Nardello’s: Creativity, passion and a vision for the future make this Mount Pleasant eatery a bright spot on the East Texas dining scene

By Terry Mathews

Making your way in the world these days takes everything you’ve got, says the theme song from “Cheers.” Making your way in the competitive restaurant world takes everything – and more.

I’m not sure you can make it as a chef unless you’ve had a life-long relationship with food. Not just eating it, but creating it, be it in your mom’s kitchen or the family business.

Executive Chef Brandon Rodriguez, 28, grew up in the business. His father was in the industry for years, moving the family from Garland to their property at Lake Cypress Springs in 2005 when he was a high school freshman.

Nardello’s Executive Chef Brandon Rodriguez

“He operated Hubbard’s Café, where McDonald’s is now,” Chef said of his father during an afternoon lull in early September. “He took over for about a year, but then went back to Dallas to manage the five Cindi’s Delicatessens in Dallas.”

Chef stayed at the Mount Vernon location for a while, then started work at The Marina at Cypress Springs. He graduated from Mount Vernon High School in 2009.

“That’s when I figured out that’s what I wanted to do,” Chef remembered. “I toured a couple of culinary schools in Dallas, but settled on the 2-year program at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant.”

After NTCC, Chef transferred to The Art Institute of Dallas, receiving a degree in restaurant management. He worked for Aramark, Brinker’s and a few other food services companies in the city, married and started a family.

He credits his cooking skills for helping him win wife Jessica’s hand.

“On our second date, I did a nice, full dinner – appetizers, entrée and dessert – for her,” he remembered. “We haven’t been apart since. Food is the way to awoman’s heart.”

The couple celebrated their sixth anniversary in September.

“Jessica and I then needed to figure out where we wanted to set our roots and raise our children,” Chef said. “We couldn’t imagine raising our children, Brayden – 5, Julianna- 4 and Brennan – 2, in Dallas. It’s just too much.”

The Rodriguez Family

So he and Jessica, who is the director of growth and marketing for Century 21 Butler Real Estate in Mount Vernon, packed up and moved their family to Lake Cypress Springs, where Chef went back to the Marina, and set about making his professional dreams come true. He also started teaching culinary classes at NTCC in the Spring of 2018.

“Last year, Cypress Springs Marina was voted Best Restaurant in County Line Magazine,” Chef noted. He was also named Best Chef in the same edition.

Nardello’s, on the square in Mount Pleasant, was also recognized by the magazine as having the area’s Best Pizza.

In late spring of this year, Chef took the job of Executive Chef and General Manager at Nardello’s, recruited by Richard Witherspoon, whose father started Herschel’s Restaurant in Mount Pleasant and who owns several Dairy Queens in the area.

“We had a very nice menu to start with,” Witherspoon said at Sunday Brunch in early November. “Brandon enhanced it and brought his creativity to it.”

Creativity wasn’t the only ace up Rodriguez’ chef jacket.

He tapped Wendy Standridge of Mount Vernon to be part of the waitstaff and Nardello’s event manager. Standridge is well known to foodies in Northeast Texas. She’s worked at ML Edwards and The Chophouse in Mount Vernon.

Wendy Standridge serves appetizers to Sylvia Galloway of Winnsboro.

“I’m excited to be here and excited to work with Chef and this team,” Standridge said. “Richard is a long-time member of the Mount Pleasant community.”

Standridge, who grew up in Mount Pleasant and now lives at Lake Cypress Springs, also appreciates that several restaurants in Mount Pleasant are operating in restored buildings, like Nardello’s, which housed a title company before its current incarnation.

“I’m on the Mount Vernon Main Street committee,” she said. “It’s so fun to see people come in to an older building and remember what it used to be.”

Standridge says it takes “a very particular kind of business owner to open up in a very old building; to look at something, have a vision and be able to create it.”

Nardello’s is located in an older building on the square in Mount Pleasant. In its former incarnation, it housed a title company.

The food business is Standridge’s choice.

“You either love it or you don’t,” she explained. “I have a college degree, but this is what I love.”

When Chef added Standridge to his staff, he understood food service was her chosen career.

