Grace Savage, her very name a paradox, is caught in her own trap. After a chance visit to a religious community leaves her haunted by the ghost of a stern old Shaker lady who won’t let her indulge her passions even when she tries, she meets two men. Both eligible. One young, one old. Grace is smitten with both, unwillingly--she’s just rebounding from a relationship with a cold fish who un-proposed to her on her thirty-fifth birthday.
Even as Grace fights her libido, longing for someone to tickle her ovaries and make a baby, her job as the communications geek at the small college of Soap Rock U is turning into a hornet’s nest. For starters, femme fatale Lacy--with a sleazy wardrobe, connected by marriage to the college moneybags--has bounced onto the scene and seems destined to snatch Grace’s hoped-for promotion. Grace knows dirty little secrets about Lacy’s sexual antics that could blow her out of the running, but who wants to hear it? Her supervisor, Doris, is far too eager to placate Lacy for the sake of funding, and university president Les is preoccupied with making a deal for the Winslow Homer paintings hidden in the academic attic. Both of them expect Grace to toe the line, suck up to Lacy, and make Soap Rock look good on paper. Outspoken and a bit of a rebel, Grace is always in some degree of hot water, but when a Homer gets kissed--with Grace’s lipstick--it looks like her career is careening down the tubes. Add to that her discovery that her old-man lover and her boy-child lover have something in common that makes their pursuits seem unseemly at best. Maybe she should just settle down with her cat, her goldfish, and Goody, her handsome, hilarious, solicitous but lamentably gay assistant.
Author Martin has already proved herself a mistress of farce with her first comic novel,
Don Juan in Hankey, PA. In Grace Unexpected, she keeps the humor ping-ponging from slapstick to subtle, and the one-liners rolling: desperate Grace declares, “I needed to go where everybody knows my name, or where one cute, smart funny guy who doesn’t know my name is hanging out, so I can stare at him and fantasize about making my love child.” Once the plot gets in gear, it whizzes. Grace’s life and loves make for complicated, mysterious, over-the-top situations with a dash of danger and lots of laughs.
Martin has taken a likeable smart young woman and dropped her into what seems like an overwhelming series of landslides (relationship woes, job stress, sprained shoulder, car on the blink, enemy of the powerful), and then it seems
that she watches with us as her character comes alive and digs herself out. We are all amazed at Grace.