Characters That Won’t Easily Let You Go
Josephine “Jo” Tulip is an independent, take-charge kind of young woman. Her house is organized and spotless, and she’s considered an expert of household tricks, partly because of the newspaper column she writes about everything from removing stains from clothes and carpets to getting more use out of your cleaning supplies.
About some things, however, she’s woefully clueless. The newspaper column she inherited from her grandmother is just that: an item in a newspaper (sometimes called the “dead-tree media”). Living in the modern world, Jo struggles to adjust to the shifting market: a new world of blogs, websites, and TV shows – a world where little old ladies still worry about the proper method to scrub down their window sills, but young mothers will buy pre-sliced apples from the grocery store because they have more money than time (a trend we can relate to as we watch it unfold in our own culture).
Jo’s personal life is also complicated. While she prepares to marry a young man she’s only known a few months – but who seems to be her soul mate – she doesn’t notice that her best childhood friend is in love with her.
Danny Watkins is, in some ways, very different from Jo. He’s an artistic type – a photographer – who nevertheless has a very practical and perceptive view of people. After trying to warn Jo against walking down the aisle with her six-month-aquaintance fiancé, he discovers an ulterior motive in himself when he realizes he loves her. He knows it. His family full of sisters knows it. It seems the one person who doesn’t know it is on-top-of-it, got-a-solution-for-everything Jo.
When Jo’s neighbor is found dead, she’s convinced the old lady was murdered – and she’s determined to find out why and by whom. Though Danny isn’t as sold on her theory, there’s no way he’s going to refuse to help her. So begins a tangled, unconventional mystery where things are not what they seem. The villains are not cut-and-dried, and the root of the crime possesses a refreshing twist. Jo puts her household tricks knowledge to use in ways that would make MacGyver proud, and Danny stands by her, waiting patiently (with me, not so patiently) for Jo to realize what she has in him.
There’s one more character we get to know closely in this book, but to avoid spoilers I’ll just say this: when I think of his storyline, I feel sad.
The Trouble With Tulip gives us a solid mystery that kept me guessing until the end, characters that resonate, and a strong friendship just starting to turn into romance. Jo’s willfulness can make her hard to work with, but there’s no doubting her passion to find answers, no matter where they lead. Danny’s compassion and common sense shine, and his devotion to Jo is something any girl could envy.
Although the novel stands by itself, there are two sequels in the “Smart Chick” series. If you’re interested in seeing how Jo and Danny’s relationship plays out further, see the other two books: Blind Dates Can Be Murder and Elementary, My Dear Watkins.