CAFE READS: FOOLS PARADISE, by Jennifer Stevenson

A female and a male figure, both in bluejeans, backstage in a theater. Giving each other a friendly glance.

Daisy and BobbyJay really notice each other while working backstage.

Jennifer Stevenson’s Fools Paradise gives us Daisy and Bobbyjay, the youngest sprigs from modern Capulet and Montague trees, in “a blue-collar romantic comedy of feuds, follies, and getting your fingernails dirty.”  I can also promise you an expensive car full of fish!

Set in today’s Chicago world of union families, ethnic mixes and purely finding yourself, Fools Paradise shows us that there are a lot of smarts, manners and good humor hiding under these blue-collar folks.  It’s not so easy to break free of your assigned place in the family, whether you’re grandpa’s little girl—and chief cook and housemaid—or the youngest (and possibly the most thoughtful and well-educated) in a long line of Morton males.

Thanks to a huge prank that backfires big time, Daisy and Bobbyjay, who have known each other since they were children, end up engaged—or Bobbyjay may just end up dead.  Daisy has never really thought of Bobbyjay as anything other than a childhood friend who now gets cross-eyed at how his friend has matured, where Bobbyjay has always thought she was a darling, but would never have taken his life in his hands by trying to date the granddaughter of his uncle’s mortal enemy.

Turns out they don’t know anything about each other—and the discoveries are both hilarious and thoughtful.  Each step digs them in deeper, as they scheme about how to break off their engagement, even as they both privately wonder if they really want to call things off.  But family tensions are leading to some ugly scenes and genuine danger.  Can true love triumph?  Or will Bobbyjay sink from the anchor of his father and brothers’ plans?  Will Daisy break free of her assigned place in her family?

One thing I really enjoyed about this book is there are no “evil” characters.  There are stupid, and insensitive, and old-fashioned characters.  There are characters that learned in a different school, and haven’t kept up with the times.  There are characters that have no idea where a joke or a grudge ends and a crime begins.  But I could feel some sympathy for the bad guys by the end, even as I wanted them to fail.

This is a fun, fast read—I look forward to my next Jennifer Stevenson story!  Read a sample of Fools Paradise (Backstage Boys Book Two) or buy here.

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