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.