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review 2018-02-02 00:00
Dirty Dancing at Devil's Leap
Dirty Dancing at Devil's Leap - Julie An... Dirty Dancing at Devil's Leap - Julie Anne Long Buddy read with Joanna Loves Books. Thanks Joanna! It was fun.
..I'll link to her review when it's up.
This is fast becoming one of my favorite series....I can't tell you how many times I've reread parts of book 2!

I thought the first one was, well, weird, and I really only liked the hero...And from this one there was a (thankful) noticeable absence of an annoying oak tree. Where [b:Wild at Whiskey Creek|29436302|Wild at Whiskey Creek (Hellcat Canyon, #2)|Julie Anne Long|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1473678817s/29436302.jpg|49704361] may have felt a lot longer, this one was a snap. Maybe too much of a snap. It was still beautiful, the characters were still complex, but I did think the conflict was slightly weak and based on about a lifetime ago. Ultimately, the resolution felt really rushed, but at times I didn't get the motivations behind everything.

The shining light of this novel was the hero, Mac. The heroine has a big heart, and is a tough, bold, loved and loving sort. The book begins like many others, with Avalon catching her boyfriend fucking the intern in their bedroom. She does the obvious thing and heads out of town. I've read so many contemporaries set in rural areas that start exactly this way, but Julie Anne Long does a great job at painting Avalon as looking like she's got life conquered but is really adrift. As usual, the familial and town interactions were rewarding, though a little short-changed in this book. And I'll begin to illustrate some of the highlights and issues I had with this book under the spoiler tag.

We know Avalon left town carrying a flame for her old summer muffin, Mac Coltrane and that somehow he broke her 16 year old heart and she never saw him again. The somehow was the major hang-up for me. It seemed like some earth-shattering mystery, but it wasn't, even though it was well-explained and easy to empathize with. It was frankly a bit out of character.

Meanwhile, Mac's had his life unravel (his dad imprisoned for fraud, lost his wealth) and seems adrift. At one point, Avalon even says "she won" over Mac. Of course, though, Mac has it mostly figured out. He is slowly revealed to be a multi-layered onion of a hero with deep insecurities, grudges, and vulnerabilities. He's also smart as hell, funny, sweet, and unaccountably romantic--though he never shows it. His hope in the darkness and the thing he's holding onto- "the one lit bulb left in his string of Christmas lights" is his old house...where he felt happy in the summers he spent in Hellcat Canyon and on Devil's Leap. There's an auction, and we found earlier that Ava plans to bid too. But Mac is so emotionally invested in purchasing his old house that I was rooting for him and really really didn't get why Ava wanted it. Turns out she was going to flip it, and hadn't realized she missed her family, her animals, and her small town yet. This, once again, was really confusing for me.

Obviously Ava wins. Mac still owns the caretaker's cottage and a parcel of the land-including Ava's favorite (why does she care if she's planning to sell to her friend, I don't get) - Devil's Leap. The rock formation where they are brave, the founding spot of Mac and Ava's relationship, and a beautiful romantic setting. This is where the pranks and trying to drive each other off begins. She wants to buy his parcel, he wants her house. Bit by bit, the pranks bring them closer together with mutual admiration for a game well-played (or not so well-played. Turns out Ava was wrong and Mac gets along well with a Hummingbird troop, for example). In addition, in this process, they find out how adrift Ava is from herself or initial plans and how Mac is basically living the life we'd think she'd want. There are many wonderful moments of revealing the vulnerability and sweetness of Mac - thinking of The Cat here - but that feels like it simultaneously endears the hero to us (that's where I fell in love with him) and would make the heroine on the edge of irritating. A lesser heroine couldn't do it. Mac doesn't share his feeling easily, though he's direct. So unlike Eli, who is quiet and thoughtful and then FREAKING RIDICULOUSLY eloquent, Mac stumbles when discussing the emotional and is much more a man of action.

I just didn't buy Avalon's lack of self-awareness or willingness to change her lifestyle. I still don't understand her desire to flip the house and not sell it to Mac.

The end was sadly rushed-and ultimately, I thought she had more to prove to him because of her rejections and cuts during adulthood, her experience with being loved, adored, and accepted by her family, and him putting himself out there already. While I liked his grand gestures, he wasn't the one who was afraid the whole time. She was the one not taking chances and I would've liked to see her step up here. How many times did he tell her "I only want you to be safe," and what exactly did that mean to her? The looking for her thing was so weak, I can't even start with that. That would've been weird.

