Saturday, June 22, 2013

Bonus Reviews: Two Texas Towns

Anything But Sweet
By Candis Terry
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Excitement in Sweet, Texas, is contagious. The town is in dire need of some sprucing up, and the news that they have been chosen by the cable makeover show My New Town has everyone smiling and preparing to welcome the show’s cast and crew to Sweet. Reno Wilder, ex-Marine, cowboy, and hardware store owner, is the only holdout. He likes his town just fine the way it is—worn and comfortable. Reno has already had more change in his life than his heart can bear. First, his oldest brother Jared was killed in Afghanistan, then his beloved father died, and finally his fiancée. He is opposed to the changes Charli Brooks and her crew will make and adamant that his hardware store will not be one of their projects.

The daughter of a Marine general, Charli Brooks grew up constantly moving. Her mother died when Charli was eight, and her father maintained his emotional distance even during the rare times when he was physically present. Charli’s dream has always been to find a place to belong and a community to offer the human connection lacking in her life. The last thing she expected to do as an adult was to continue her nomadic lifestyle, but as designer and star of My New Town, she’s around just long enough to fall in love with a town before she has to move on to the next one. Sweet is just the kind of town she likes best, one that leaves her wishing she were part of the close-knit community where everyone knows the name and history of all the citizens.

Since Sweet has no hotel, the personnel of the TV show are offered hospitality by private homeowners. Jana Wilder, mother of the Wilder boys, offers Charli an apartment over the barn of her oldest surviving son, Reno. Charli loves her quarters, even if Reno is considerably less hospitable than his mother. As of her proximity in the apartment were not enough, Charli soon talks Reno into painting a mural for the senior center, part of her makeover plan. She may be charming all of Sweet including his two younger brothers who can’t stop talking about how hot she is, but Reno is determined to keep the chatty beauty at arm’s length. Not even his sternest resolve proves strong enough to continue to resist the curiosity, humor, and generous heart of the effervescent Charli. The inhabitants of Sweet couldn’t be more delighted to see this unlikely pair turn out to be the perfect match.

Terry gives her readers another small town that merits regular visits in this new series. Sweet, Texas is warm, welcoming, and filled with quirky characters. Charli is a charmer with enough vulnerability to capture the reader’s heart, and Reno is a wounded cowboy hero worthy of hot hero status. The details of the reality show’s production add interest to the story. I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Sweet and am eager to return for the stories of the other Wilder brothers—firefighter Jackson, veterinarian Jesse, and Marine Jake.

All Out of Love
By Lori Wilde
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: June 25, 2013

Lace Beddingfield was a plump, 14-year-old stutterer when the letter she wrote to Cupid confessing her love for and fantasies about the quarterback of the football team, Pierce Hollister, became the most read part of her high school newspaper, thanks to Lace’s cousin Mary Alice, editor and recently dumped girlfriend of the hot jock.  The experience left Lace feeling humiliated and betrayed by her cousin and by the mockery of life-long friends. It was those feelings that led to her skinny, wild child period, but at 26, with a Ph.D. in plant science, Lace is content with her size fourteen body and happy with her job as director of the botanical gardens of her hometown. She’s not happy with the news her Aunt Carol Ann brings to the gardens one July morning: Pierce Hollister has come home to Cupid, Texas.

Pierce Hollister had gone from Cupid’s Millie Greenwood High School to the University of Texas to the NFL, a golden boy every step of the way until a linebacker’s hit in the Super Bowl lost the game for the Dallas Cowboys and left their quarterback with a broken leg and sidelined on the disabled list indefinitely. At thirty, Pierce is no longer a boy, and despite all the pep talks he gives himself, his leg injury may mean that he’s no longer football gold either. His father’s illness brings him back to Cupid, but his injury could mean his stay is not the temporary one he plans.

Pierce finds the grownup Lace a tempting armful, and he’s convinced he can win her over with the charm that has won him more women than he can count, but Lace is determined to avoid Pierce and uses her wit and tart words to check him at every turn. However, when a city employee’s theft of half a million dollars from Cupid’s coffers puts the botanical gardens in jeopardy, Lace is forced to ask for Pierce’s help in a fundraiser to save the gardens. Pierce’s price for his help is time with Lace, and it doesn’t take long before two hearts are in greater danger of being lost than are the gardens.  

Wilde’s second book in her Cupid, Texas series features a sympathetic heroine and a hero with more heart than his playboy reputation and celebrity-inflated ego suggests. Readers who enjoyed Wilde’s earlier series and Love at First Sight, the first Cupid book, will doubtless enjoy this one as well. New readers may find themselves wishing for less time spent with characters tangling the sheets and more time developing the romance. I rank this one with books I label “promising start, potential unrealized.”

Texas is a popular choice for small-town romances. What's your favorite Texas-set series?

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