“Maddie Townsend might live in a town called Serenity, but there’s been nothing calm or peaceful about her life since her marriage broke up. This stay-at-home mom has no job skills, an out-of-control sixteen-year-old son, a talkative fourteen-year-old who’s suddenly gone silent, a six-year-old daughter whose heart is broken, an ex-husband whose younger girlfriend is expecting their baby, and two best friends who think she’s somehow qualified to help them open a fitness spa for women. But if Maddie is a tad on edge with all that on her plate, it’s nothing compared to the chaos that ensues when she discovers that her son’s baseball coach has feelings for her and the whole town disapproves. Maddie’s faced a lot of challenges lately with strength and resolve, but Cal Maddox may turn out to be more than she can handle. Then again, he could just be the one man in all of South Carolina who can help her find serenity.”
-Synopsis from StoryGraph
Stealing Home is the first book in The Sweet Magnolias series by Sherryl Woods. The Netflix series Sweet Magnolias is based on this series.
I enjoyed the first 75% of this book. The focus is on Maddie, her divorce, and her budding relationship with her son’s baseball coach. You definitely get the sense of what it must be like in a small, traditional Southern town where things like being seen with someone when you aren’t in a relationship can be considered scandalous.
Maddie is one to adhere to rules, despite not being raised in a strict household, and appearances matter to her. She doesn’t want to pursue a relationship with Cal both because of impropriety with how it would look to her kids and Ty’s school, and because her divorce is not yet final. However, her husband does not receive nearly as much scrutiny as she does despite having left his family to be with his pregnant girlfriend who is sixteen years younger than him (while Maddie and Cal only have a ten year age difference). I think that the perspective of the divorce, and the double standard of how Maddie is treated, where very accurately displayed. I was nodding my head along in agreement whenever either Cal or one of Maddie’s friends stood up for her. She was always in the right, and I’m glad that was shown.
However, a couple things in this story made me not love it as much by the end. First of all, there is a lot of discussion about food, weight loss, weight gain, and disordered eating. I have noticed this comes up a lot in early 2000’s books and this book was no exception. While it’s admirable that Maddie and her friends want to start a health club to give women an alternative to the only gym in town, half the reason they do is because they are so focused on weight and what they eat. I feel that might be triggering for some readers. There is also light discussion of Dana Sue’s daughter having an eating disorder. Every time the friends questioned this, I thought, you all are the reason why because of your obsession with food and seeing food as a reward. It seemed obvious to me and felt like an unnecessary plot point.
The biggest thing that I struggled with was the unclear timeline. By the end of the story, Cal is pursuing not just a relationship with Maddie but a marriage. It seemed very rushed to have this happen in the last couple of chapters. Even if a decent amount of time had passed and been acknowledged, a year or more maybe, I didn’t see Maddie’s character as being one to rush into that. It seemed unrealistic. I would have liked to have seen them simply agree to be in a relationship and maybe see where it leads down the road. Perhaps that wasn’t possible because the next book will focus on other characters, but it really rushed the story for me and I didn’t care for it.
The next book in this series is going to focus on Dana Sue, her daughter’s eating disorder, and her reconciling with her ex-husband who cheated on her. Dana Sue’s character is my least favorite in the show, and in the book. She is extremely negative, always snapping at everyone, and seems to be in a sour mood no matter what is going on. Especially in the show, it seemed like there was something off with how one-sided her character was.
If you are able to look past the eating/food discussions, this is a cute book about families with a cute romance. The audiobook was nice to listen to, and the narrator did a Southern accent throughout which added to the story.