The book was hot, hot, hot. Wonderful sexual tension, wonderful sex scenes. I seriously think one was 10 pages long and I would've read 10 more. The characters were a great pair with what I understand is a JAL hallmark, flying and funny dialogue. Ultimately, this doesn't get a five star from me for some weak plot points including the conflict and too much rush at the end.
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review 2017-11-19 00:00
Wild at Whiskey Creek
Wild at Whiskey Creek - Julie Anne Long Wild at Whiskey Creek - Julie Anne Long Oh goodness gracious.
Where to begin? First, did anyone see how many quotes I had in the first 4%? And this was me, restraining myself. I just looked, and apparently have 14 pages of annotations. And this is me, restraining myself.

The set up of this is exquisite. I don't know why, but it's perfect. Perhaps it's because Julie Anne Long is some kind of wizard. Going into this, I wasn't intrigued or pumped. The first in the series, [b:Hot in Hellcat Canyon|26242366|Hot in Hellcat Canyon (Hellcat Canyon, #1)|Julie Anne Long|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1452950619s/26242366.jpg|42806548] was FINE. It was a little overwritten, but generally good and definitely recovered in the second half. It wasn't really the reason I didn't want to read this book.

I don't like lawmen. I just...don't. It's a rare romance starring a officer of some kind that I like. Why, then was this so brilliant? Well, because it was part of his character. It wasn’t the alpha part that is usually highlighted in authorities that was part of his character (though that, too, was hinted at) but it was his eye for detail (Oh and he’s Eli, and he’s amazing), his powers of observation, and his absolute complete control over himself. And his ethics. And an ethical man? Sexy. And holy moly, it took all of 6 pages for me to be in deep with this character.

We find out quickly that this is a pseudo second chance, more of a missed opportunity, bad timing. Eli and Glory grew up together, Eli’s best friend is Jonah, who he recently arrested. Jonah is Glory’s brother. Eli, for reasons explained quite well, doesn’t only hesitate to arrest Jonah, he does it with a fair bit of anger and feeling of betrayal. And Glory hates him for it. Because for all their history, Glory is loyal and loving to her family-noting that they are all she has at one point in the book. Her family doesn’t have it easy, and it’s clear they are impulsive by and large, and have a difficult road. She’s frozen him out
“That sentence was almost painfully intimate. It contained decades of memories. And they were the first words they’d spoken in months.”

I just love that he waits. He just waits. He tries a little, but he waits. Why is that so hot? Both of their hearts are broken, but he is so damn smart.

But don’t get me wrong, Glory is mad and understandably mad. Maybe at the wrong person, yes, but she doesn’t think so. And Glory is amazing. I adored her. She’s quick-witted, knows who and what she is, loyal and loving, intense and a bit wild. She is the chaos, but in an extremely reliable way-she’s centered, but she somehow stirs shit up. And she’s not afraid to throw a punch to keep Eli from getting hurt. And she intrinsically understands that she has the absolute freedom to be herself and feel safe doing so with Eli.

This book is mostly about the struggle of them coming to terms with the fact that her life felt in shambles and she blames the man she’s loved the majority of her life for it.
“Life as she’d known it had shattered so hard she could see its innards, see all the little pieces that could never be put
together in the same way again. And that meant all of her best laid plans had been kind of blown to bits, too.”

and how do they bridge that “chasm between wanting and having”

There were some light doses of humor to keep it going, mostly in the form of the others they were thinking they may or may not move on with while thinking their relationship was irreparable. If you’ve seen Mallrats, Franco and his porsche will remind you Of "that kid is on the escalator again!” Eli cannot tolerate his speeding through town and notices it and uses expletives in the middle of sentences and — it just cracked me up.

There are so many beautiful exchanges and thoughts- 14 pages of annotations!! Of this well done, weirdly second-chance, strangely love-hate romance about the beauty of knowing another and the safety, comfort, and love that grows within that.

And yep, the damn oak tree makes an appearance or two. Great quotes below, but don’t want to spoil the moment for anyone, so avoid if desired!

But it was useful to know she’d muttered his name in her sleep. Because she supposed the word that popped out when your mind was shut off and your heart was unfettered by analysis, when you were at your most surrendered…well, that must be the truest word you knew.

“They were quiet. He savored small things: how her head fit snugly beneath his chin, how it felt to breathe with her.

The stars retreating, giving way to the sun.

