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Foodie Lit
J. R. Ridgley's 18Wheeler

Main character Carrie Marshall recently a widow, recently without a job and recently adrift in what was an orderly and planned life, takes off spontaneously to visit her grandchildren. She doesn’t check the weather and is stranded in a freezing snow storm, hearing her dead husband’s voice berating her judgment, as he so often did in life—her dead cell phone, lack of food and emergency supplies.

Trucker John Graham, a widower with grown children, is constantly on the road to escape his life after his beloved wife died of cancer. His life is in his rig, the cab with a microwave, refrigerator, shelves, a bed and internet. His friends are truckers he sees at truck stops and talks to on his CB. His kind heart has him stopping for the car he sees on the side of the road, rescuing Carrie. And turning him from a suspected predator to a hero who saves her life.

Both felt the walls closing in on them. John sold all and lives in his rig. Carrie can’t stay in her house with its memories of her not-so-good marriage and no future.

What a limiting life in a rig, you might think. Yet author, JF Ridgley turns the truck into the setting for a second chance romance that works. The author told me, “I love trucks because my daddy was a trucker ( but not an 18Wheeler.) He always said that truckers were ‘the prince of the road’ and to me that makes for a romance hero.”  

Like Noah’s Ark, the rig becomes the world for John and Carrie  adrift in the world. That world eventually, with strife, uncertainty and ultimately faith in the other, becomes one that that is comfortable, secure and and on-the-road adventure. I will never look at an 18Wheeler in the same way again! 

What is home is a question asked and answered in many ways in 18Wheeler. The size of a home, something many couples save for and spend a great deal of money on, is not how Carrie and John define home, what brings them security or happiness. It made me rethink some of my values in this respect.

Judy peppers her dialogue with truckers’ lingo. Like a romance set in Paris, French adds to the ambiance. The nicknames the truckers use are fun and some we use in ordinary conversation. I asked Judy how difficult it was to incorporate this vocabulary into her novel. “Trucking lingo was fun. Spike, the character in the book who set John straight was a real life person, my hubby's nephew. He introduced me to the language. He was also married to a gal whose father and  past husband were truckers… I still try to remember the nicknames of the cities.”

Both Carrie and John grow during the novel, partially from the difficulties they suffered from the death of there spouses and the changes they were forced to make. Judy said, “I attempted to bring out the struggles from both sides. A good marriage lost and an escape from a bad one. Both are hard journeys.” 

From the journeys on the road to the journeys in the lives of the characters, I enjoyed this second chance love story of a mature couple. JR commented, “[L}osing someone you love and loving someone again is difficult. I think some older romance readers struggle with that as well.  There is a mature couple at church who just got married for the second time and it is fun watching them because they are like young newly weds. So I think mature romances offer hope because we still can find love out there.”

Carrie and John love to eat! While they mostly heat up frozen food in the rig’s microwave, they do stop at restaurants. Judy said the thought of Apple Turnovers makes her mouth water and they certainly were favorites of Carrie and John! So an Apple Turnover it will be. As the weather turns to fall, the aroma of apples and cinnamon as they bake, remind us of the crispier weather on the way. 

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