Title: Tassy Morgan’s Bluff
Author: Jim Stinson
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
First line: Lincoln Ellis left his house with a plastic grocery bag holding a big steel can that faintly resembled a Thermos jug.
Tassy Morgan’s home rests precariously on the side of a bluff in San Andreas, California. Every day, a little more of the bluff slides down onto the beach below – and her house becomes more dangerous. Tassy came to town after a bitter divorce, wanting somewhere to paint and live in solitude. A town full of eccentric characters guarantees that she won’t get her wish. The people in town are drawn to Tassy, and when her quirky ways don’t mix well with ambitious realtor Margaret Nam, the townspeople are determined to help. Margaret wants Tassy’s house, which she considers an eyesore that detracts from tourism and growth, gone – but Tassy just wants to fix it. Unfortunately, it’s been deemed a historic landmark, and the town commission won’t give permission. As she navigates the red tape that makes up small town bureaucracy, she is helped by her neighbor, widower Lincoln Ellis – and Tassy discovers that maybe living a life of solitude isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
A copy of Tassy Morgan’s Bluff arrived unsolicited in my mailbox one day, and with its summery cover, I knew it would be a perfect read for June. I didn’t know at the time that our June would be one of the coldest and wettest in years, giving me even more reason to crack open the perfect beach read. I wasn’t disappointed.
San Andreas is not the kind of glitzy and glamorous town I think of when you think of California. This is a town full of terrifically strange and wonderful characters, like Bill the Fixer, who sculpts out of redwood; DayGlo Dave, who is radioactive due to working at a nuclear plant long enough to give him cancer; and Wellesley, the portly gallery owner who goes by the nickname Orson, for obvious reasons.
At the center of the story is Tassy herself, with a personality to match her red hair. When the town commission postpones deciding on Tassy’s house – basically dooming it to continue it’s slide down the cliff – she comes up with a unique editorial, a perfect way to tell the commission exactly how she feels. This is a strong woman, a woman who doesn’t need a man – but might like one around once in a while, and that’s where Linc comes into the picture. Linc is the attorney representing the town commission, so his attraction to Tassy – and determination to help her – are a conflict of interest, but sometimes chemistry doesn’t take professional ethics into account. The fiery nature of their relationship gives this book a lot of humor, and a good portion of its heart.
It is easy to imagine a series of books set in San Andreas, as the town has plenty of stories to tell. I hope Jim Stinson revisits this town – and these people – soon and often.