Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bookish Tuesday | Athens Ambuscade

Introducing Athens Ambuscade by Kristen Joy Wilks

By Iola Goulton, @iolagoulton

I requested Athens Ambuscade for review for two reasons:

  1. It obviously featured Athens, Greece, which makes it perfect for a post at International Christian Fiction Writers.
  2. I've never heard of "ambuscade" before, so I had to find out what it meant (it's an antiquated term for 'ambush' for those who are interested.

But then I read the book description and wasn't so sure ...

What happens when a strapped-for-cash bridal designer needs a stuffed animal...and fast?Up-and-coming bridal designer, Jacqueline Gianakos must fly a Montana taxidermist to Greece in order to stuff her Grandmother's cat. If Chrysanthemum isn't preserved within two days' time, Jacqueline will lose the home that was her childhood sanctuary. But will she survive the next 48 hours when the taxidermist ignores her pointed request and then shows up wearing flannel?

This sounded a little weird. And perhaps it was. But it worked.

Jacqueline is in Athens dealing with the estate of her recently deceased grandmother. Ya-Ya left what could have been a to-do list in the envelope with her will, and the lawyer decrees that Jacqueline must complete all the tasks on the list before she can inherit the house. This would seem ridiculous and unbelievable, but the writing and the setting makes it seem almost logical.

Anyway, Jacqueline (never Jackie and definitely not Jack) is a lady with Plans. She has emptied the attic, cleaned the gutters, built a tasteful orange tree house (if that's not a contradiction in terms then I don't know what is), and baked a watermelon pie (I have no idea how you bake a pie from a fruit that is basically water).

Now she has to get that nice taxidermist from Montana to stuff her grandmother's dead cat. 

He's arrived in Athens, and they've got two days to stuff the cat and show the lawyer. Shouldn't be difficult ...

Jacqueline and Shane collect the cat from cold storage (it's been dead three years, and Ya-Ya wasn't crazy enough to keep it in her own freezer. Yes, this is a good time for crazy cat lady jokes). Then their troubles begin as thugs in black vans want to steal the cat. Yes, you read that right. It's the "ambuscade" promised in the title.

What follows is a fast-paced cat chase through the streets and sights of Athens, including a visit to the Parthenon, the Gate of Athena, the Monastiraki Flea Market, and the Cave of Aglauros. It's also funny, in a laugh-out-loud kind of way, not a how-stupid-is-this-woman kind of way.

Jacqueline is a little strange (I guess she takes after Ya-Ya).

As I said, Jacqueline is a lady with Plans. She has plans and lists and is perhaps a little over the top. For example, when she arranges to meet Shane, the taxidermist, in an Athenian cafe, she doesn't tell him what she'll be wearing. She tells him the width of her belt, and the three shades of eyeshadow. I try to be organised, but Jacqueline takes planning and organisation to a whole new level.

Athens Ambuscade is a quick read, both because of the fast pace and because it is relatively short. But it packed a lot of punch: lots of great lines:


It also had a strong Christian theme, with Jacqueline learning a definite lesson about the nature of God (a lesson that had nothing to do with kittens or rainbows or fluffy things).

And the location ... Wilks did a great job with the location:

So much color. A swipe of robin's egg blue across the Mediterranean sky, ancient white marble, and the flush of green growth clinging to the mountain. God seemed to create His most glorious splendors in hard to reach places.

Some books are set in exotic locations, but you read them and get the feeling they could have been set anywhere—the setting comes a distant third behind the plot and characters. Athens Ambuscade is different. It almost felt as though the setting were a character, and I loved that—although I am glad my own short visit to Athens wasn't nearly as exciting as Jacqueline and Shane's.

I recommend Athens Ambuscade for those who enjoy romantic comedy from authors such as Kara Isaac, and those looking for a Christian novel equivalent of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Thanks to Pelican Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and author, writing contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist. She is a member of the Sisterhood of Unpronounceable Names (Iola is pronounced yo-la, not eye-ola and definitely not Lola).

Iola holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and currently works as a freelance editor. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand (not far from Hobbiton) with her husband, two teenagers and one cat. She is currently working on her first novel.


  1. oh, I would love to go to Athens. Literature can take you anywhere.

  2. Hi Iola, What a fascinating premise and fabulous location for a romance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Athens Ambuscade with us. :)