Happily Ever Madder: Misadventures of a Mad Fat Girl. Stephanie McAfee. New American Library Trade Paperback Original. November 2012. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9780451238054.
Ace Jones, a Southern artist from Bugtussle, Mississippi. The name of her hometown matches her funny, feisty nature. Now she has just opened her first art gallery in Pelican Grove and is so nervous that her first speech on opening night is a disaster, a hodgepodge of embarrassingly inane comments. What it does earn her is the absolute scorn of the town's biggest charity donor, at least in rumor if not in actual donations. Ace, however, has promised herself she will control her tendency to fight and utter comments that could wreck her reputation in five seconds or less. Oh yes, Ace is one sassy lady for sure!
Mrs. Lenore Kennashaw seems to have decided she will ruin Ace's life. Her attempts are foiled, however, by Ace's initially tame responses. Mrs. Kennashaw's cronies, however, are so fearful of losing the spotlight they share, they give in and treat Ace like an "outsider," something that shames her and makes her wonder if she's really made a terrible, terrible decision to come to this town. She is finally engaged to Mason, the love of her life since forever and sticks it all out for their sake. Will they survive and how? Quite simply really! Ace declares war and the fun begins!
Happily, Ace meets a group of friends who are as crazy as she is. Their plot to reveal a secret of their enemy thrills them and the reader but with unforeseen results. As Ace's friends meet lovers and make future plans, Ace's uncertainty grows. She's homesick for Mississippi but really is just unsure and needs space, even though she and Mason still love each other dearly.
This is a funny, tender story about growing up, using humor as one's stabilizer and security - until it goes too far. It's also a gentle satire about smallness of spirit in towns (and not just the South) where everyone knows everyone else and a social order rules that can make or break a person or persons. But most of all, it's comic and light, a great read, depicting a character almost every reader can fall for, love, feel sorry for, sympathize and even empathize with. This reviewer hopes we'll hear more about Ace in the future! Nicely done, Ms. McAfee!