“We couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to add her to our team,” Chef explained. “This is where she wants to be.”

Chef minds the kitchen, but tries to get out on the floor to visit with and get feedback from his customers.

Standridge works the front of the house, racing to the door when customers arrive.

“One of these days, I’m going to face plant,” she said with a laugh. “I trip over my own feet.”

Chef works hard at being a good leader. Having come up through the ranks of the restaurant business, he sees each position as crucial to success.

“I want everyone to be the best they can be,” he noted. “I see everyone on the same level.”

He has high expectations for himself and all his staff, especially when it comes to the quality of food he sends out to his customers’ tables.

“If you’re not happy sending it out, your customer is not going to be happy with it,” he said. “Sometimes, we need to take a plate back. That becomes a teaching moment for my staff and me.”

Being open to criticism, be it from a customer or staff, keeps Chef on his toes.

“You can be the best 3-star Michelin star restaurant in the world, but there’s always room for improvement,” he said, “I always want to do better than I did yesterday.”

Being willing to make adjustments is paying off for the Nardello’s team. They have recently partnered with Laura’s Cheesecake (just steps away) to host private events. They are booked for several weddings, which pleases both Chef and Standridge.

“When you think enough of a local business that you want to bring them into your special day, that’s a huge honor,” Standbridge said.

Chef wants to present the best dishes possible, using as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible.

Nardello’s relies on produce from the Comeback Creek Farm near Pittsburg, a 100-acre operation that farms “using only low impact, sustainable methods; no synthetic pesticides or herbicides nor harmful chemical fertilizers,” according to their website,

Nardello’s Executive Chef Brandon Rodriguez believes in farm-to-table. He uses locally sourced produce from nearby Comeback Creek Farms.

“I work with them a lot,” Chef said. “I find out what’s available and work that into the menu.”

Chef is fond of Comeback Creek’s green tomatoes, which he fries, arugula when they have it, heirloom tomatoes and fresh okra, which he pickles and uses in Nardello’s killer Sake Bloody Marys, served during Sunday Brunch.

Noting the end of peach season at the beginning of September, Chef and Standridge realized they would have to come up with a replacement for their popular peach bellinis, and bourbon and peaches French toast.

“I usually have waffle batter left over,” Chef noted. “I was going to cube them up and make bread pudding.”

Then, Standridge said, “You ought to make them with pumpkin.”

“That is genius,” Chef said.

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding is a seasonal favorite at Nardello’s.

And so, a new dish was added to the ever-evolving menu.

Chef changes the dinner menu every Thursday. Past offerings included Campanelle Carbonara –roasted chicken, pancetta, fresh spinach, grana padano Parmesan, campanelle pasta in a creamy carbonara sauce ($15), Italian Chicken – lightly breaded chicken breast, lemon caper cream sauce, rosemary roasted potatoes, sautéed broccolini ($17), Grilled Salmon – char-grilled, lemon cream sauce, red quinoa salad ($18), Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo – lightly breaded or wood-fired roasted chicken, velvety Alfredo, fettuccine pasta ($14) and Filet Mignon wood-fired, Parmesan creamed kale, rosemary roasted potatoes, peppercorn reduction ($28).

For lunch, Chef recommended the G.O.A.T. burger ($12), inspired by the sports term “Greatest Of All Time.” The delicious item is topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese and a red wine reduction sauce. It might be the best burger I’ve ever eaten. And the fries? Oh, man. They are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside,thanks to a tip Chef got from one of his kitchen staff.

Nardello’s G.O.A.T. burger is guaranteed to please. The fries are scrumptious, too.

We also sampled the large Caesar Salad ($10), with grated Parmesan, croutons and grilled garlic dressing. We added chicken ($3.50). It was more than enough to feed two.

Nardello’s makes all its bread on premises, save their rye and brioche.

Their French bread is served warm with Fire-Roasted Three Cheese Dip ($9), which is to die for. The Roasted Red Pepper Hummus ($9) needed a bit more salt for our table, but it was creamy and delicious. It’s served with small pita chips and sliced cucumber.

Nardello’s Three-Cheese Dip is served hot, with home-made bread.

