Series: Hellcat Canyon #1
Published by Avon on May 31st 2016
“Somehow he’d forgotten the sort of pleasure that could be had in making someone happy for no reason at all.
“He frankly couldn’t think of the last time anyone else had tried to make him happy for no reason at all.”
FINAL DECISION: Full of the emotional complexity, beautiful enthralling descriptions of love and stuggle and pain that readers have come to expect from Julie Anne Long, HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON is Long’s first contemporary. Thankfully, the answer to the question of whether Long’s style could work in contemporary romance is an enthusiastic yes!
THE STORY: Britt Langley is a waitress in Hellcat Canyon who has rebuilt her life in the protective womb of the small town. Then a man walks into the diner where she works and threatens to blow her safe little world apart. John Tennessee McCord, a small town boy, who grew up to be a Hollywood star, recognizes Hellcat Canyon’s small town atmosphere and finds himself pulled towards something there that he knows he has lost. With a faltering career and an infamous breakup, J.T. seems to be guided to Hellcat Canyon by his broken down truck. Two people who want no commitments begin an affair but find that what they find together is not what they expected.
OPINION: I became a huge fan of Julie Anne Long through her Pennyroyal Green series. I found her books in that series to have a deeply emotional, lyrical quality with characters who are complex, clever and who always managed to capture my attention. When I read that after her triumphant book THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND, Long was turning to contemporary books, I mourned a bit. You see, I’ve been on this road before with authors who turn away from the very things that I loved about them to attempt a more popular genre. So it was with not just a little trepidation that I began this book.
I’m happy to report that Long’s style has transferred beautifully to the contemporary genre.
HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON is not a modern version of Pennyroyal Green and yet there are similarities that I loved. Long has a great ability to construct small towns with souls. Hellcat Canyon feels like a place I might not have been but could imagine going with characters and relationships that feel classic and yet not stereotypical. I laughed out loud at the owner of the local “inn” who collects cherub angels the quantity of which begins to drive J.T. crazy. Yet Long does not leave this woman as a joke. Her obsession is explained with sympathy which gives complexity to those quirky qualities which we all have. I have a great fondness for books grounded in a strong sense of place and time. Hellcat Canyon is a place I feel I could visit and the reality of that place gives the book an automatic depth from which to build the relationship between Britt and J.T.
Britt and J.T. are both afraid of commitment. For different reasons, neither wants more than a short term affair when they first meet. Painful pasts, fears and uncertainties plague both of them. It becomes obvious, however, that despite their overt intentions, in their hearts, both are starving for love, protection, and acceptance. The romance between them is beautifully constructed. It is a story of small everyday moments, peaceful acceptance, and the intense joy of finding someone who cares for and about you. Towards the end of the book J.T. gives a magnificent exegesis on love that captures for me the beauty of the relationship in this book: “But in real life, it’s the little things. Maybe it’s peanut butter in the house because she knows you like it…And it’s in the silences. In how you enjoy everyday things more, like reading, because she’s reading next to you.”
Not that there isn’t drama and angst in this book. There are ex-girlfriends, and painful pasts and seemingly incompatible presents to be worked through for these two to find a HEA. But the real essence of the book is the human experience of love and home.
I loved this book and I can’t wait to read about the couple in the next book in the series. There seems to be some history there that ups the possibility for angst and drama.
WORTH MENTIONING: Two words: billboard graffiti. Read the book, you’ll understand.
CONNECTED BOOKS: HOT IN HELLCAT CANYON is the first book in the Hellcat Canyon series.
STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in order to provide a review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.