Monday 20 June 2016

#CBR8 Book 60: "Hot in Hellcat Canyon" by Julie Anne Long

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Actor John Tennessee McCord was the star of a long-running TV show, but recently, his career has taken a bit of a dive. Having been one half of a big Hollywood power couple and then being rather publically dumped last year certainly hasn't helped. Now he's got a new TV series lined up about the California gold rush and while scouting out the locations for it, his pickup truck breaks down in Hellcat Canyon. Not that he minds all that much, as the burgers at the Misty Cat Cavern, the former Hellcat Saloon, are very tasty, and the blonde waitress there is clearly both intelligent and gorgeous.

Still physically and emotionally scarred from her previous marriage, Britt Langley really isn't looking for any kind of relationship and has gotten very good at charmingly turning away any male interest in herself. She works as a waitress at the Misty Cat Cavern and a part-time real estate agent to pay the bills and nurses plants back from the brink of death in her spare time. When the handsome and charming J.T walks into the Misty Cat, Britt is smitten despite her vows to stay unattached.

Liking the small time charm of Hellcat Canyon and the prospect of wooing the pants of Ms. Langley, J.T. decides to stay around town for a while. The chemistry between him and Britt is noticable to everyone around them, and it doesn't take all that long for them to act on their mutual attraction. But while J.T. may not be as hot a gossip commodity as he once was, the paparazzi will eventually track him down, and what started as a small town flirtation is soon broadcast all over the internet. Can their developing romance survive the sudden glare of the spotlight?

I read and mostly enjoyed the entirety of Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green series. This is her first contemporary novel and I was curious to see how she'd manage writing a whole new genre. Sadly, the first half of this book is quite slow and rather boring in parts. The banter between Britt and J.T is pretty good, but nothing much of interest happens, even after they start hooking up. Britt is very wary of commitment and J.T is known far and wide as the "man allergic to the L-word". Just as they are starting to get more comfortable in each other's company, J.T's mega famous mean girl ex shows up to try to get him back. For the first two thirds of the novel, I was really just reading out of loyalty to Ms. Long, but then, towards the end, things started picking up and the book got really very entertaining. J.T delivers one heck of a wedding speech which would melt the heart of any right-thinking woman and Britt engages in some drunken billboard graffiti out of jealousy that made me laugh a lot. It's not enough to get the book more than half a star above 3, though.

Unsurprisingly, the book introduces a whole bunch of characters, both from the Hellcat Canyon region and from J.T's Hollywood life, whom I am sure we will meet again in future books. Ms. Long got 11 books out of her previous series, after all, and I'm sure she can mine the little mountain region for quite a few romances in years to come. I'm personally looking forward to that of J.T's former colleague and sometime frenemy, Franco Francone. He plays a significant enough part in this book that I cannot imagine he's a future hero. I pre-ordered this book based on Ms. Long's entertaining historicals, but based on this first contemporary, Ms. Long is off the auto-buy list for now. I'll still buy her books on sale, of course, but I'm going to need something more consistently good for her to move back to "buy at full price" status.

Judging a book by its cover: Things I like - the red pick-up truck is relevant to the story, as J.T loves his truck and has spent a lot of time and money making sure it still runs. The cover models look like they have the correct hair colours. I think Britt may have been wearing cowboy boots at some point. The flowers are a nice touch, even though no such profusion of wild flowers are ever mentioned in the book. Things I don't like - the absolutely ridiculous pose. Britt is supposed to be quite petite, which the cover model doesn't look to be. I also think both models could look older, as both Britt and J.T are in their mid-30s.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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