Wood-fired Cheesy Bread ($6), Signature Meatballs ($9), Crispy Zucchini ($7), a Tavern Board ($20) of Parmesan, garlic bread, cured meat, artisan cheeses, house pickles, olives, figs, apricots, herb oil, focaccia and toasted baguette is on our “to be ordered list,” along with several delicious-sounding sandwiches and hand crafted pizzas.

Seven of my serious food-loving friends and I went to Brunch (10 a.m. until 2 p.m.)  a couple of Sundays ago. Nardello’s did not disappoint.

We started with the previously mentioned Sake Bloody Marys ($9) and Mimosas ($7).

Just let me say this about the Bloody Marys. I did not miss the vodka. Not even a little bit. Sandridge was our bartender … not sure what all went into the concoction, but it sure was yummy – and packs a powerful punch. Chef even made some chili-infused red salt to rim our glasses. Olives and a small slab of pork belly were the garnishes. Thumbs up all around. We recommend you stop at one, especially if you’re driving. As my daddy would say, “They are honest drinks.”

Nardello’s Sake Bloody Mary is a Sunday Brunch highlight

We had the three-cheese hot dip and hummus for appetizers.

Then, we ordered the Avocado Toast ($9) – toasted fresh bread (made on premises), avocado, fresh spinach, bacon, eggs and fire roasted tomatoes. It got a thumbs up and several in our group took a doggie bag home to enjoy later.

Avocado Toast is a favorite on Nardello’s Sunday Brunch menu.

One of us ordered Wood-Fired Eggs In A Nest ($10) – fresh ciabatta, eggs, bacon, smoked provolone, arugula and garlic oil, while another got Chicken Florentine Crepes ($12) – wood fired roasted chicken, spinach, mushrooms, Parmesan cream sauce. I opted for Egg & Chorizo Hash ($11) – mild chorizo, pan fried potatoes, red pepper,onions, smoked provolone, fried egg (note: there is some heat in this dish, but it’s not overpowering.)  

Once our entrees arrived, it got really quiet around our table. With good reason. Everyone was savoring their first, second, third and fourth bites. Delicious.

Spinach Crepes

Added to our brunch enjoyment were the piano stylings of John Nedlo, of Pittsburg, a retired music teacher who can play just about anything you request. We loved his arrangements of “Autumn Leaves,” “Our Love Is Here To Stay,” “Just the Way You Are,” “And I Love Her,” among others. Check Nardello’s Facebook page for Nedlo’s schedule. He is also available for private events and can be reached at 903-767-2841.

Because we are a group of foodies, we always weigh in with our opinions.

“Terry, thank you for the wonderful lunch pick today,” said Norma Krueger of Holly Lake. “Everything was delicious, including the company.”

The Sous Sisters enjoyed meeting Executive Chef Brandon Rodriguez and owner Richard Witherspoon during Sunday Brunch at Nardello’s in Mount Pleasant. Clockwise from bottom left, Jo Ann Porterfield, Norma Krueger, Juneau Embry, Linda Whitley, Chef, Terry Mathews, Witherspoon, Susan Payne, Stephanie McCormick and Darla Pierce.

“Loved the atmosphere and staff,” said Susan Payne of Sulphur Springs.“And, of course the food and our time of visiting. The music was icing on the cake!”

“Loved the restaurant, the music, the food, and the company,” offered Juneau Embry of Longview.

“Sunday Brunch at Nardello’s: good food, wonderful service, with music to enhance the whole experience,” said Jo Ann Porterfield of Winnsboro.

“I enjoyed the food, the company and the music,” offered Linda Whitley of Winnsboro.

Note: We’ve been to Nardello’s Brunch and weekday lunch, but haven’t sampled dinner, which gives us plenty of reasons to keep coming back.

Nardello’s is in good hands, guided by creative people with vision and a passion for their chosen field.

“I want to be the place that people come to, regularly and for special occasions,” Standridge said.

In other words,they want to become the place where everybody knows your name.

“In five years, I see myself here,” Chef said. “This is my long term.”


