The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories – Celeste Fletcher McHale – Thomas Nelson – Published 23 May 2017




Jacey and Colin shared the three most intense days of their lives together, waiting for help as Mississippi floodwaters surrounded them. Jacey knew Colin was the love of her life—until her rescue boat went under water, along with Colin’s last name and pieces of Jacey’s memory.

As Jacey walks down the aisle as the maid of honor in her friend’s wedding a year later, the last person she expects to see is Colin. The biggest surprise, though, is that the man of her dreams is not wearing jeans and flip-flops as he did when he held her through those long nights of the flood. He’s the preacher.

As Jacey’s memories come flooding back, it’s almost more than she can take. The fate of the young family trapped with them haunts her. The unwavering honesty—and support—of her best friend Georgia forces her to take a fresh look at herself. She’s spent her life afraid of love. But this flood is opening Jacey’s heart in the most unexpected ways.

My thoughts

The Sweet Smell of Magnolias and Memories is a lighthearted tale of friendship, misunderstandings, and missed chances.

Jacey Lang spent three terrifying days atop a roof during a terrible storm. She shared that experience with a young family and (possibly) the man of her dreams. But a traumatic accident during their rescue left Jacey with scattered memories and no way to reconnect with Colin. One year later Jacey accidentally finds Colin again – at the end of the isle at her best friend’s wedding, as the preacher. Uncertain what the future holds for them, Jacey must deal with her returning memories about the accident and the fate of the young family, while Colin comes to terms with his family’s past.

This is the first book I have read by Celeste Fletcher McHale. I thought the synopsis sounded fantastic and I was excited to read this women’s contemporary novel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a perfect fit for me. I like my contemporary novels to have a bit more depth. TSSoMaM had all the right ingredients – a traumatic incident, lost memories, lost chance at love, and children who have lost their parents and desperately need a home. Unfortunately, I thought that too much time was spent on ridiculous missed chances, far better suited to a soap opera or clichéd chick flick (in my opinion) and not enough time developing the romance or more serious issues. There were also a number of topics that were raised and then quickly brushed over. Everything felt a little too shallow or convenient and I would have much rather the author dig a little deeper into these issues. One example of this is Jacey’s initial response to Colin being a minister. Yet once many closed-minded jokes and statements are made the subject is barely raised again, never mind that Colin’s ministry seems to have been completely forgotten (even by Colin) by the end of the book.

There are many vibrant characters in this book, perhaps most notably Jacey’s best friend Georgia. The two spend much time teasing, provoking, and protecting each other, and generally carrying on. This book certainly promotes friendship, and the shared humour and support of best friends.

Unfortunately, the romance was another aspect that I didn’t like in this book. Jacey and Colin meet, spend three days together, reconnect a year later, meet up a few times and then fall suddenly in love, followed by a number of misunderstandings. Without flashbacks to their time on the roof during the storm, the reader is left with the few times they connect and the many, many times they are sending mixed messages or lying to each other, and that wasn’t enough to convince me the feelings they so quickly developed were real.

I liked the sections where Colin reevaluated his life and restored his relationship with his parents. However, Jacey and I didn’t get along at all. She seemed to spend a lot of time flying off the handle, making assumptions, and acting like a hypocritical, silly child. I did like the parts of the story about Jacey reconnecting with the young boys she met during the storm, though.

While this book wasn’t a good fit for me, there is no reason why another reader won’t love this story of friendship, family, and second (and third and fourth) chances at love.

The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.

More information

Category: Adult fiction.

Genre: Contemporary.

Themes: Romance, Southern USA, adoption, storms, traumatic experiences, friendship, faith, best friends.

Advisory: References to sexual relationships.

Published:  23 May 2017 by Thomas Nelson.

Format: Paperback, ebook, audiobook. 320 pages.


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