The small New England town of Dorsetville is filled with quirky, loveable characters much like those who populated Andy Griffith's Mayberry.
Dorsetville is all aflutter. The housekeeper at St. Cecilia's rectory, Mrs. Norris, has quit in a huff, and the rectory is beginning to look like a college dorm. Father Dennis could lend a hand, but since his cooking show, The Fat Friar, has gained popularity, he's become, well, moody.
Nellie Anderson and Harry Clifford are about to tie the knot--that is if someone can find the missing wedding invitations. Bungling Deputy Hill has been left in charge since the sheriff is sick, but will the town survive in the meantime?
Meanwhile, Father James is helping an ex-convict learn to resume his life. Valerie Kilbourne, a single mother, needs money for a very expensive operation for her twin daughters. And Lori Peterson, who has had her share of tragedies, will be asked to face another.
Katherine Valentine's keen insights into human nature and extraordinary sense of humor make for characters you'll want to know for years.
In this third installment of the Dorsetville series, Valentine portrays a small town and its people in a manner highly reminiscent of, but not quite equal to, Jan Karon's Mitford series. Substitute New England for North Carolina, change the Episcopalians to Catholics, toss in a little Jewish seasoning and you'll be awash in deja vu. There are strong similarities to The Andy Griffith Show as well, from the drunk named Odis to Deputy Hill, who's a ringer for Barney Fife. Thankfully, Valentine puts a different spin on the challenges her characters must face. Single mom Valerie Kilbourne has young twin girls who need operations quickly or they will lose their sight. Lori Peterson is pregnant, but a tragic diagnosis sends her into despair--and prayer. Sam Rosenberg's old car gives up the ghost, and Harry Clifford and Nellie Anderson's wedding invitations have gone missing. Through it all, the tight-knit community of Dorsetville is always ready to step in and offer support and solace. The antics of Father Dennis and his televised cooking show, The Fat Friar, create some enjoyable moments, and the recipes mentioned throughout have franchising possibilities written all over them should the series prove a hit. Unlike the Mitford books, however, dialogue troubles slow the novel's pacing, and the characters are too lightly sketched.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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July 19, 2004
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Excerpt from Grace Will Lead Me Home by Katherine Valentine
Father James had been awakened this morning by the clamor outside. Just past the park entrance next door, which divided the town green, preparations were underway for the Congregational Church rededication ceremonies. This afternoon dozens of state officials and most everyone in Dorsetville would gather to witness the rededication of this historic building.
The priest opened one eye and stared out the window. The sun was just rising above the mountain ridge that surrounded the town like an embrace. Shards of pink light pierced the predawn darkness. It was going to be a glorious day, he thought, sliding out from under a pile of handmade quilts.
From somewhere outside came a loud thud followed by several rapid Spanish phrases fired off like machine gun bullets. He made his way over to the window and looked down below. A delivery truck was parked on the Congregational side of the town green. Its side panels read "Filbert's Party Rentals." He leaned forward to get a better view. Folding tables and chairs were being delivered. Several had fallen off the back of the truck. Two men worked to untangle the melee as a third man stood on the tailgate, wildly waving his arms and spewing phrases Father James was thankful he did not understand. He closed the window.
Since it was nearly time to get up anyway, he figured there was no sense going back to bed. He grabbed his bathrobe from the foot of his bed and headed down the rectory's back staircase toward the kitchen. Before he showered, he needed his jump-start, a cup of rich, black coffee.
In deference to this need, his housekeeper, Mrs. Norris, had set the coffeepot's automatic timer the night before so it would be ready when he first came downstairs. It was programmed to start the brewing cycle in fifteen minutes. And although all electrical gadgets and appliances were a complete mystery to him (his use of the electric teapot had once resulted in the removal of an entire section of kitchen wallpaper), he just couldn't wait. So he said a quick prayer for protection, both for him and the kitchen, and pushed several buttons. Much to his relief, the grinder began to whine as it ground fresh Colombian beans to a fine powder. The early-morning air was instantly filled with an intoxicating aroma.
"Thank you, Lord, for favors big and small," he intoned, then went in search of his favorite mug, the one that his housekeeper teased was "the size of a small planter." Since coffee was his favorite beverage, its size saved him from making repeated trips for refills.
The smell of coffee had set his stomach rumbling so he popped two slices of stone-ground whole wheat bread in the toaster (one of his few concessions to Doc Hammon's order to increase the fiber in his diet), then went in search of the butter. The refrigerator was filled with dishes Mrs. Norris had prepared for today's function. She had attached Post-it notes on each that read: "For today's luncheon. Keep hands off!"
Not much of a chance of him stealing a bite of that or anything else his housekeeper referred to as health food. He carefully lifted the plastic wrap off a bowl and took a sniff. Dear Lord, it smelled like rotting tree bark! He hastily patted the plastic in place and pushed it aside while yearning for the good old days--German potato salad, Boston baked beans, apple crisps, Yankee pot roast--all of which Mrs. Norris now labeled "death to one's arteries." She wasn't at all amused when he pointed out that everyone had to die of something, so why couldn't she let them die in peace?
He found the butter hidden behind a large bottle of carrot juice. He hoped Mrs. Norris didn't plan to spring that on him this morning. Last week it had been prune juice. His stomach had still not recovered.
He filled his supersize mug to the brim, threw in several teaspoons of sugar, slathered his toast with enough butter to clog several main arteries, and headed toward his study.
The early-morning light rendered the chestnut paneling a soft gold, infusing the room with a sense of warmth and serenity. Father James entered happily, feeling his heart leap once again with praise and thanksgiving. It wasn't too long ago that both the rectory and the church next door were in such disrepair that the archdiocese had ordered it closed. But God had intervened by way of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception who, under the leadership of Mother Mary Veronica, had convinced the archbishop to restore St. Cecilia's as part of the nuns' plan to open a retirement home for the religious across the street.
He carefully set down his coffee mug, settled in behind his desk, and moved his well-worn Bible closer. There was still work to be done on the speech he was to give at today's ceremonies. The Bible fell open to one of his favorite psalms.