Nardellos’ – 103 North Madison Avenue, Mount Pleasant, Texas 75455


Monday-Thursday – 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Friday – 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Saturday – 11 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Sunday – 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Reservations appreciated for large groups

Special menus available for groups of 20 or more – Call ahead

For a full menu preview, visit

Follow them on Facebook at Nardello’s to check out weekly Happy Hour andDinner Specials

Delia Owens speaks – and book lovers everywhere listen

Where the Crawdads Sing - 10-11-18I’ve been a fan of Delia Owens’ writing since 1984 when she released “Cry of the Kalahari,” with husband Mark. The couple spent seven years in Deception Valley in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana, where they researched lions, brown hyenas and jackals.

The book became a national best seller, was translated into seven languages and won the 1985 Jack Burroughs Medal, given to a book judged to be distinguished in the field of natural history.

Her research on the evolution of social denning in brown hyenas earned her a PhD at the University of California, Davis.

She published her research results in the scientific journals Nature, Animal Behavior, Journal of Mammalogy, Natural History and others. Her research and conservation work in Africa earned her the Golden Ark award from Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and the University of California Award for Excellence.

Cry of the Kalahari
Delia Owens’ debuted as a writer in a non-fiction memoir of time spent in the Kalahari desert in Botswana. The book was published in 1984.

The couple also published “The Eye of the Elephant” in 1992. The book detailed the couple’s difficult time in Zambia, where they did their best to stop poachers from killing off elephant herds. Their lives were in danger most of the time they were following the herds.

Delia and Mark are now divorced.

She lives in Idaho, and in April released her first foray into the world of fiction with a glorious novel, “Where The Crawdads Sing,” the story of a young girl who is abandoned in the marshes of North Carolina. The book has been on the New York Times best sellers list for three weeks, quite an accomplishment for a debut novel.

Below is a Q&A with Delia provided by her publisher, G.P. Putnam’s Sons.


Putnam: Tell us about your book.

Delia Owens: “Where the Crawdads Sing” is a mystery, a love story and a courtroom drama, but it is primarily about self-reliance, survival and how isolation affects human behavior. Since our species is a social mammal, we have strong genetic tendencies to belong to a group of tightly-bonded family and friends.

But what happens if a young girl – such as the novel’s heroine, Kya – finds herself alone without a group?

Of course, she feels lonely, threatened, insecure and incompetent.

Kya also behaves strangely, hiding behind trees when she sees others on the beach and avoiding the village. She ventures deeper into the wilds of the marsh away from people, and in so doing begins to learn life’s lessons directly from the natural world.

This organic guidance, along with instinctual behaviors born from isolation, allow her to survive and protect herself. But much more than that, the confidence she gains from self-reliance permits her to soar with personal achievement beyond what she could imagine.

The novel explores how isolated individuals behave differently from normal and how much we change when rejected by others. On their own and excluded, humans often revert to behaviors that resemble those of early man, who survived eons ago on the savannas, or of wild creatures who still live “way out yonder where the crawdads sing.”

Putnam: In the novel, the North Carolina coastal marsh is itself almost a character. What made you choose this setting for your story?

Owens: The coastal marsh of North Carolina, and Nature in general, is definitely a character of the novel.

As one line of the story reads, “… Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

After her family left her, Kya had no one but Nature to teach her about life, and there is no better teacher if we take the time to observe and listen to the wild.

Kya honed her skills of harvesting mussels by watching the crows; she learned about dishonest signals from fireflies; she learned about loyalty and friends from the seagulls.

I chose the coastal marsh because I was somewhat familiar with it and knew other marshes and swamps of the southern states very well.

When I was girl, I went canoe camping with my mother in the Okefenokee Swamp and other wild places.

Other important reasons I chose the North Carolina marsh: Very little has been written about the historical population of people who lived within these untamed deltas and estuaries for more than four hundred years.

These hardy souls were a mishmash of mutinous sailors, castaways, debtors and fugitives, runaways and freed slaves.

They ignored whatever laws – British, provincial or American – ruled at the time, living off the land and scrapping like muskrats over their staked-out-claims.

Kya was born in the 1940s and probably would represent one of the last true marsh-people who lived for generations in their own nation of land and water.

