She hadn’t just lowered her standards when she started dating Gary, she sucker punched her morals and left them to wallow in the mud. She was the queen of bad decisions and the position royally sucked. Plus, the crown was ugly and gave her a headache.
(from “The Queen of Bad Decisions”)
“The Queen of Bad Decisions” is a novelette/short story by Janel Gradowski, the second in The Bartonville Series about the inhabitants of an artists’ colony. The story follows 25-year-old Daisy as she leaves her abusive, alcoholic boyfriend and moves into her parents’ small apartment. She takes up residence on their couch and must adapt to their early-to-bed, early-to-rise lifestyle. She also has to live with her sleazy younger brother, who really isn’t much different than the boyfriend she just ditched.
Daisy’s only solace is her knitting. She has a talent for repurposing yarn from thrift store garments and knitting without a pattern. When her boss at the bookstore, Mary, offers her a way to leave her parents’ home and make a new life for herself doing what she loves, Daisy lets her lack of confidence stand in her way. She must consider what it means to be an artist — and what it means to live indefinitely on her parents’ couch — in order to change her life.
“The Queen of Bad Decisions” is a heartwarming story with a heroine who’s easy to relate to. I understood how Daisy could feel so down on herself for all her bad choices and how hard it can be to turn it all around. She looks like a normal woman, has a normal job, and must deal with annoying relatives, all of which made it easy to root for her and prompted some chuckles along the way.
The book also features two recipes from Daisy’s story and two bonus stories that give readers a deeper understanding of two supporting characters from the main novelette. “Fabulous Opportunities” finds Mary, the bookstore owner, trying to relax after a long day only to be disturbed by her brother as he seeks a handout for his latest farfetched business scheme. “Turning the Page,” meanwhile, focuses on Anita, an artist from the artists’ colony, as she awaits a visit from her estranged daughter.
Gradowski’s aim for The Bartonville Series is to create stories that can be devoured in a single sitting, enjoyed over a cup of coffee, for instance, and she definitely accomplishes that goal. She has a knack for creating realistic, well-developed characters in so few words. I really felt like I knew these people. Even though I was mostly satisfied with the end of Daisy’s story, I was enjoying it so much that the abrupt ending caught me off guard. I wanted more resolution because I’d grown attached to Daisy and Gradowski’s easy-going, conversational writing style.
Having known Gradowski from my early blogging days, I have long enjoyed her flash fiction and her ability to pack a punch in a single sentence, so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed “The Queen of Bad Decisions.” Though it’s the second in the series, it can be read as a standalone story. Now I need to read the first installment, “Must Love Sandwiches,” and eagerly anticipate the next book. I hope Gradowski revisits Daisy down the road, since I’d love to see where she ends up.
Disclosure: I received “The Queen of Bad Decisions” from the author for review.
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