The silence with her in it.

He broke the silence.

“I love you,” he said softly.

He hadn’t fully known he was going to say those words then. They’d just sort of emerged as naturally as a breath. Part of
the moment.”

This book, as we say.
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review 2017-10-06 00:00
Hot in Hellcat Canyon
Hot in Hellcat Canyon - Julie Anne Long For a more sophisticated and veteran JAL POV, see
Bubu's review Thanks for the BR, Bubu!

I can and have said a lot about this book. I believe it's a fairly solid 3, and could've been a four if it were not for a few major issues. Hiding the rest of the review under a spoiler, due to my buddy read, just in case...

In the beginning of this book, I thought, "whoa descriptive," which quickly shifted to "whoa, wordy" which quickly shifted to "whoa, rambling." Bubu made me aware that this author just shifted to CR, and some of her phrasing - and exposition for that matter - definitely felt more suitable to HR. Then around 60ish? % I felt like the contemporary came out. Some of that felt choppy and detached from the style earlier in the story, but it was much easier to read. Can I nest a spoiler? I can try... OW drama was generic and annoying, and fully body shaming. This was a disappointment since it was not relevant to establishing character and felt like a cheap way of being funny. And frankly, Britt, our heroine, was SUPER annoying and immature in this stage of the book. She was an asshole. Britt also suffered a history of abuse which didn't really help explain her motivations or lack thereof, except in a surface way. If that is the case, why bother? The Big Mis was super predictable... I think that takes care of the things that really grated on me....

So the good? Dialogue. Even in the beginning, where it was rambling, the dialogue was breathe of fresh and funny air. The supporting cast was a lot of fun. J.T. was also a great hero-considerate, sweet, and a fixer. The use of fixing up (or not giving up) and plants...wonderful. The end-about the last 10% or so felt particularly sweet and well-written. The heroine's relationship with her sister could've made me understand her more, so I wish we'd seen more of that.

I will absolutely continue the series, especially considering how the author seemed to fall into a more contemporary rhythm by the end. In addition, I truly enjoyed the characters...even though Britt grated on me for a portion of the book.
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review 2017-04-01 04:47
Apple pie
Hot in Hellcat Canyon - Julie Anne Long

Stays mostly in the shallow end, no risk story telling. Hero reminded me a little bit of SEP's Bobby Tom Denton, with charm and flirt. Heroine had abusive past but pretty much glossed over except for mention and device to create ending foil to HEA. 

Small town cuteness, drama, and series baiting secondary characters. 

Relationship skirted depth but couple had some fun back and forth. 

Solid contemporary romance apple pie, good but not terribly exciting. 

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review 2016-12-28 00:33
#CBR8 Book 128: Wild at Whiskey Creek by Julie Anne Long
Wild at Whiskey Creek: A Hellcat Canyon Novel (Hot in Hellcat Canyon) - Julie Anne Long

Glory Hallelujah (yup, that's actually her name) Greenleaf is the only one in her family who's never broken the law or deviated from the straight and narrow. Unlike most of her other family members, who only seem to leave Hellcat Canyon to go to prison or when they die, Glory was going to become a star, using her songwriting and singing talent to make it big. Of course, then her brother Jonah was arrested for meth dealing and she had to use all her savings to help pay her mother's mortgage, and now she's still impatiently cooling her heels, trying to make ends meet by waitressing badly.


Deputy sheriff Eli Barlow has loved Glory since he was twelve years old, but any chance he had of winning her heart was crushed when he had to arrest her brother, his best friends, for meth dealing. He can't entirely understand what she's still doing in town, considering she had several demo tapes recorded and was all set to leave to get herself a music career. He hates that he had to break her heart (and his own) by arresting Jonah, and desperately wants to make things right between them. When Hollywood talent comes to town and takes notice of Glory's talent, Eli realises that the best way to win this woman's heart is to make sure she can leave Hellcat Canyon forever. 


Julie Anne Long will always have some leeway with me, having written one of my favourite romances of all time, What I Did for a Duke. I can respect that she wants to try new things, having written historical novels for most of her career. I thought Wild at Whiskey Creek worked moderately better than her first attempt at contemporary romance, Hot in Hellcat Canyon, although she still has quite a way to go to reach the levels of quality or entertainment value of her best historicals. In her biographical information for this book, Long reveals that she herself wanted to become a rock star and did both singing and guitar playing, but writing became her career choice instead. She certainly seems to know what she's talking about with regards to songwriting and composing (I know nothing about guitar playing, and only barely learned to strum a few chords during whatever basic lessons they gave us in music class in secondary school). I will also give her this, the earworm indie hit that is referenced throughout the story ended up getting stuck in my head as I read the book, despite the fact that it was a fictional song, that I'd never heard. I still ended up reciting the catchy chorus in my head. So kudos to you for that, Ms. Long.


