Clara lives for her job, going all around the world, rebranding and restoring resorts to their former glory. Her latest job is in the Catskills at the Bryant Mountain House. She excited to tackle the project, but the owner’s son, soon to be sole manager, Archie, fights Clara at every turn. Luckily she’s near her two besties, who have settled in nearby Bailey Falls.
Archie’s life is the Bryant Mountain House, and ever since his wife passed from cancer, he doesn’t do anything but ensure this regal resort runs smoothly. So when an outsider comes in and not only starts making all sorts of changes, but ignites feelings that he’s not experienced since his wife, he can’t help but butt heads with the gorgeous, vivacious Clara. Now he must decide if making changes is the only way to survive in modern times.
The third book in Ms. Clayton’s utterly delightful Hudson Valley series, Buns takes readers on a journey of friendship, romance, and love. Both Clara and Archie have strong reasons not to trust or get involved, so when they start to have the feels for one another, it’s conflicting, sweet, and sexy all at once. Despite (or maybe because of) their constant bickering, Archie and Clara are soooooo hot together. They both want the forbidden sexual fruit. Their constant tango of attraction and stepping back rivets the sexual tension to such incredible heights. Each feels something more than attraction and lust, and it scares them both.
Yet once they give in and start a secret affair, they still hold so much back. It truly hurt my heart to listen to Clara refuse to open up, choosing to keep her guard firmly in place, even when Archie tries his best to coax her out. Their romance is genuine and the connections strong, but it’s two-steps-forward-one-step-back until they finally realize what each wants out of life. Jobs and the hotel are important, but so is friendship and love.
Elizabeth Louise’s performance is solid and highly enjoyable. I’ve not listened to her work before, but she sounds very familiar. She’s easy to listen to, reminding me a lot of Amanda Ronconi, but without the southern twang. The familiar feel allows me to connect to Clara quickly. Ms. Louise has a solid range for both male and female roles. However, there are a few times when Clara is speaking to herself, and it was hard to tell if she was actually speaking out loud or if it was a private dialogue in her head. As with the previous two titles, there is a short epilogue from the male point of view, and narrated by a male. I don’t really feel there is a need to change to a new narrator for one small section, but Mr. Carpenter does an adequate job with his short role.
Buns is a wonderful, feel-great story with a slow burn romance and through-the-roof sexual tension that explodes. The pacing is perfect, taking the pair from annoyed partnership to friendship to lovers. I enjoyed nearly every moment of the book, and I sincerely hope Ms. Clayton continues to share stories from Bailey Falls.
My Rating: A
Jason Carpenter epilogue: B+
Well that was disappointing. I loved the first two book and then the third book in the Hudson Valley Series (Buns) came out and I was so excited. I would finally get to read Clara's story. Unfortunately she never feels like a very developed character and neither does Archie. I think that Clayton was taking big parts of her "Wallbanger" series and jamming them in here. All of a sudden I am supposed to believe that the widower who has never been with another woman besides his dead wife is just having sex all over his hotel and even in broom closets? This book actually made me miss "Wallbanger" and I think I will go back and re-read that series in the next couple of weeks.
"Buns" is Clara's story. Readers were introduced to her in Roxanne's story (Nuts) and got to see her again in Natalie's story (Cream of the Crop). I liked what I knew about her. Seemed to come from a broken home and was really into marathons and triathlons. She goes around and saves old hotels and other businesses by helping them rebrand. So the Clara I was promised and the Clara I got were two different characters.
When Clara is given an opportunity to go to Bailey's Falls where her two best friends have decamped to she's happy. She is asked to go and help rebrand the Bryant Mountain House hotel (say that five times fast). She has a terrible meet-cute with her love interest Archie Bryant (she thinks he's the bellhop) and within seconds they are both acting like jerks towards each other.
Archie is resentful that Clara is there to change things. Clara is annoyed that he talks to her like she's not good at her job. Frankly, I was on Clara's side for most of the book. Archie just acted like an ass for a good 50 percent of this book. And then suddenly starts grabbing Clara and making out with her.