(Note: I, in no way, want to forget the Native American populations who lived here for many more hundreds of years than anyone. But they are not the ones I write of in the novel. They were civilized, lived by a social order with strong families and laws.)

Another reason for choosing this marsh is that, although it was a wild place, it is conceivable that Kya could have survived on her own.

Collectable food was bountiful, as she shows us so well; temperatures are mild; hiding places abundant. And companions like Jumpin’ and Mabel were not too far away.

Putnam: Tell us a little bit about the main character, Kya Clark. She is abandoned by her family at age ten, is rejected and scorned by the town locals and faces obstacles that would be unimaginable to many of us today. How is she able not only to survive her circumstances but also build a satisfying life for herself?

Owens: Kya is every-little-girl and one in a million.

Kya is all of us.

She represents what we can be when we have to be. I believe in her with all my heart. I believe all of us can do more than we can imagine when life requires it.

I was careful to write her survival in a realistic and believable way. To me, the story had to be feasible.

I purposely kept Pa around until Kya was ten, an age at which she was capable of gathering food and firewood, cooking, and boating in the marsh and sea. And of course, by then she could run or hide from anyone.

So, by the time she was truly alone, it was quite possible for her to survive on her own abilities.

And like all of us, she is intelligent and capable.

The lives of the marsh creatures fascinated her, so she started collecting shells and feathers, learning nature’s lessons as she went. Since she had no friends or family, her only entertainment was to observe, collect and record the wondrous wild around her. And in so doing, she learned a tremendous amount about natural history, and her mind and talents developed. With those in hand, she was able to become a true naturalist and publish numerous reference books.

Her collections of marsh life grew into the most complete and profound of its kind. A true and satisfying work of life – hers and the marsh’s.

But let’s not forget. Kya was also adventuresome, witty and spunky. And full of love. Once she has the chance to be with others, some of her more hidden traits begin to shine.

Putnam: Kya grows up in solitude and isolation. You’ve lived in some pretty isolated places, yourself. Have your experiences as a researcher in remote areas of Africa informed your creation of this character?

Owens: Much of my adult life –  more than twenty-three years – was spent in either extreme or partial isolation.

For one seven-year period, I and one other lived in the Kalahari Desert and were the only two people in area the size of Ireland. (There were a few bands of roving Bushmen to the south, but so remote we never saw them.) In the Luangwa, I had my own camp in a very isolated spot, meaning that for 23 years I was isolated. Even now in Idaho, I usually see other people only once or twice a week.

So, yes, most definitely, my experiences created Kya.

I know what it is like to be alone. To make friends with baboons and brown hyenas because there are no other girl friends around. I know how isolation can make you feel insecure and inadequate. What it is like to avoid people when you go to town because you don’t belong.

However, I also know how your confidence soars when you learn how to track a cougar across sand or recognize a deer’s alarm call.  When you can live in the wild – start a campfire in pouring rain and find your way in the dark –  you truly believe in yourself. You may still be lonely and feel awkward around other people, but you can do much more than you ever thought possible.

All of this is Kya: alone, unsure, awkward around people, but strong, capable, knowledgeable and very spunky on her own. And in the end, the confidence she gains from self-reliance in nature gives her the strength to thrive in man’s world.

Delia Owens documented the lives of brown hyenas during her seven years in the Kalahari Desert.

Putnam: You spent decades researching lions and elephants, two groups of mammals with strong matriarchal social structures. Are there similarities and differences in your observations of these animals and how we, as humans, behave?

Owens: My research and many other studies have shown us that most social mammals—those who live in tightly bonded groups such as most primates, elephants, lions, hyenas—live in tightly-bonded groups of females.

Males emigrate from their natal group when they reach adolescence to search for other females to mate. Otherwise, they would only have relatives with which to breed.

But the females remain in their group for all of their lives, so that the pride, troop or herd is made up of closely related or bonded females.

While observing lions, brown hyenas and elephants in the wild, I became fascinated with how much their social behavior is like our own.

Of course, these groups of females evolved because of the survival advantages. Such as anti-predator.

With 40 baboon moms looking for leopards, there’s a better chance the cat will be seen. And then you have forty moms alarm-barking and mobbing the leopard until it runs away. Another benefit is territorial defense. A group of bonded females within a troop can chase smaller groups from their range, keeping the best fruit trees for themselves.

