“Tough Luxe” is a simple story about a simply delightful person, Samantha Kidd. She loves fun, fashion, and assisting friend and foe alike. She has a husband, a cat, and a long resume of jobs. Her business cards feature pictures of dresses and shoes. She is smart; after all, she married a shoe designer. Regular readers met her ten books ago, but she tells new readers everything she is wearing and everything they need to know to enjoy her complicated adventures in book eleven.
Life for Kidd is better now that she is not writhing in poverty and has moved back to her hometown. However, pretzels are not the only thing twisted in Ribbon, Pennsylvania. The story centers on the consequences of a murder conviction. Many seemingly unrelated people are all connected, and their lives were changed by that one terrible event. The shadow of the years-old murder conviction even hangs over the local pretzel consortium. (Who knew there was such a thing?) Kidd writes a column on style for the local newspaper, and she is surprised when she and she alone, is granted a personal visit with the convicted murderer. Prison fashion trends perhaps? She is not a private investigator, but she is very resourceful. She searches search her memory, the newspaper archives, and the clothes in a long forgotten storage locker to find answers that other people missed.
“Tough Luxe” is Kidd’s personal journey from the start, and the narrative unfolds with her distinctive terminology, attitude, and priorities. Underneath the fashion is a solid mystery, a complicated “who done it” with a murder, a potential wrongful conviction, bribery, and lots of secrets. Kidd struggles to make sense of an abstract whirlpool of questions. In the end, what she is wearing is very important, and she is glad she knows a good dry cleaner when she finds one.
Diane Vallere writes books with continuing characters, but they are not “formula” books. People change, progress, and mature in each book. Reading a Vallere book is like visiting with an old friend, catching up on things you missed since you last saw each other. The books are enjoyable to read complete with a touch of mystery and a big dose of fun.