Savannah Blues

Landing a catch like Talmadge Evans III got Eloise “Weezie” Foley a jewel of a town house in Savannahs historic district. Divorcing Tal got her exited to the backyard carriage house, where she has launched a spite-fest with Tal’s new fiancée, the elegant Caroline DeSantos.
An antiques picker, Weezie combs Savannah’s steamy back alleys and garage sales for treasures when she’s not dealing with her loopy relatives or her hunky ex-boyfriend. But an unauthorized sneak preview at a sale lands Weezie smack in the middle of magnolia-scented murder, mayhem . . . and more. Dirty deals simmer all around her — just as her relationship with the hottest chef in town heats up and she finds out how delicious love can be the second time around.

Chapter One

The rapping at the front door of the carriage house was unmistakable. Her. I could see Caroline DeSantos’s slender profile through the frosted glass inset of the front door. She had started by ringing the bell, once, twice, three times, then she began rattling the doorknob with one hand and banging at the brass knocker with the other.

“Eloise? Open up. I mean it. That beast of yours did it again. I’m calling the dogcatcher right now. You hear me? I’ve got my cell phone. I’m punching in the number. I know you hear me, Eloise.”

She did indeed have something that looked like a phone in her hand.

Jethro heard Caroline too. He raised his dark muzzle, which has endearing little spots like reverse freckles, his ears pricked up, and, recognizing the voice of the enemy, he slunk under the pine table in the living room.

I knelt down and scratched his chin in sympathy. “Did you, Jethro? Did you really pee on the camellias again?”

Jethro hung his head. He’s just a stray, but he almost never lies to me, which is more than I can say for any other male I’ve ever been involved with.

I patted his head as a reward for his honesty. “Good dog. Help yourself. Pee on everything over there. Poop on the doorstep and I’ll buy you the biggest ham bone in Savannah.”

The banging and door rattling continued. “Eloise. I know you’re home. I saw your truck parked on the street. I’ve called Tal. He’s calling his lawyer.”

“Tattletale,” I muttered, putting aside the box of junk I’d been sorting.

I padded toward the front door of the carriage house. The worn pine floorboards felt cool against the soles of my bare feet. Caroline was banging so hard on the door I was afraid she’d break the etched glass panel.

“Bitch,” I muttered.

Jethro barked his approval. I turned around and saw his tail wagging in agreement.

“Slut.” More wagging. We were both gathering our resolve for the coming barrage. Jethro crawled out from under the table and sat on his haunches, directly behind me. His warm breath on my ankles felt oddly reassuring.

I threw the front door open. “Sic her, Jethro,” I said loudly. “Bite the bad lady.”

Caroline took half a step backward. “I heard that,” she screeched. “If that mutt puts a paw in my garden again, I’m going to…”

“What?” I demanded. “You’re going to what? Poison him? Shoot him? Run him over in that sports car of yours? You’d enjoy that, wouldn’t you, Caroline? Running over a poor defenseless dog.”

I put my hands on my hips and did a good imitation of staring her down. It wasn’t physically possible, of course. Caroline DeSantos stands a good four inches taller than I do, and that’s without the four-inch spike heels she considers her fashion trademark.

She flushed. “I’m warning you. That’s all. For the last time. There’s a leash law in this town, as you well know. If you really loved that mutt of yours, you wouldn’t let him run around loose all the time.”

She really was quite lovely, Caroline. Even in Savannah’s ungodly summer heat, she was as crisp and fragrant as a just-plucked gardenia. Her glossy dark hair was pulled off her neck in a chignon, and her olive skin was flawless. She wore lime green linen capri slacks and a matching linen scoop-neck blouse that showed only a tasteful hint of décolletage. I could have gone on living a long time without seeing her that way, that day.

“Oh,” I said. “Jethro is running around. Is that what’s bothering you about my poor little puppy? But you’re an expert at running around, aren’t you, Caroline? I believe you and my husband were running around on me for at least six months before I finally wised up and kicked him out.”

I’d kicked Tal out, but he hadn’t gone far. The judge in our divorce case was an old family friend of Tal’s daddy, Big Tal. He’d given our 1858 townhouse to Tal in the property settlement, and only after my lawyer raised the god-awfullest ruckus you ever heard, had he tossed me a bone — basically — awarding me the slim two-story carriage house right behind the big house.

Tal installed Caroline in the big house the minute the paperwork was completed, and we’ve had a running back-fence spite match ever since.

My lawyer, who also happens to be my uncle James, talked himself blue in the face trying to persuade me to sell out and move, but he knows better than to try to make a Foley change her mind. On Charlton Street I’d make my stand — to live and die in Dixie. Move? Me? No sirreebob.

Caroline flicked a strand of hair out of her face. She looked me up and down and gave me a supercilious smile.

It was Thursday. I’d been up at dawn cruising the still-darkened lanes of Savannah, trying to beat the trashmen to the spoils of the town’s leading lights. I looked like hell. My junking uniform, black leggings and a blue denim work shirt, was caked in grime from the Dumpsters I’d been digging through. My short red hair was festooned with cobwebs, my nails were broken, and peeling paint flakes clung to the back of my knuckles.

The day’s pickings had been unusually slim. The two huge boxes of old books I’d pounced on behind an Italianate brownstone on Barnard Street had yielded up mostly mildewed, totally worthless Methodist hymnbooks from the 1930s. A carton of pretty Occupied Japan dishes rescued from a pile of junk at a house on Washington Avenue hadn’t turned up a single…

Introduction

Savannah Blues is a delightful, witty novel by an author who is destined to become the Susan Isaacs of the South. It’s the story of a woman who is coming to terms with a life that has suddenly changed — seemingly not for the better — and it has a delicious revenge-against-the-bimbo-who-stole-your-ex plot.

