Review: Wild at Whiskey Creek

Review: Wild at Whiskey CreekWild at Whiskey Creek (Hellcat Canyon, #2) by Julie Anne Long
Series: Hellcat Canyon #2
Published by Avon on November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“That was the paradox of his life. To be stretched out on a sort of Catherine wheel, pulled between equal and utterly opposing desires. And if you believed the legend of the Eternity Oak, he has only himself to blame.”

FINAL DECISION: No one does the slow burn romance better than Julie Anne Long. Destiny and fate, decision and mistake, the pushing and pulling of characters live.  Glory and Eli are characters that feel fated and yet fate can be fickle.  Loved this one.

THE STORY:  Glory Greenleaf and Eli Barlow have been moving toward and away from one another almost all their lives. They grew up together in their small hometown and their lives have always been connected because Eli was Glory’s older brother’s best friend.  At seventeen Eli carved their initials on the Eternity Tree which by local legend sealed his fate. He has loved Glory in the decade since but they have not gotten together. A year ago it seemed like things were finally moving toward them being together when Eli had to arrest Glory’s brother. Since that day, Glory has refused to talk to Eli.

OPINION:  A story about fate and freewill about a love that is destined to be and life which gets in the way.  Glory and Eli are a couple that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I finished reading this book over a week ago. I held off writing this review because it is hard for me to put into words why I find this book so appealing.

This is a second – third – fourth chance at love story.  Eli and Glory have been so close so many times to having a relationship but decisions, situations and life keep getting in their way.  As this book progresses it seems like once again Eli and Glory might pass one another by.

Eli is completely devoted to Glory. He is the man who is willing to stand beside and behind Glory — who Eli knows is an amazing woman. He has been satisfied with the idea of being Sir Walter Raleigh to Glory’s Queen Elizabeth. Honest, dedicated and a genuinely good person, Eli has finally come to the decision that he needs to build a life for himself apart from Glory.

Glory is a woman who comes from a family from the “wrong side of the tracks”. Everyone knows that she is an amazing singer who is destined for more. A year ago it seemed likely that she was on her way.  But when her brother was arrested for drug dealing by Eli, not only did it destroy the budding romance between Eli and Glory, but it also left Glory with a series of dead-end jobs rather than her flight to stardom.

This is a book of small moments, little decisions, close calls, missed opportunities and choices. I loved in this book how Eli and Glory are so obviously fated to be together and yet fate is not enough. They both have choices. Choices that can bring them together or drive them apart. The combination of fate and choices makes the story of Eli and Glory powerful and left me thinking.

One of the other wonderful things about this book is how completely Long has captured the small town world. Her secondary characters are memorable and fun and they create a sense of community and interest. Hellcat Canyon has a true sense of place, of identity. I feel like I could drive up the California coast and right into this story.

And perhaps that is why I can’t stop thinking about this story. Everything about this story feels so real to me.  Glory’s ambition and dreams and hopes. The pain and sorrow that keeps Eli and Glory apart. The strange, snarky California vibe that combines celebrity with quirky places.

This is a book I will read again and again. (I already have a playlist of the songs mentioned in this book on my phone).  Bravo!

WORTH MENTIONING: Pornographic garden gnomes. (Do you need any other information to try this book?)

CONNECTED BOOKS:  WILD AT WHISKEY CREEK is the second book in the Hellcat Canyon series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Hot in Hellcat Canyon

Review: Hot in Hellcat CanyonHot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long
Series: Hellcat Canyon #1
Published by Avon on May 31st 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“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.

five-stars

Top 10 Favorite Books of 2015

This list of ten books is not necessarily my best reviewed books of 2015.  Rather, these are ten books which stuck with me for one reason or another.

10. Pia Does Hollywood by Thea Harrison — This novella does exactly what I love.  It revisits characters from the series and moves their story forward.  This novella has a tight story line and reminds me how much I love Dragos and Pia as a couple.

9. The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean — A classic road story, this first book in MacLean’s new series ticks all the classic romantic tropes — two protagonists who start out hating and fighting one another but soon cannot help being attracted to one another, a highwayman, illicit nights spent on the road together, and a rake brought to his knees.

8. Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz — Perfect balance between romance and suspense in this story of the past that comes back to haunt the heroine. I loved the twists and turns of the suspense story and also the connection between the hero and heroine.

7. The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward — A book I was inclined to dislike merely because of its description which sounds like a 1980s Dynasty or Dallas description, I found the story of this rich family that is falling apart on all sides to be compelling.  These are not always likable characters but their development makes great drama. The story is a  sweeping and epic family drama with a lot of romance.

6. Luck be a Lady by Meredith Duran — I love these cross-class romances.  Here, the hero is a criminal mastermind and the heroine is a woman who wants nothing more than to be a strong business woman.  Challenging all her assumptions Catherine has about herself, Nick is clever, daring, rough and sexy.  Their interactions are what I remember most from this book.

