When Southern debutante Mae St. John learns from her grandmother’s will that not only is the family fortune gone (with all the remaining income designated for the care of Big Mae’s poodle), she thought things could not get more surprising. Then a note left by Big Mae reveals that Mae’s long presumed dead father is in fact alive and living in Louisiana. With no ties left to bind her, Mae heads out to meet the father she never knew.
Meanwhile, Whit Casey has come home to Louisiana to take care of her father’s racing farm in his declining health. Not that the move was not helpful in breaking off her dying relationship with Avery, a closeted lawyer, but Whit did not need another person to be responsible for. Maneuvered into hiring Mae to write for her online racing magazine, Whit believes Mae to be a trust fund baby with no credentials, but is quickly proven wrong by Mae’s enthusiasm and her growing relationship with Whit’s father. A relationship soon grows between Whit and Mae as well, yet both are keeping secrets from the other. When Mae’s investigation into possible horse cloning causes trouble for Whit, the women soon discover that Whit’s farm, and their relationship, are both in jeopardy.
I always approach “straight woman discovers her lesbian identity” stories with a jaded view. I believe this trope is overdone, yet I would like to give credit to Leigh for her depiction of this May-December romance. Sometimes Mae seems a lot younger than 28, with her tendency to talk on forever and constant mentions of her sorority sisters, which made me wonder if these traits were to further enhance a “Southern debutante” profile. Yet it is Mae’s engaging manner with her surroundings – both setting and people – that brings a modern twist to the romance. Mae’s discovery of her attraction to Whit is very circumspect, and she does not waffle in her feelings. Mae believes in the attraction, yet has the foresight to go on a date with another woman to see if she feels that same pull. I found it refreshing to see the “newer” lesbian unafraid of dealing with her feelings.
There were still some obvious plot lines of jealousy, secrets causing betrayal, and hidden enemies that brought the book into some overly familiar plot territories. However, the character interactions between both women, their fathers, and Whit’s ex Avery gave some unique tweaks to the story.