Eloise “Weezie” Foley has lived in Savannah all her life, long enough to know the language…and where the best garage sales are happening. Weezie, once the wife of successful architect, Talmadge ‘Tal’ Evans III, is now an “antiques picker,” buying antiques at the source and reselling them to dealers. She discovered her talent for spotting valuable “junk” when she was fixing up her elegant Savannah townhouse. Then Tal fell for another woman. The divorce settlement left Weezie living with her dog in the backyard carriage house while her ex and his girlfriend, Caroline DeSantos, romp in the rooms she lovingly restored. No matter how awkward the proximity, Weezie won’t sell. As she says, “On Charlton Street I’d make my stand-to live and die in Dixie.” (p. 3)

It’s enough to make any woman bitter, or at least to let her dog piddle on Caroline’s prize camellias.

Savannah Blues is a story of family ties and influence; of a woman putting her life back together after an emotionally devastating divorce; and of a fascinating city, Savannah.

Much of Savannah Blues revolves around family. Weezie’s father spends his nights watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy while her mother, Marian, sips iced tea laced with Four Roses. Marian’s tippling is the family secret, which is getting harder to keep. Then there’s another family hiding skeletons, that of Weezie’s new boyfriend Daniel, the chef at the hottest restaurant in town. His past is a closed door, and opening it might be Weezie’s biggest mistake. One more critical family looms large in this story, or at least its legacy does: the late Anna Ruby Mullinax’s crumbling plantation on the Skidaway River. Beaulieu is an historic treasure, one worth preserving if Weezie and her friends can save it from the developers’ bulldozers.

Weezie is spunky and wisecracking but she’s also at a turning point in her life. Unsure if she is really over Tal, she ends up playing “she loves me, she loves me not” with gorgeous, he-man hunk Daniel. While she progressively gets back on her feet and builds her antique business, she needs to find out where a relationship fits in her future — if one fits there at all. Tal’s cheating hurt her badly. Dare she trust Daniel? And can she decipher the devious goings-on around her?

Savannah, sultry in the summer heat, has a piece of history on nearly every street corner and a disturbing darkness lurking beneath its surface charm. Sliding sinuously in and out of the story, this intriguing city contributes a specific world view, and perhaps a touch of schizophrenia, to Weezie’s character and that of her eccentric friends and relatives, from the many-times married BeBe Loudermilk, Weezie’s best friend, to her gay Uncle James, an ex-priest turned lawyer who’s still in the closet about his homosexuality. Old Savannah is filled with bias; new Savannah has forgotten its values. What is worth preserving when the two clash is a central question at the heart of Savannah Blues.

Mary Kay Andrews has produced a work of fiction that is fun and funky, introspective and multi-layered — the debut of a new Southern voice in women’s fiction.

Questions for Discussion

Discuss Weezie’s character. What are her values? Her fears? Her ambitions? Does she change in any fundamental way by the end of the novel?

The first chapter sets up one emotional triangle — the ex-wife, the husband, the girlfriend. Discuss Weezie’s marriage to Tal: was it a “good marriage”? What went wrong? At the beginning of Chapter 7, Weezie says, “Right after Tal announced he was in love with somebody else and wanted a divorce, I was so depressed, all my friends were afraid I was suicidal. I ran around and did all the things women do when their lives are shattered into little pieces.” In your own experience, what are those things? Yet even after all Tal has done, Weezie still entertains thoughts of reconciliation. Do you find her post-divorce emotions for him typical or unusual?

Bebe Loudermilk also makes an appearance in the first chapter. In what respects is she the archetypal best friend? Of all the people who form Weezie’s “support system,” do you think Bebe is the strongest member? Why or why not?

Daniel is a sexy guy. Besides the chemistry between Weezie and him, what do they have in common? What weighs in against this relationship lasting? What does it have going for it? What’s your long-range prognosis?

Weezie’s mother Marian has been drinking for years. What event forces Weezie to face the reality of Marian’s alcoholism? Do you find what happens to Marian after the intervention to be convincing, or not?

What does the plantation Beaulieu represent? Is it worth saving? Should great old houses such as this one be preserved? Nearby Charleston, South Carolina, has an aggressive preservation program with very strict regulations forbidding the demolition or alteration of older buildings. Do you think such a program should be instituted nationwide? How much of our heritage should we save?

Discuss whether you believe the South is more sensitive to, or aware of, American history than other parts of the United States? Why or why not?

Is Savannah unique as a city? What contributes to its special character? Can you think of any other city that would have served as well as a backdrop for this story?

Weezie’s “antiquing” embodies this past decade’s enthusiasm for the yard sale, garage sale, flea market, Antiques Roadshow, and eBay. What do you make of this phenomenon? In the 1950s, for example, few people wanted “old things.” Everyone wanted new furniture, new homes, new appliances. Today’s chic “vintage” clothing were once called hand-me-downs. Speculate on the reasons for this change of perception.

Provenance, or a record of origin for an antique, is important in proving its authenticity. Fakes abound in Savannah Blues, from furniture to people. In what way is nearly everyone in the novel a fake — and who becomes authentic, or true to themselves, by the end of the book? Do you think self-deception is always destructive?

“A great heroine, steamy Savannah setting, a hunky chef, antiques galore. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

-Susan Elizabeth Phillips

“Savannah Blues serves up a tasty dish.”

-Ann B. Ross

“I really loved Savannah Blues. Mary Kay Andrews has perfect pitch when it comes to endearing, smart-mouth heroines.”

-Anne Rivers Siddons

“A shining novel of wit, love, and hilarious–yet poignant–vengeance.”

-Luanne Rice

“Quirky, endearing characters make Savannah Blues one heck of a good time.”

-Jennifer Crusie