5. Archangel’s Enigma by Nalini Singh — Nassir, Nassir, Nassir.  Cuddly as a cat and as dangerous as a viper, Nassir is such unique character.  His search for his mate is as singular as Nassir’s own nature.  I loved that we get to know so much about Nassir and yet he becomes more mysterious and compelling.  Mee-yow!

4. Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh — The only author with two books on my list, Nalini Singh has two diverse genres.  Rock Redemption is her contemporary series about the members of a rock band.  When Noah and Kit were introduced earlier in the series, readers discovered that Noah purposely destroyed any potential relationship between them by having Kit catch him having sex with a groupie.  How these two find a path together is my most heartbreaking and angst filled read of the year.

3. Dukes Prefer Blondes by Loretta Chase — This book has a quirky relationship between a barrister and an aristocrat.  The two of them have a very bantering relationship with lots of arguments and discussions which draw them together.  I always love the sense of place that Chase novels have with many historical details.  Chase makes a stuffy lawyer very sexy.

2. Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt — Hot, hot, hot. This story between a sensualist and a woman who fears even being alone with a man is romantic and sexy while also being sweet and gentle.  Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series is one of my all time favorites and this book’s story is big and bold and sexy — and so is Asa Makepeace.

1. The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long — My favorite book of the year did something that is almost impossible — exceeded high expectations. The final book of the Pennyroyal Green series, this book tells the star-crossed lovers story of Lyon and Olivia whose families rival the Capulets and Montagues. Lyon and Olivia’s story has been a catalyst throughout the series and thus readers had high expectations for their story. This book was beautiful, emotional and one of the best closures of a series I have ever read.

Review: The Legend of Lyon Redmond

The Legend of Lyon Redmond
The Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DAZZLING, EMOTIONAL CONCLUSION TO THE PENNYROYAL GREEN SERIES

Once in every generation, a Redmond and an Eversea are destined to fall in love with disastrous results…
“It was time for a reckoning.”
FINAL DECISION: Beautiful, satisfying and so different than I imagined, THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND rewards readers of the Pennyroyal series with a book worthy of the anticipation built up over the series.

THE STORY: The Redmond and the Everseas have been enemies for generations. An ancient curse holds that once in every generation, a Redmond and an Eversea will fall in love but that it ends in disaster. The curse appears to have been fulfilled with the heir Lyon Redmond falls in love with Olivia Eversea. Rumor has it that Olivia broke Lyon’s heart and he left for parts unknown five years ago and has not been seen since.

In the intervening years, Lyon has been masquerading as Mr. Hardesty, a trader with an alter ego of Le Chat, a notorious pirate. In the meantime, Olivia has been dazzling suitors but always keeping herself emotionally apart. To the shock of all of society, she has finally agreed to marry a viscount.

“She’s getting married on the second Saturday in May.”

A note sends Lyon back to Pennyroyal Green to confront the woman he loved. The years have changed them both…but will love finally prevail between the Redmonds and the Everseas.

OPINION: After ten books of build up, I approached THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND with trepidation. I have often been disappointed with the final book in a series. After so much buildup, it becomes difficult for a mere book to satisfy the raised expectations of readers. The romance between Lyon and Olivia already was legendary before the first words of this book. It would have been simple for this book to fall into simplistic drama and conflict. I am happy to report that this book not only met but exceeded all of my expectations.

At the onset, I encourage readers to avoid spoilers. The book develops in unexpected ways. Fans can be assured that this book answers the question of what happened between Lyon and Olivia five years ago.

I started this book expecting angst and drama, but instead I found a treatise on the beauty and pain of love.

“Of course. Of course it’s you I’ve waited for my entire life. Of course we’re meant to be together forever. Of course.”

Powerful and mysterious figures throughout the series, this book delves deeply into Lyon and Olivia. In many ways the catalysts for the romances of the prior books, Lyon and Olivia have a powerful connection from the moment they first see one another. I am not sure I have ever read another romance book where the entire book is so concentrated on the thoughts and emotions of the hero and heroine. Everything else in the world falls away when Lyon and Olivia are together and this book reflects in its construction that reality.

The contrasts between the simple things that Lyon and Olivia find joy together in and the intense melodramatic storm that the two are caught up in give this story realism and yet an epic feel. I love that Lyon and Olivia are the ultimate star crossed lovers and yet they are intrinsically human.

“They were born to love each other.”

The hard question that this book raises is not about love. There is never any doubt about the love between Lyon and Olivia…the question is what lengths will one go to for love.

I cannot express just how beautiful I thought this story was except to say that it exceeded all my expectations and raised the standards of what I expect from romances.

WORTH MENTIONING: Long has done a wonderful job of wrapping up the Pennyroyal Green series. Fans will be delighted to get a final look at their favorite characters in a way that is deeply satisfying.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND is book eleven of the Pennyroyal Green series. While it is possible to read this book independent of the series, this book concludes the storyline that has run through the entire series. In my opinion, it should not be read before the others in the series in order to appreciate the story.

STAR RATING: This book gets five enthusiastic stars. The best of the series.