Couples who have loved one another since they were children can be a tricky thing to pull off, but Ms. Long manages pretty well here. Since Eli and Glory's brother Jonah were best friends and grew up inseparably together, it seems natural he would also have spent a lot of time with Glory during that time. It's established that neither Eli nor Glory are silently and celibately pining for the other, they both date and have other relationships, but share one scorching and very memorable kiss when they are both single. Sadly, this is just before the bit where Eli has to arrest Jonah and send him to prison for years, making the fiercely loyal Glory shun him like the plague. Eli hates that he had to hurt her, and hates the reckless Jonah quite a bit as well, for giving the law-abiding Eli no choice but to do his job. 


After pretty much rudely telling everyone in town where to stick it before her brother got arrested, because she was getting out and becoming a big singing star, Glory has been forced to apologise to a lot of people and help support her widowed mother and assorted hard-up half-siblings by waitressing. The arrival of Hollywood TV crews, filming new historical prestige show, set during the California Gold Rush, also brings handsome television and movie actor Franco Francone to town. He pisses off Eli by joyriding his Porsche way above the speed limit through town, and making the moves on Glory, who is clearly the most interesting of all the single ladies in Hellcat Canyon. She's amused by his attention, but mainly flirts with him to make Eli jealous. Eli, on the other hand, has been set up with one of the makeup artists on the show, and tries his best to forget his impossible infatuation with Glory, who he's always known is meant for far better than him and the little mountain region they're from, no matter how lawless and hopeless most of her family members are. 


Because they've grown up together, there is no need for Eli and Glory to get to know each other. They have a shared past and just need to get past the conflict caused when utterly decent and law-abiding Eli arrested Glory's beloved, but rather careless brother. It's quite clear that Glory has a lot of talent, and needs to get her chance to show the world. So they need to figure out how they can reconcile their romantic feelings for one another, when Eli doesn't really have any plans of leaving Hellcat Canyon, while Glory wants nothing more than to get away.


Having written eleven Regency novels set in the little English town of Pennyroyal Green, Julie Anne Long is good at creating a cozy setting for her books. The towns of Hellcat Canyon and Whiskey Creek clearly have their fair share of colourful supporting cast that help populate the stories, many of whom the reader was already introduced to in the first book in the series. You by no means need to have read the previous book to enjoy this one, but it's quite clear that several of the secondary characters here will feature more prominently in future books. 


Sadly, while these books are perfectly entertaining as you're reading them, they're not very memorable. I read this at the beginning of December, and already I'm having trouble remembering specific details about the plot, except that Glory's younger half-brother and his clueless selfishness really annoyed me, plus there was a little too much of the romance plot that was Eli or Glory jealous of the other, but not actually talking to each other. Oh, and Ms. Long needs to realise that now that she's writing contemporary romances, she NEEDS to acknowledge that in the modern world, couples use some form of protection and talk about it before they fall into bed with one another. Really, it doesn't need to take up a lot of page space, but the fact that in both this and her previous contemporary, there is no talk of condoms, other contraceptives, the possibility of STDs or pregnancy. It's a minor point, but I saw it referenced in another review of this book as well, and I absolutely agree. 


This book was on Kirkus Best of 2016 list of romances. They clearly have very different taste in romance from me, since the excellent The Hating Game wasn't even on the list, while several romances that I found entertaining, but really nothing special were represented. While this was a better contemporary than her previous one, Julie Anne Long will have to do better to truly impress me, and I'm not going to rush out and get her next book.


Judging a book by its cover: Woman in a denim miniskirt stands in a meadow with her back to the camera, holding an acoustic guitar over her shoulders. am assuming this is supposed to be Glory, but based on her description in the book, I don't think it fits her at all. She doesn't seem like the sort of person who would wear pink, for one thing. I'm also really annoyed by the askew "k" at the end of "Creek". I'm sure it's supposed to be playful and whimsical, but it just sets my teeth on edge.

Source: kingmagu.blogspot.no/2016/12/cbr8-book-128-wild-at-whiskey-creek-by.html
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