Sunday, 11 March 2018
#CBR10 Book 16: "Buns" by Alice Clayton
Rating: 3.5 stars
Clara Morgan is legendary in the hospitality business for her ability to turn around pretty much any struggling hotel or guest house. When she's not busy rebranding hotels, she runs marathons and other endurance races. What she rarely, if ever, does is stay in one place for very long. She has an apartment in Manhattan, but travels both domestically and abroad so often that she hardly ever has time to spend there. She never puts down roots anywhere and is careful not to get herself too attached to anyone or anything. Her childhood growing up in the foster care system, being handed from family to family taught her that that's a recipe for disaster. While her friends are all finding partners and getting settled, establishing relationships and traditions of their own, Clara is perfectly happy focusing on her career. Or is she?
Clara's current assignment could lead to her becoming partner, if she pulls it off successfully. The prestigious Bryant Mountain House in Hudson Valley is in desperate need of a face-lift and makeover and Clara is just the woman for the job. She just needs to convince Archie Bryant, fifth generation Bryant and soon to be current owner and manager (when his father retires shortly) that while the hotel is a gem, they're spending far too much money keeping up traditions that no one is very interested in and that they'll be going out of business if they don't renew and update and attract new customers. Archie's not going to give up on a hundred and fifty years of tradition and doesn't want social media stars in his family's hotel anyway. However, he doesn't want to lose his family business altogether either and if that means taking some advice from Ms. Morgan - he may just have to swallow his pride and accept the help.
Buns is the concluding volume in Alice Clayton's Hudson Valley series and features a lot of things that are normally total catnip for me. You have the "enemies to lovers" plot trope - Clara and Archie pretty much hate each other on sight and keep arguing vehemently, until they basically can't keep their hands off one another. There's the "competence porn" aspect - with both Clara and Archie being consummate professionals, very good at their jobs. There's a section where one of the couple nurses the other one back to health (I have no idea why this is a trope that works for me, it just does) There's the larger supporting cast of these novels, the inhabitants of the little town of Bailey Falls and the couples from the previous two novels, all of whom I like - and yet, the book failed to entirely wow me.
While Clara is extremely good at her job, and her reluctance to establish roots and crippling fear of abandonment due to her childhood seems perfectly natural, I never entirely understood why her two very supportive friends, who really seem to know the extent to how bad it was for her growing up, never convinced her to see a therapist. As it's obvious that Clara is deeply private and rarely shares the extent to her lonely and sad childhood with people, I can see why her boss or colleagues never mention it to her - but Roxie and Natalie, her two besties, and heroines of the previous two novels in the series, really should have done her a solid and insisted she get some professional help to process her traumas. This would have been a very different book if that were the case.
Archie's fine, if a bit stuffy and set in his ways. A widower for some years, he has issues of his own to work through, having been with only one other woman, who he'd known since childhood, before meeting and falling for Clara. In a lot of romances, the complications are due to faults of both sides of the couple, but here it's pretty much all on Clara when the relationship falters in the third section of the novel and it's pretty much all due to her crippling fear of abandonment. There's the requisite grand gesture towards the end where she wants to prove her love to Archie, and will say it was pretty spectacular.
With the four books I've read by her so far, Alice Clayton continues to be one of those authors who's books are perfectly fine, but nothing extraordinary and where I struggle to entirely remember the plot a week or two after finishing the novel. Not bad by any means, but she continues to be on my "buy on sale" list and won't graduate any higher based on this book.
Judging a book by its cover: This is another example of the cover designer clearly just having been given a vague idea of the contents of the book. There's a shirtless guy and buns in both the literal and metaphorical sense. See what they did there? Yet the model looks nothing like Archie is described (also, I'm unsure if he ever actually wears jeans over the course of the novel), and the baked goods in question that are mentioned at several points are hot cross buns, not at all what we're seeing in the forefront on this cover. How hard is it to get these little details right, people?
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.