stale. Unique, compelling and surprisingly fun!!!

    I received a copy of this book from the publisher via The Fiction Guild, and was not required to post a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own.
  4. Semmie
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Story of Love & Forgiveness
    July 26, 2017
    Semmie
    Age: 35-44
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    ** "God doesn't see color. Only people do, and only ugly people at that. God only sees our hearts." **

    Celeste Fletcher McHale's "The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories" is a sweet story of love, forgiveness, redemption and coming home.

    A year after being stuck on a roof during a devastating Louisiana flood, writer Jacey Lang is still suffering from post-trauma anxiety, suffering panic attacks and patchy amnesia. The only good things to come out of the traumatic experience? Meeting single mother, Lillian, and her adorable children, and meeting Colin Jennings -- a man Jacey falls in love with after three days.

    Unfortunately, after being rescued and being forced to leave Colin behind, Jacey, Lillian and the boys suffer a devastating accident -- leaving Jacey in the condition she currently finds herself, and wondering whatever happened to Colin.

    When Jacey and Colin, now a minister, surprisingly reunite at a wedding, the two attempt to pick up their relationship where it left off a year ago. And when Jacey learns that three of Lillian's sons are now in foster care, Jacey begins a campaign to adopt these three adorable boys -- offering them love and security.

    What follows is a story that cautions us against letting misunderstandings and assumptions rule our lives. It dives into dealing with anger, resentment and forgiveness, and encourages us to embrace life. It helps us remember to trust the plan for our lives, even when you can't see that plan; and to focus on the things to be thankful for in our lives, and not to just focus on the things that test us.

    A small word of caution, there is some mild innuendo during conversations, as well as some alcohol use in "The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories."

    You will love not only Jacey and Colin, but her quirky roommate Georgia, and Lillian's adorable sons.

    The book at first came off as a typical romance novel, with a slightly slow start. So at first I would have given it a four out of five stars. But the end was full of love and grace and sacrifice and the beauty of family coming together, so I would give the end five stars. So, with that said, I'd give this book:

    Four and a half stars out of five.

    Thomas Nelson provided this complimentary copy for my honest, unbiased review.
  5. Lucy
    WV
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Witty and Charming
    July 20, 2017
    Lucy
    WV
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Witty, charming, endearing, just a few of the words that come to mind after reading this new to me author. Southern inspirational fiction that deals with relationships on many levels and how being vulnerable and honest can bring healing. I ended up loving these characters....even the ones that seemed unlovable in the beginning. Perfect read for a summer day while sipping mint tea and imaging you can smell those Magnolias.

    I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction Guild. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.
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