|Winning Dixie has some nice moments and some good characters. What it also has is predictability and limited intensity in the romance making it an average reading experience.
Wade Harrison is a 35-year old man with a heart problem due to an unusual infection. He is saved, literally on his deathbed, when Jimmy Don McCormick of Tribute, Texas steps drunkenly out in front of a taxi cab, getting killed. His donor card was marked yes and his heart went to Wade. Upon awakening, Wade experiences something they call cellular memory, a phenomenon where the organ recipient remembers something from the donator’s life. In this case, Wade remembers that Jimmy Don has two boys.
Two years later, healthy and immensely grateful for Jimmy Don’s sacrifice, Wade is determined to go to Tribute, Texas and check on the sons. He discovers they are Ben, age 10, and Tate, age 8. The boys live with Dixie, their mother, who was divorced from Jimmy Don for a few years before he died. Wade is determined to let them know what a hero Jimmy Don was and to help ensure their financial future. Wade is the CEO of his family’s media conglomerate. He has taken a leave for a few weeks to complete this mission, leaving his sisters happily in charge under his father’s tutelage.
Everything is fine until he steps into Dixie’s Diner and meets the mother of the two boys. First, he is awestruck by her, feeling an attraction and interest that he hasn’t felt in years. Second, she mistakes him for someone looking to fill the dishwashing position she had advertised in the paper he is carrying. He ends up taking the job just to be close, ostensibly to find out more about the boys. Here Wade discovers the world of small town camaraderie and the joys of living.
Dixie is tired and needs help. Her dishwasher quit and she and Pops just can’t do it all alone. Pops is actually Jimmy Don’s grandfather. He has stayed on with Dixie despite the divorce. Jimmy Don and Dixie grew up together and had always been best friends. It seemed natural that they would marry and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, Jimmy Don was a carefree soul who just couldn’t grow up. He also had the rodeo bug. After several years of marriage and two boys, Dixie couldn’t keep doing what they were doing. She divorced him, but they remained friends. Pops is now her support system and the major male role model for the boys.
She and Wade are attracted to each other and as Wade is drawn into their lives, his secret looms bigger and bigger. As his feelings grow, Wade is concerned that Dixie will not accept that he is growing to care for her, which has nothing to do with Jimmy Don. Dixie, on the other hand, thinks Wade is a drifter who has money and is running from something. How can she open herself up to that, especially when it becomes clear that the boys like him and are bonding with him?
Wade and Dixie are adults dealing with a budding relationship and are enjoyable and fun characters to watch fall in love. Pops, Ben and Tate are a family that one wants to spend time with. The situations are warm and the sense of “rightness” is definitely part of the appeal of the romance.
Winning Dixie is engaging when just concentrating on their growing relationship. But there is that looming “secret” that everyone can tell will tear apart the fragile relationship they are building. As expected, all the predictable things happen when the information is revealed and everyone acts the way they always do when confronted with trust-destroying information, thus creating the ending that is a staple of these kinds of stories. It is a shame that a promising tale is left to wither on the vine like that.