But, everything is not all hunky-dory in these groups. There is almost as much discord among the females as there is camaraderie.

High-ranking female baboons fight over dominance to the point of inflicting wounds. They form cliques of strongly bonded individuals, who harass lesser individuals and chase them from fruit trees. Lionesses feeding at a kill, swat, snarl and clobber each other’s bloody faces.

You would never guess these were the same pride mates that just hours earlier sprawled in an easy pile licking each other’s chins.

The troop, pride, pack or herd evolved for the survival benefits, not the companionship.  Sisterhood does occur, but is not the only driving force. So yes, they remind me a lot of us.  Stay in the group for what it is worth, but watch your back. Still, the relationships between the females of human and other mammal groups are some of the most precious, loving and enduring relationships we have during our lives.

And we suffer, as Kya did, if we are denied this honor.

Putnam: Q. The novel touches on race and environmental issues. Why was it important to you to include these aspects in the book?

Owens: I think it would be very difficult to write a novel based in the 1950s and ‘60s about a young white woman who is befriended and protected by an older black man, and not touch on racism. Or to base a book in a threatened habitat such as the coastal marsh and not at least refer to its natural significance to the earth. I strongly believe that art and literature are two of our best means of promoting social consciousness. However, I also believe that being a novelist is primarily being a storyteller, and that whatever messages we want to convey as a writer should not interfere with the story we tell. I tried very hard to let the story itself speak of the issues and to keep my personal opinions in low key.

Putnam: You’ve co-authored three nonfiction books. Were there surprising differences or similarities to writing fiction?

Owens: My nonfiction books followed strong story lines, with a beginning, middle and end, so in that way the writing was similar to writing a novel. Also, the nonfiction books were character-driven – even if the main characters were lions, brown hyenas or elephants.

But of course, with nonfiction, there are the constraints of dates, times and facts that must be accurate, yet these real-life events don’t always flow within a good story line.

I loved the freedom of writing fiction. Of letting my imagination go as far as it would take me. You can always pull back in, take a more conservative course. But why not soar for a while just to see what happens? A character can look, say, feel whatever works best for the tale. You can never do that with nonfiction.

To me writing fiction is like riding a horse through the gate and into the mountains. You take off and are never quite sure where you will end up.

Putnam: You were educated in zoology and animal behavior, and the descriptions of the marsh in “Where the Crawdads Sing” seem to reflect a reverence and deep respect for even the smallest aspect of the natural world. What does a connection to nature mean for you, personally?

Owens: Nature is and always will be my best friend. She is not constant or steady, but ever-present. She is always there to soften a blow, to hold me, to teach me, to forgive me.  She stays when others go.  She makes me laugh and cry and teaches me everything I need to know. She is blue skies and rain. Mountain and valley. A hard rock to stand on and soft moss to lie on.

Putnam: Do crawdads really sing?

Owens: Technically, scientifically, crawdads do not sing.  But I’ve made a bit of a study of it myself. And I’ve found that first you must go – all by yourself – and set up a small camp in real wilderness.

I’m speaking of a place far from any road or village. Not a park, but a remote and wild land filled with earth’s creatures. Just before dusk, you must walk deep into the woods and stand there exposed and totally alone as darkness descends around you.

When you can feel the planet beneath your toes and the trees moving about, you must listen with all your ears, and – I promise – you will hear the crawdads sing. In fact, it will be a chorus.



Book Briefs – ‘The aunts’ have their day

Book Cover - The Rules of Magic - 11-91-7
The Rules of Magic – Alice Hoffman – Read by Marin Ireland – Audible – 10 hours, 59 minutes – $23.32 – October 2017 – Five out of five stars

If you enjoy magic realism or if you liked the 1998 movie “Practical Magic,” starring Sandra Bullock (Sally Owens) and Nicole Kidman (Gillian Owens), you might enjoy Alice Hoffman’s latest offering, “The Rules of Magic.”

The book is the back story of the aunts who raise sisters Sally and Gillian after their parents die in a fire.

