Carol of May Dreams Garden has suggested our book for this period and is the de facto president and hostess of our Garden Bloggers Book Club (Carol, I hope you don't mind the title! I mean it well.). Her choice is A Hoe Lot of Trouble by Heather Webber. Thanks, Carol, for a great suggestion! To my review...
What makes a garden novel enjoyable? First, it needs to be about a garden or gardener. Second, it should read quickly as it is not a reference book, per se; however, helpful information interspersed throughout is a plus. Third, the characters should be likeable enough that you would enjoy reading about them again.
A Hoe Lot of Trouble scores perfectly (for me) in all three categories listed above. Sometimes you just want to read for pleasure. I liked it well enough that I quickly read the second one in the series, Trouble in Spades, as well as the third one, Digging Up Trouble. There is a fourth one that I’ll probably be ordering very soon.
I do have a slight disagreement with something in the second book, but I’ll save that for the end. (Obviously, it wasn’t serious enough for me to stop reading the books!) On to the books…let me just say that if I am vague, it is intentional because I want you to read and enjoy these books…and not have the story spoiled.
Nina Quinn is the main character (hence, Nina Quinn Mysteries). The books revolve around her landscaping business Taken by Surprise and her interactions with family and friends. Because Nina’s life continues to evolve through the books, I’ll just say that it’s all very entertaining. The dialogue is witty and the books are fast paced. The books are murder mysteries, so in the fashion of Murder She Wrote (wherein one would probably not want to vacation in Cabot Cove due to the high murder rate), murders seem to occur regularly in the small Ohio town she resides in…and Nina is somehow right in the middle of them. Struggling in her personal life, successful in her business, she presents a character many of us could identify with. Her food choices are pretty amusing in their own right. She appears to fuel herself on cookie dough, candy bars and other foods stress eaters can identify with.
There are lots of things to admire about Nina. She’s loyal, caring, adventurous, hard working…and conflicted. Her family has an assortment of characters that become more familiar to you, the reader, with each book. I’m not sure I’m totally with the author in the direction she seems to be taking Nina’s life, but I’m leaving room to be convinced. The journey is pleasant enough and with my husband having
So, if you are a murder mystery reader like me, then these are fun books. I think I read all three in less than a week. If you had the time, you could easily read one over a weekend (great to take on a trip!).
Now, I know you’re just waiting to hear what I didn’t like. In book two, Trouble in Spades, Nina mentions that “day lilies” are poisonous. The author takes that further in the section at the end purportedly written by Nina Quinn called Take Your Garden by Surprise. On page 380, under Know your plants, we are told:"Certain bulbs are toxic too, like amaryllis, lily of the valley, tulips, daffodils, and day lilies."
Sigh. Giant sigh. Do you see it, faithful readers?? Let me back up a minute and bring you up to speed in that a dog in this book becomes ill after eating morning glories. The informative section at this end of this book (the first one dealt with poison ivy, the third with a hummingbird garden) deals with protecting your dog from harmful plants.
The most obvious thing should have jumped out at you right away. Daylilies are NOT bulbs!!!! I suspect the author is referring to true lilies (lilium) which are bulbs. With a character who is supposed to be a credible landscaper, shouldn’t she know the difference??
Here’s a link that took me about two seconds to find. You’ll note the author of this page says that some of these cannot be verified. I would question a few, right away…tulips/crocus…how many squirrels have dug up and run off with these? And, we know deer love tulip flowers (which are contained in the bulbs)…Before my cats, the rabbits loved my saffron crocus. I guess orris root was forgotten as well (it is an iris). BUT, you’ll note what is not on there….that’s right, hemerocallis, i.e., daylilies. As you can see, it is easy to be confused about what is and isn't a problem.
I must say, for me, this a glaring error and cast doubt on the “garden creds” of the author and her character, Nina Quinn. At the end of the third book, I didn’t even read the information about hummingbird gardens and found that I skimmed her plant references in the book. (I’m harsh, I know).
Having said all of this, I still enjoyed the books. It would be nice to have the character be better informed, but I have also attended lectures from landscapers whose plant knowledge was more general than specific. It didn’t spoil the lecture. Thus, this doesn’t spoil the books for me. And, I hope not for you as well.