Monday, September 1, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush (The Darling Dahlias #5) by Susan Wittig Albert

National bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert takes readers back in time to small-town Darling, Alabama, in the 1930s—where the Darling Savings and Trust has just closed and the women of the Darling Dahlias’ garden club are betting their bottom dollar there’s going to be trouble…

It’s the spring of 1933 and times are tough all over. The only businessman not struggling is moonshiner Mickey LeDoux, though he still has to steer clear of federal agents. But banks are closing all over the country, and the small town of Darling is no exception. Folks are suddenly caught short on cash and everyone is in a panic.

Desperate to avoid disaster, several town leaders—including Alvin Duffy, the bank’s new vice president—hatch a plan to print Darling Dollars on newspaperman Charlie Dickens’ printing press. The “funny money” can serve as temporary currency so the town can function. But when the first printing of the scrip disappears, the Darling Dahlias set out to discover who made an unauthorized withdrawal.

Meanwhile County Treasurer Verna Tidwell questions whether she can trust Alvin Duffy—and the feelings he stirs up inside her. And Liz Lacy learns her longtime beau may be forced into a shotgun wedding. Seems other troubles don’t just go away when there’s a crisis. There’ll be no pennies from heaven, but if anyone can balance things out, folks can bank on the Darling Dahlias.

Includes Southern-Style Depression-Era Recipes

In this fifth book in the Darling Dahlias series, times are tough in Depression-era Darling, Alabama.  And especially tough right now, because a big New Orleans bank has taken over the Darling Saving and Trust and has closed it for an audit.  Verna Tidwell, the county treasurer (and treasurer of the Darling Dahlias Garden Club) has no idea of how she'll make the county payroll - until the new president of the bank hatches a scheme to print scrip (Darling Dollars!) for people to use until the bank reopens.  But after Charlie Dickens, the newspaper editor, prints the scrip, it goes missing.  And thereby hangs the tale of course.  

As some of you probably know, I love writing about pants.  (My other series, the China Bayles mysteries, features an herbalist.)  One of the things I've enjoyed about this series is the garden connection.  Each of the books has a plant in the title: the Cucumber Tree, the Naked Ladies, the Confederate Rose, the Texas Star.  And now, the Silver Dollar Bush. And yes: each of these is a plant name! 

"But where do you get those titles?" people ask me. 

Well, here's how I do it.  I keep a list of intriguing plant names.  (I have to tell you that I was super-intrigued by "naked ladies"!) I begin by choosing one that seems interesting, and start doing research about the plant, in books and online.  The "silver dollar bush", for instance, is one of the folk names for Lunaria annua, an old-fashioned cottage-garden plant that is also called the "money plant" (and sometimes "honesty") because its seeds resemble large silver coins.  I remember using them for play money when I was a girl - maybe you do, too.  

The seedpods are easily dried to make a stunning winter-time display; the purple blossoms also make a pretty bouquet. (You can read more about Lunaria on my website.) 

So here I am, with a possible title plant that reminds me of money, and a book that is set in 1933, the year that Franklin Roosevelt took office.  The economy had fallen into what seemed like a bottomless nosedive, banks were closing by the hundreds, and the first thing the new president did to halt the panic was to declare a national bank holiday and close all the banks.  There was literally no money.  No credit cards, either, because our easy plastic currency hadn't been invented yet.  

Faced with this situation, many towns did a very creative thing.  They decided to print their own money.  People could use it locally to buy and sell goods and services, pay for relief programs, and get business moving again.  They liked it because it supported local businesses, as opposed to the chain supermarkets, which were beginning to crush the local mom-and-pop groceries.  (Where have you heard this before?)  Large cities (like Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit), and small towns (like Key West, Florida, and Clear Lake, Iowa) turned to scrip as a solution to the crisis.  There was opposition, of course, but many towns discovered that printing their own dollars helped everybody - and took the pressure off the banks.  

And that became the central plot of The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush.  In little Darling, Alabama, the Darling Dollars seem to have the potential for helping the town's businesses stay alive and the county workers get paid.  But when every single Darling Dollar turns up missing - well, that's the mystery that members of the garden club, led by their treasurer, Verna Tidwell, have to solve.  

I love reading books that teach me about people and places and different eras.  I very much hope that the realism of this Depression-era story line will add to your enjoyment of The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush.  

Susan Wittig Albert is the author of the novel, A Wilder Rose, the true, untold story of the writing of the Little House books.

Her award-winning fiction, which has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list, includes mysteries in the China Bayles series, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and a series of Victorian-Edwardian mysteries she has written with her husband, Bill Albert, under the pseudonym of Robin Paige.

She has written two memoirs: An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days and Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place, published by the University of Texas Press.

Her nonfiction titles include What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest (winner of the 2009 Willa Award for Creative Nonfiction); With Courage and Common Sense; Writing from Life: Telling the Soul's Story; and Work of Her Own: A Woman's Guide to Success Off the Career Track.

Susan Wittig Albert's Darling Dahlias series is unlike any other I've ever read before.  Set in the 1930s, it just exudes southern living during a period of time that most Americans struggled financially - the Great Depression.  It's a unique look into how different characters dealt with different issues, and being swept back in time for a change in a cozy series is such a thrill!  

The characters in Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush are wonderful.  They're vivacious and entertaining, and the scenarios they all find themselves in will make you chuckle and keep you frantically turning the pages.  It's a wonderful addition to this already brilliant series, and I'd recommend it to any one that enjoys a little history with their mystery.  

Rating: 4 stars 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own. 

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush by Susan Wittig Albert to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!

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Barbara T. said...

A different direction from SWA. Sounds interesting.

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