cover image SWEET HUSH


Deborah Smith, . . Little, Brown, $23.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-316-80650-3

An apple orchard provides the atmospheric background for Smith's (A Place to Call Home) ninth novel, but a farfetched romance reduces it to hijinks. Hush McGillen introduces her family's apple farming history in the mountains of Georgia, where they raise a renowned hybrid apple, the Sweet Hush. Hush has been involved with the orchard since her father died when she was 12. She assumed responsibilities for the business as well as for her little brother, Logan, after her mother died when Hush was 16, the same year she fell pregnant and married race car driver and womanizer Davy Thackery. Davy isn't responsible, but he is a loving father to his son Davis, and proud of Hush as she builds her orchard into a multimillion dollar industry. After Davy's death in a car accident, the story jumps 23 years forward to when Davis brings home Edwina "Eddie" Jacobs, a fellow Harvard student and the daughter of the president of the United States. History has repeated itself; Eddie is pregnant, and the couple has fled to the orchard to elude Eddie's surveillance team of Secret Service agents. Hush battles with the irate First Lady over how to handle the situation. She also meets the president's nephew, Nick Jabokek, a weapons specialist, who alternates narration with Hush and falls for the apple magnate. In contrast to Hush's salty, humorous language ("I would rather eat dirt and shit roots first"), Nick's voice is that of a clichéd tough guy: "I slept with the kind of women who moved fast and left damage behind." Together, they try to prevent the unwelcome barrage of negative publicity from revealing buried family secrets. Although the plot is implausible, Hush McGillen's voice is rich enough to keep the reader hooked. (Feb. 18)