Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Lodge and Resort
Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Lodge and Resort

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My Newest Leslie

My mother hated the popular names of the post-WWII baby boom. She was not naming any baby of hers Elaine, Babs, or Amy (what she had against Amy, I still don’t know). That’s how I became Leslie and my sister, Perri. Mom’s choice of gender-neutral names may have also been a teensy over-reaction to the twee maternity clothes of the 1950s with their cutie-pie bows and pastel colors. She said that in order to have a baby, she had to dress like one. But I digress. 

I didn’t know another Leslie (male) until I was 14. I met two more Leslies (females) in college. There were a few more later, including another male. The name Leslie popping up in my life is rare enough for me that I remember all Leslie encounters.   

 And then, a couple of years ago, Leslie Hall Noyes appeared, sharing not only my first name, but my last name, as well. She and I were complete strangers when she friended me on Facebook, but since we shared the same name, staying strangers was impossible for two women who also share many traits, including our super-power—immensely curious natures.   

For a while, we watched each other’s posts, discovering we were simpatico on many points, including our political views and senses of whimsy, although Leslie H. is better at expressing hers. Once we cleared the, “Oh God, what if I can’t stand her” hurdle, it didn’t take long for us to become the type of friends who, even if we haven’t talked in ages, feel like it was only yesterday that we’d spoken. In those types of friendships, no matter how many years you’ve been apart (and in our case that is 60+ years), once you start chatting, it’s as if you were never not close. Since Leslie and I have never crossed paths until now, this is a truly wondrous gift. Sometimes the Leslie H. and Leslie M. similarities can be a little spooky, like both of us writing novels ready for publication. I’ll tell you more about mine later, because right now Leslie Hall Noyes’s novel is available for reading, while mine will not be out until the last week of March. And here’s the icing on the cake for me—Leslie H. is a really good writer.

 Mayhem at the Happy Valley Motor Inn and Resort is a delightful story—just what I needed during these turbulent times. Think Alexander McCall Smith transported to East Texas, if you can imagine such a thing. I’ve just coined a new genre for this story: it is a gentle novel with a rollicking plot and big Texas heart.The story begins right after Paula has lost her husband in a car accident. A few days later when her husband’s will is read, she discovers that, although she thought she and Cal told each other everything, he had a number of Texas-sized secrets.

Not understanding why Cal kept those secrets is interfering with Paula’s ability to grieve, so she heads out to get a look at the first of those secrets—a motel near Natchitoches that Cal purchased with all of their savings. Paula is accompanied on her journey of discovery by her best friend who, as it turns out, has a complicated secret of her own.

There are many mysteries in Mayhem, both large and small, but they aren’t the point. The point is the new and/or deepening relationships between the characters and how the protagonist and her fellow characters grow and transform as they learn about each other during a number of intense adventures.  particularly enjoyed the rhythm of the dialogue, which is rooted in the idioms of the part of Texas where the novel is set. And the banter between Paula and her best buddy Cassie is a hoot. Not a whole lot of big stuff happens—there are no dead bodies to be discovered or dog eating alligators—but all of the important issues get sorted. If you are the least like me, murders, explosions, financial maleficence, and other dramatic plot devises (like dog eating alligators) are not always necessary to drive a plot. Sometimes, small events have big impacts, as do the events of Mayhem.

Leslie H is working on her next Happy Valley story. I can’t wait for my next visit to the Motor Inn and Resort. Check out the novel at Leslie’s blog, Praying for Eyebrowz, where you can read more of her prose. Or, go to Amazon for your own copy HERE.