By Blythe Rainey-Cuyler
Blithe Spirit Productions LLC, $12.00, 220 pages
Alligator Smiles: A Tale of Romance & Hidden Crime Under the Florida Sun is the debut book from Blythe Rainey-Cuyler. The narrative follows Debra Price, a woman with a background in performing arts who is looking for a change of pace. After accepting a job in Florida working as Executive Director on the Palmetto Park Project, Debra soon feels in over her head due to culture shock. Rather than giving up, Debra throws herself into fund raising and soon gets the community fully behind her. What Debra doesn’t realize is that she is just a pawn to the “good ol’ boys” that are involved in drug trafficking and an illegal land scam. When the breadth of the corruption comes to light, Debra risks everything to take a stand.
The writing in Alligator Smiles is solid and the dialogue is well constructed. The descriptions of the rural Florida setting, including the wildlife and the weather, are beautifully written. But the book doesn’t quite live up to its subtitle: A Tale of Romance & Hidden Crime Under the Florida Sun. Alligator Smiles is not really a romance or a mystery. While there is romance involved, the relationship is largely one sided as Debra thinks of Johnny as a friend for most of the book. The mystery aspect falls flat because the reader is given full access to the machinations of the men involved. There is very little left to discover from the viewpoint of the reader. Debra does no investigation herself and learns everything from her friends in the community, which removes much of the problem solving excitement that could have been part of the story.
While the book may have benefited from a developmental revision, Alligator Smiles was an interesting read. Readers interested in corporate crime involving land schemes will enjoy giving this book a try, as will those familiar with the more rural areas of Florida.
Reviewed by Whitney Smyth