Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel: Dear Daphne Series, Book 1 by Melody Carlson; approx. 320 pp; first published in 2013 by Thorndike Books; current Kindle list price $0.99 (USD), paperback edition, $13.68 (USD), hardbound edition, $30.99 at Amazon.com. Book 1 of a 4-book series.
Recommended: for Christian women – but with the warning that this is the first in a series with a storyline that is not fully resolved until the end of the series.
Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel: Dear Daphne Series, Book 1 is a light-hearted, easy-to-read happily-ever-after, except that readers don’t quite get the happily-ever-after in this volume. Or not all of the happily-ever-after.
The central storyline – whether Daphne can comply with the eccentric terms of her late aunt’s will and inherit the sizeable estate – isn’t resolved and, from all appearances, won’t be until the end of the series. That irks some readers, yet Melody Carlson gives us so much reason to care about Daphne (as well as her family and friends) that I think most will want to continue. I do.
I don’t read a lot of chick lit, and even less romance, but I confess I did enjoy this one. I found myself disappointed to see how close I was coming to the end, and I initially felt a little disappointed with the ending, wishing it had been stronger. Upon reflection, though, I decided the story ended exactly where it needed to end.
Daphne Ballinger, a 34-year-old The New York Times wedding writer who has all but given up on dreams of her own wedding, returns to Appleton for her Aunt Dee’s funeral. Afterwards, her aunt’s attorney stuns the family by announcing that Daphne is the sole heir to her aunt’s estate. He’s got more surprises in store for Daphne, who learns the bequest comes with a few strings.
The premise is, frankly, implausible. No attorney would prepare such a will because any court would overturn it. But this premise is unfolded quite early in the story, and those who read books like this should be prepared to suspend disbelief and get ready to be entertained. And they will be.
Daphne is a darling. The premise may be incredible, but she isn’t nor are the other characters. And certainly Carlson can tell a story. She doesn’t preach. She doesn’t proselytize. But she does share a message, and one that you won’t find in most romances. Daphne hears it when she accepts an invitation to join a singles group at a local church.
“I realized with complete and utter clarity that I was looking for a human being to fulfill me and make me whole. When what I needed to do was to allow God to fulfill me and make me whole. Suddenly it was crystal clear that until I reached that place where God was making me whole, I wouldn’t have all that much to offer a soul mate anyway,” the pastor tells the young men and women in the group.
The book ends shortly after this scene, and some reviewers object. I don’t agree with those who claim it ends with a cliff hanger, because Carlson does resolve the conflict within Daphne even if she doesn’t resolve the question of whether Daphne can fully inherit her aunt’s estate. To find out that, you’ll have to keep reading . . . but I think you’ll want to anyway.
Description: With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it’s not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?
When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.
Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt’s very specific posthumous terms — personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.
And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee’s life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God’s perfect timing.
Also in this series:
About the author: Melody Carlson has written more than 200 books (with sales around 6.5 million) for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her novels range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including Romantic Time’s Career Achievement Award, the Rita and the Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film or television. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.
Note: Sis received a complimentary reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. She is grateful for the opportunity to read and review it.