|“Zany” describes It Happened in South Beach because the heroine spends most of the story talking to herself and her ultra egos she calls by her name and her conscience. “Madcap” also describes this book because the adventures just seem to pop up unexpectedly. Per the dictionary, both of these words mean crazy. And in the case of this tale, being crazy does not ensure that the story is engaging, entertaining and worth the time to read.
The heroine is good ole Tilly Snapp prior to the start of the first chapter who morphs into Tilly Snapp, sex detective for the majority of the story. It is this metamorphosis that Tilly debates with herself about as she tries to discover several things about her unique Aunt Ginger. Aunt Ginger has become embroiled in antiques fraud, drug cartels and now it seems that she is dead. Tilly is named as her sole heir to a business called Erratica and a run down Hotel St. Clair in South Beach, Florida. The antique is a pillow box once owned by Win Win Poo and reportedly worth millions. Interpol, in the form of inspector Will Maitland, thinks that Ginger knew more than she let on. And they want that pillow box.
Tilly feels like she is in Wonderland and often acts like it. She comes down from Boston where her life has been sensible and staid. But once she falls down the rabbit hole, things seem to change. Her friends from her old life, whom she enlists to help her, are named Blossom and Scarlett. The tenants at the St. Clair, who are bound and determined to help her, are Alonzo, Missy Mae and Virgil. And there are cats galore and a dog named Baskerville. Hoodlums included Richie and Mr. Clean. There is also a Jamaican who may or may not be on Aunt Ginger’s side named Aston Ewing, a.k.a. Snag.
The basic plot is that Tilly (even while being followed by the FBI and Interpol) decides she needs to find out what happened to Win Win Poo’s box in order to clear her Aunt’s name (or at least keep her from being accused of insurance fraud) and at the same time find the killer. Will Maitland is keeping Tilly under surveillance because she is a material witness and he suspects she knows more than she is telling. He also falls hard for her and the two have brief (very brief) moments of romantic interest in between the activities involved in the case. Those activities are mostly lots of conversation and looking through all the erotica that is being sold in the Erratica business. The other actions include jet setting between Jamaica and Florida with a side trip to Ottumwa, Iowa, thrown in.
I wish I could tell you more, but frankly, there isn’t much more to tell. There are some chases and some plans gone awry but the bulk of the time is spent inside Tilly’s head as she debates with herself about everything including her plans, Will, her aunt, and how she should respond when things don’t go as planned. Oh, yes, she changes her hair color at least five times, just to add to the confusion.
The romance is fun but it is strongly overshadowed by Tilly and her internal debate. When Will and Tilly are together (in my estimation less than ¼ of the whole tale) then they are cute and their sexual tension is hot. But I definitely didn’t feel a relationship build and I felt that the tale was tedious more than once.
It Happened In South Beach is supposed to be one of those novels where the heroine finds madcap adventures and true love all wrapped together. In actuality it offers little more than zany antics and a few romantic scenes thrown in for good measure.