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I have read five MKA (Mary Kay Andrews) books to date, and savored the first four like a favorite dessert. I can appreciate that she not only sets her books in familiar southern locals but that she is actually FROM the area. Nothing irks me more than people who try to write southern fiction without ever having actually stepped foot below the Mason-Dixon. We don’t all drive pick up trucks or play the banjo, and some of us don’t fry everything we eat for goodness sake. Obviously she is following the old adage to ‘write what you know’ and as a result her first four books were hilarious, irreverent, truly southern novels with strong leading ladies and of course, a little bit of playful romance.

Her characters are imperfect, temperamental, and quirky. Page after page had me laughing out loud. I devoured Savannah Breeze in about 2.5 seconds and fell in love, quickly gobbling up everything else that she had published at the time. I have diligently searched the book stores ever since in search of something new by MKA and, while I liked it enough to finish it (every book gets 100 pages before I make that decision), The Fixer Upper was a decidedly disappointing read.

MKA took a departure from her usual formula to introduce a young and naive character, a recently graduated lobbyist, and sets the beginning of her book in Washington D.C. a far cry from anything even remotely southern. The character as a whole felt forced throughout the book. We’re supposed to believe that she graduated with top honors from high school to undergrad and then finally from Georgetown but that she’s disgustingly oblivious to the political bribery going on around her for the first half of the book until she gets blindsided by a federal investigation, fired from her job, and thrown into a house-flipping situation in a small southern town while inheriting a mean spirited old lady and her dog in the process – all because she had a crush on her much older boss.
Um, what?

I need a little congruity here. You want me to believe that this chick is ridiculously book smart but doesn’t have an ounce of common sense? I had a hard time loving or hating the lead character. I just found her dull and boring. Maybe I’m not a big fan of the constant damsel in distress type, but the heroine in The Fixer Upper has few redeeming qualities. She can’t stand up to either of her divorced parents, her crotchety old roommate, her former boss, the FBI, or anyone else that comes knocking on her door. For the majority of the book, I’d have bet on a wet noodle to have more spine and more than once I caught myself mentally calling her pathetic without feeling sorry for her what so ever.

Throughout the book MKA made obvious attempts to inject her usual easy humor, with the hard-line FBI agents for example, but their pithy one liners were cliche and the character templates themselves too overdone.

Although there were several minor characters worth reading about, a quaint little Georgia town, a glorious old home place, and a bit of family drama I would have loved a more in-depth explanation of, I would not recommend this book to other MKA fans. Her books are generally very entertaining, but this one fell short of the mark.

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