Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sweet Olive by Judy Christie

Camille is a “landman.” Working for her uncle Scott, it is her job to talk people into selling him their gas and oil rights. She's been good at it, except for that one mistake. She was ready for the promised office in Houston but her uncle has asked her to do this one last field job in northern Louisiana. She'd do it because she and her mom owed so much to him.

Camille finds Sweet Olive to be a different community than she had expected, however. They are a loose association of artists and most of them aren't interested in the gas rights money. Camille has a heart for art too as she has always wanted to own an art gallery. Her heart gets in the way as the gas rights deal falls apart at the edges.

Add to the mix a handsome attorney representing the art community, a powerful senator who has money to be made on the deal, and his ambitious daughter who is also employed by Scott and, in fact, wants Camille's job, and you sort of have the novel's plot.

I found the novel to be a little confusing on two fronts. When the novel opens it is clear that there is quite a back story to the situation the characters are in today. I kept checking to make sure this was the first in the series because I was sure I was missing an earlier book. All of the back story comes out eventually but I think a few prologue pages of “twenty years ago” would have helped.

Secondly, I live on an island in the Pacific Northwest affectionately called “The Rock.” That's because that is all that is in the ground. I know absolutely nothing about mineral or gas rights. There's nothing in the ground here to have any rights to. I was hoping to learn about gas rights in reading this novel. I'm not sure I understand anything more about the topic now than I did before reading the novel. For example, the very last thing Camille did was go to the parish offices to verify the legal descriptions and surveys of the land. This was after she had already offered contracts to landowners and tried to identify nearby land for wells that might preserve the artist community. I would think verifying land ownership would have been the first thing a “landman” would have done. Searching the legal descriptions last allows for a twist at the end of the story which makes for fun reading but, I would think, makes for poor “landman” tactics. Near the end of the novel Camille says, “This has been the most confusing experience of my life.” (311) Camille, I know how you feel.

The romance part was fun. There is some humor in the book and you do learn a little about the south, but not as much as this northerner would have liked.

Judy Christie is the author of the Green series of novels and blogs at She and her husband live in northern Louisiana.

Zondervan, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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