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The First Gardener

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The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones

Reviewed by Deena Peterson

"Break out the tissues as you crack the cover...it's going to be an emotional ride!"

I've been a huge fan of Denise Hildreth Jones' books since she released "Savannah From Savannah". For me, she is the queen of all things Southern. With her newest novel, she's not only added another jewel to that crown...she's written the novel, in my humble opinion, she was born to write.

Jeremiah Williams has been caring for the lawns and garden at the governor's mansion for decades, but he always takes great care to point the way to "The First Gardener" in all he does.

Governor Gray London currently resides in the Tennessee governor's mansion, along with his wife Mackenzie and his daughter Madison. Jeremiah has taken a shine to this precious family, and when they are rocked to their very core by unthinkable tragedy, he's right there with them, holding them up and caring for his precious Mackenzie the only way he knows how.

This story is packed with emotion. The characters literally leap off the pages and into your heart. Maddie is adorable and precocious and filled with energy and life. Her best friend Oliver is a hoot as he attempts to impress the governor's family upon every visit with his high intelligence.

But it's Eugenia's pack of gal pals that take the character cake! Mackenzie's momma is a character unto herself...then there is prim-n-proper Sandra, ruffled up to her wrinkled neck and holding onto Southern manners till they squeal.

Berlyn needs some of Sandra's ruffles to keep her 'girls' covered up...with her loud and proud prints, you can just see her standing before you in all of her flowered glory.

And then we have Dimples...that precious cock-eyed saint who says the strangest things and has to look sideways at you to get a clear glimpse. Though oddest of the four, she is most adorable and ends up spouting wisdom that you will most likely take to your grave.

Oh, if only every state in the union had a family such as this living in the mansion and governing the state! Gray is true to his convictions, yet not at all perfect. Mackenzie is the best volunteer you'll find, yet even she is flawed nearly fatally. And I love, love, LOVE that Denise did not end with a 'convenient' ending, although my hurting heart would have loved one.

No, Denise Hildreth Jones stays true to life in this powerful novel, and I adore her for it. Break out the tissues as you crack the cover...it's going to be an emotional ride! I'm giving "The First Gardener" the Golden Bookmark for Writing Excellence and Memorable Characters, and voting it "Best Contemporary Fiction of 2011".

Don't miss any of Denise's books, but especially make a point to pick up "The First Gardener".

Deena PetersonDeena Peterson is the mom of 8, with an active two-year-old grandson! She's also a pastor's wife, worship leader, Bible study leader, and homeschool mom. She stays so busy she meets herself coming and going! Visit her at her blog A Peek At My Bookshelf.