There really was no chemistry between these two. And Clayton using the fact that the hotel makes these supposedly to die for hot cross buns for why the title is called "Buns".
And there's a thing about Archie maybe having a good butt. I don't know. I maybe blacked out at that part because it was so clunky.
The majority of this book really is Clara getting over her hang-ups about being with someone that can (gasp) leave her. And her friends just being perverse assholes about the whole thing. I have never disliked two characters who I previously adored before like this. Roxanne and Natalie were just written poorly. Natalie acted like an oversexed teenage boy with no impulse control. I think I was over her when she had Oscar (her boyfriend) carry her ass up a trail because she wore boots that she knew would be difficult to walk in. I think Clayton was going for isn't this cute and I went, I would have dropped her ass and told her I was not a freaking donkey.
Roxanne is no better and just goes around telling Clara she's in love with Archie and should just be with him.
I realized after I finished this book that these three who supposedly are each other's best friends' did a terrible job of actually listening to their friend. They know her history and didn't even try to talk to her about it. I was really disappointed we never just got any scenes of them hanging out without discussing the men in their lives. Crap, I go out with my girlfriends and we talk about work, movies, books, their kids (I don't have any) and what the hell the dog did last night. If all we did was sit around and discuss "boys" at this point I would be finding some new friends.
Archie was a dead end for me too. I have not read one romance book I can think of that the dead spouse plot has not end up leaving a bad taste in my mouth. Archie is a widower and still is getting over the sudden death of his wife a couple of years earlier. What I did like was that no one was running around sainting Archie's wife. But I also found it weird that besides a comment here or there, they didn't discuss his wife a lot. The majority of the book was them sniping and then just having sex and Clara pulling away anytime she was with a group of people acting like a family.
Other characters don't feel very developed here. I was happy to see appearances by Oscar and Leo, but they felt very muted.
The writing felt off to me in a way that was surprising. I think the biggest issue was that the plots in Nuts and Cream of the Crop worked. The flow wasn't good at all in this one. We had a lot of description of the hotel and how Clara wanted to re-work it and arguments she had with Archie. And then a couple of sex scenes and description about all the sex they were having. I just found the whole thing blah.
The book ends with an epilogue like the other books told from the make hero's point of view and eh. I was just glad to be done with this one.
Sorry this one didn't work for me. Glad for the appearance of Caroline from Wallbanger series though. I just didn't gel with the main couple and oh boy Natalie got on my nerves. She swore and acted like an alien just recently dropped off at Earth with how she acted in mixed company. Ugh.
I think the dead spouse romance is never a winner for me and honestly Clara and Archie didn't even make sense as a couple. And Clara had legitimate reason why she was afraid to be close to Archie, but just acted half her age about it. And Archie was rude to Clara and all of a sudden into her out of nowhere. It really didn't work. We only learn about Clara's full past when she tells Archie in a rolling dialogue and I don't get why none of her friends said anything about it to her which would have been realistic.
The book was honestly boring too. Reading about Clara's job was more interesting than the boring romance. And I just felt like there should have been more scenes between the three friends which didn't revolve around Clara's dating life. I don't think they had one real conversation about anything else that I thought would be good. Like reading about how Natalie was dealing with relocating for the most part to Bailey Falls. How was her new job drumming up business for the town going? We do get to see Roxanne doing her how to food classes, but we don't get to see her or her mom together much talking to each other. The whole book was like that and weird to me.
The book ends with an epilogue like the other books told from the make hero's point of view and eh. Archie just didn't work. And the nicknames they have for each other (Bossy and Hotel Boy?) sucked.
This book is dancing towards absurdity for me. I just can't get into the main couple. And Natalie and Roxanne claiming that Clara and Archie are in love is ridiculous. They know nothing about each other, have had no real talks, and have only kissed.
I also didn't realize this would be a dead spouse romance and I don't like those much anymore. Either everyone acts like the new love is the most perfect love ever, or dead love was great and can never live up to old love.