Title: Nuts (2015)
Series: Hudson Valley – Book 1
Author: Alice Clayton
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Extent: 320 pages
After losing almost all of her clients in one fell swoop following an accident involving whipped cream, private chef to Hollywood’s elite Roxie Callahan gets a call from her flighty mother, saying she’s needed home in upstate New York to run the family diner. Once she’s back in the Hudson Valley, local organic farmer Leo delivers Roxie a lovely bunch of walnuts, and soon sparks—and clothing—begin to fly. Leo believes that everything worth doing is worth doing slowly…and how! But will Roxie stay upstate, or will the lure of West Coast redemption tempt her back to Tinseltown?
First things first: reading this book at night before bed was a mistake. Every description of scrumptious food called out to me loudly, prompting me to more often than not make a midnight snack I didn’t need but really, really wanted. Nuts is light-hearted—I love all the food puns, descriptions and tips. I bake a lot when I’m stressed and generally enjoy cooking, and this book is definitely close to my heart in that sense.
Roxie grew on me. At first I felt she tried too hard to sound witty and was a bit of a smart-ass, but eventually she won me over. While I found her fear of bees over-the-top and a little annoying, I have to hand it to her: this is a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it without hesitation. Her passion for food burns strong and is contagious—I found myself loving how involved she is with her job.
I also identified with her on a personal level. Six years ago I ‘left’ my hometown, and I can’t tell you how many times I went back-and-forth between coming home for good and staying away permanently for a variety of reasons. I haven’t really decided so I struggle with it a lot sometimes—occasionally on the daily—so I can relate very well when Roxie started questioning herself. If she comes back, what about her goals and dreams? What about that version of herself that she was previously chasing?
Leo was the quintessential love interest in romance novels: a man’s man, tough, muscly, rich, with a soft heart and of course, a body so hot and a face so handsome that everyone in town drools over him. I always find this aspect of romance novels to be incredibly unrealistic, so I suppose in that sense, Nuts isn’t exactly innovative. I could see why Roxie falls for him, though, and even I was getting frustrated by their numerous almost-kisses!
In terms of the setting, Clayton’s version of a small town is a bit too idyllic, at least in my experience. My dad comes from a small town, and while there was certainly a stronger sense of community, people were also more likely to gossip about one another and meddle in other’s business. It’s one of the reasons why he left for good and the main reason why my mum insisted on not raising our family there when she married him.
But I digress. My big issue with Nuts is that I felt Roxie lost a huge chunk of her identity when she met ‘the right guy’, like she lost her main goals and ambitions and made new ones that were revolved around him. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with changing, but in this case it seemed too easy for me. Where was the career-oriented Roxie that I like? Oops, she’s too busy being in love.
She and Leo were incompatible at first glance: she hated living in a small town and wanted to leave, he didn’t; she wanted no part of commitment, [highlight to read spoiler] he had a daughter, which meant any romantic relationship with him also meant a relationship with the little kid as well [/end spoiler]. I’m huge on compromises in relationships and thus found it unfair that there was never any discussion between Roxie and Leo about where they should stay; it was just assumed that if she wants to be with him, then she should be the one who stays.
I understand that he has responsibilities, but I think there should be a discussion—or an acknowledgment of what she’s giving up for him, at least. When push comes to shove, though, these incompatibilities were suddenly resolved because Roxie has changed her mind about pretty much everything. Because of this, I found the ending too easy, and that was very disappointing.
Save for these issues, however, I generally found Nuts to be entertaining and quite funny. It’s my first Alice Clayton book, and while I don’t think it brings anything new to the Contemporary Romance genre, it was still good entertainment, and I’ll definitely look out for the next one in the series.
- “No one noticed the perfection of my melons–but everyone sure noticed hers.” — Chapter 1
- “Culinary school was a fondue pot of sexual tension, and we were all dying to get speared and forked.” — Chapter 3
- “And speaking of prominent, I finally peeked in the basket he left me and saw the zucchini. He should have been arrested for carrying that thing through town. Honestly.” — Chapter 9
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