Saturday 9 September 2023


Finished September 4
Bittersweet by Susan Wittig Albert

This novel is part of the series featuring herbalist China Bayles. Here, the story is set in a more remote part of Texas, in the small community where China's mother Leatha and stepfather Sam live, in the week around the Thanksgiving holiday. China and her family are planning to go to Leatha and Sam's for the holiday, but Sam is now in the hospital with heart issues. Sam is insisting the plans continue, so they do.
Besides China's family, Leatha has also invited China's friend Mack Chambers, a game warden in the area, newly transferred there after a recent divorce. Mack loves her job, and her previous husband had issues with her long and sometimes erratic hours, and with her less feminine interests. Mack lives alone with her dog and horse, but wouldn't say no to a relationship. She's recently started dating a divorced man who recently moved to the area, but isn't feeling the passion she's had before. 
Leatha and Sam have been converting the ranch that has been in his family for generations into a birding destination, redoing the lodge onsite, and building a viewing tower and other amenities. China worries about whether they can handle the operations with Sam's medical situation and their age. 
A more common use of cattle ranchers locally are canned hunting camps, with the owners importing a variety of animals, some for their value as trophies, and having hunters pay big bucks to shoot them onsite. The regulations around this activity are still in development, but for a lot of ranchers, this offers them a way to hang onto their land. 
There is also a new technology coming into play: drones as surveillance and investigative tools.
All of these elements come into play in the plot here. 
I found the first scene made me uncomfortable, but as the plot begins to move back and forth between China and Mack for most of the stories, I soon found myself captivated. 
There is also a lot of information at the beginning of chapters on plants from herbs to bushes, and invasive species versus local ones. At the end of the book are a few recipes from scenes in the story, a nice and useful addition. 

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