By Judie Christie
Trumpet & Vine series, #1
Camille Gardner is trapped in the middle when a unique Southern town collides with the 'outside world' and big oil.
A talented negotiator, Camille Gardner agrees to take on one last field assignment for her uncle before she settles down to pursue her real passion---working at an art gallery. But she'd rather be anywhere than Samford, Louisiana, the small southern town where she once spent the worst weeks of her life.
To fulfill the obligation she feels to her uncle, Camille needs to entice a group of rural landowners to sell their mineral rights---and allow use of their precious water for the drilling of natural gas. Instead, she finds herself drawn to the local folk art created by those same landowners and attracted to Marsh Cameron, the attorney representing the landowners.
The charming residents and the traditions of this small community leave Camille conflicted about her family obligations---and her own plans for the future. Perhaps she needs to give Samford a second chance.
Camille loved the scent of sweet olive.
Big oil companies, small-town Louisiana setting, and a small community of artists come together in Sweet Olive, a book by Judy Christie that I greatly enjoyed. I've always been drawn to stories with a small-town setting and quirky characters, and would have to say that Judy really shines at this. I easily connected with these characters and hope to see more of them in future books. Writing and characterization are strong, Marsh and Camille make compelling lead characters - but it's the ensemble cast within the artists' community that steals the show.
Oil-and-gas negotiator Camille Gardner must entice a group of rural landowners to sell their mineral rights and, instead, finds herself drawn to the folk art created by those same landowners. To oil companies, these people were a vital commodity in the race for gas production - and while Camille initially thought of them in terms of the number of acres they had to offer, soon they became real people to whom there were more important things in life than money.
Marsh, a lawyer representing the artists, was charming, handsome, and determined - yet "he wanted a chance to work more with everyday folks, people whose lives could be changed by the right champion at the right moment." Romance seemed secondary to plot, which was as it should be in this story; Camille and Marsh being on opposite sides of the oil issue added good conflict to a sweet romance.
The artists' community - with their folk art that included metal sculpture, whirligigs, watercolors, glass, pottery, woodcarving, and oil paintings - are at the heart of this story. And it was Camille who became a catalyst for change in their lives, helping them to believe in their own abilities and discover a renewed passion for their art.
"I want them to trust God to provide,
not obsess about money in the bank."
I loved how Judy used fiction to shine the light on two completely different attitudes toward money: those whose lives are motivated by greed, and those who realize some things are more important than money. "The beauty of their Louisiana land, earned through hard work and family tradition, would not be sacrificed for oil-company cash." The theme of God's provision is woven throughout the narrative, and that's something I never tire of being reminded of.
That God might have had a purpose in sending Camille to a town she never wanted to revisit made me smile as I thought of times I found myself thrust out of my comfort zone, only to eventually see God's hand in the situation. Camille's growing friendship with Ginny was one of my favorite parts, and it was through Ginny's leadership that the community pulled together - and therein lay their strength.
I fell in love with the Sweet Olive community and am eager to see where Judy takes us in the next book of the Trumpet & Vine series, Magnolia Market, which releases in the fall of 2014. Sweet Olive is a cozy, feel-good read that I thoroughly enjoyed and am glad to recommend.
Judy Christie is an author and consultant who lives in Northwest Louisiana. She writes inspirational fiction and nonfiction. Her popular Green series chronicles the goings-on in the small Louisiana town of Green and is part of Abingdon Press’s new inspirational fiction line.
Judy was a journalist for many years and is a frequent speaker at retreats and workshops. She works with clients around the country on how to slow down and enjoy each day more and how to set and meet goals.
Meet Judy online at judychristie.com, Facebook, and Twitter.
This book was provided by BookSneeze and Zondervan in exchange for my honest review.