Frances (Franny) and Bridgette (Jet), along with their younger brother Vincent – who is not mentioned in the first book – are raised by their parents in New York City.

Their mother, Susanna Owens, is a direct descendant of the Maria Owens a 17th century witch who escaped hanging by slipping the noose. Maria went on to raise a family, living in a beautiful house on Magnolia Street in a small Massachusetts town where the locals were wary of her.

Maria, it turns out, was the mistress of a powerful man who eventually turned against her, but not before leaving her with a fortune in jewels.

In order to protect her offspring, Maria puts a curse on Owens women, dooming the men who love them to sad ends.

Susanna escapes Massachusetts as soon as she’s grown, lives in Paris and falls hopelessly in love with a young man, but as per the curse, it doesn’t end well.

She marries a dull psychiatrist, has three children and settles into life in the Big Apple.

Although Susanna has the gift, she doesn’t want her children to practice magic – thus the rules: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love.

The children grow up chafing under Susanna’s restrictions, knowing that they have untapped powers.

Fran is pale and has “blood red” hair that, when wet, drips crimson, not clear.

Jet has long black hair and is terribly shy.

Vincent is so full of charisma that a nurse tries to steal him from the hospital right after he’s born.

As per the rules, none of the children need worry about drowning, as they are destined to float. This characteristic features prominently in one of the storylines, with the ripple effect lasting years.

When the sisters at last establish a house together, they develop their own rules. Among them are:

  • Never drink milk after a thunderstorm, for it will certainly be soured.
  • Always leave out seed for the birds when the first snow falls.
  • Wash you hair with rosemary.
  • Drink lavender tea when you cannot sleep.
  • Know that the only remedy for love is to love more.

Hoffman is a master storyteller, letting the magic seep through the plot rather than using action to drive it. Although ultimately satisfying, it seems that Hoffman’s story could have been completed with a few less pages.

Marin Ireland is an Earphones Award–winning narrator who brings a distinct voice to each character, making the almost 11-hour journey pleasant.

I enjoyed getting to know Franny, Jet and Vincent. Sure hope Hollywood comes a’courtin’. Their stories will make another great film.

Book Briefs: Formula, fresh and familiar

Origin - 11-9-17
Origin – Audible Books – Read by Paul Michael – $35 – 18 hours, 10 minutes – Three out of five stars

Mega-best-selling author Dan Brown (“Angels and Demons,” 2000, “The Da Vinci Code,” 2003, “Inferno,” 2013) once again taps Harvard professor Robert Langdon in his New York Times #1 release, “Origin,” to unravel a high-tech mystery that could impact the world’s great religions. Continue reading “Book Briefs: Formula, fresh and familiar”

Hendrix and Maines bring experience, artistry to The Bowery Stage Oct. 28

Terri and Lloyd - 10-19-17
Long-time performing duo Lloyd Maines and Terri Hendrix will be in concert at Winnsboro Center for the Arts Saturday, Oct. 28. (Courtesy Photo)

When Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines roll into town for their Oct. 28 show on The Bowery Stage, they bring a world of experience with them. Continue reading “Hendrix and Maines bring experience, artistry to The Bowery Stage Oct. 28”

Alexander Rom: The Dallas Opera’s Chorus Maestro extraordinaire

Maestro Rom - 11-2-17
Maestro Alexander Rom

Since 1990, The Dallas Opera’s chorus has been led by Ukrainian-born, Alexander Rom. Under his expert direction, the group has gained a reputation for excellence and precision. They’ve just come off an exceptional performance of “Samson and Dalila,” where Rom and his group received a warm ovation during the Sunday matinee curtain call.   Continue reading “Alexander Rom: The Dallas Opera’s Chorus Maestro extraordinaire”

Owen, Fullbright set The Bowery Stage on fire

WCA - Owen - 10-12-17
Garrett Owen had the audience in the palm of his hand when he performed at Winnsboro Center for the Arts Oct. 7. (Photo Courtesy of Jim Willis)

Winnsboro Center for the Arts was set ablaze Oct. 7 – by the sheer force of two men, their guitars, one harmonica and a baby grand piano. Continue reading “Owen, Fullbright set The Bowery Stage on fire”