Author: Lia Riley
Series: Everland #1
Published: Expected April 25, 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
The most romantic place she never wanted to be . . .
Pepper Knight moved to Everland, Georgia, as step one in her plan for a successful legal career. But after this big-city gal's plans go awry, going home with her tail between her legs isn't an option. So when the town vet-and her sexy new neighbor-offers Pepper a temporary dog-walking job, she jumps at the chance. No one needs to know that man's best friend is her worst nightmare . . . or that Everland's hot animal whisperer leaves her panting.
The last thing Rhett Valentine wants is to be the center of small-town gossip. After his first love left him at the altar, he's been there, done that. These days, life is simple, just the way he likes it. But sultry southern nights get complicated once sparks fly between him and the knockout next door. When she proposes a sexy, secret fling-all the deliciousness and none of the prying neighbors-it seems too good to be true. And it is. Because Pepper's determined to leave Love Street, and when she goes, she just might take his heart with her . . .
Pepper's a New York lawyer who's just moved to Everland, Georgia for a job opportunity. She's Type-A spitfire with a streak of sass a mile long and twice as deep. Unfortunately for her, she's also just been fired before her day even begins.
Enter Rhett Valentine, local vet and gossip column darling as the town blue-hairs a dying to fix him up with literally anyone with a pulse. Rhett and Pepper's meet-cute in the rain is cut short by her debilitating fear of dogs, of which Rhett has three. And here's problem number one.
Pepper starts out so afraid of dogs that a yipping maltese literally sends her into a panic attack. A huddled on the ground, crying in front of children, panic attack. Have you ever seen a maltese?
Vicious murderers they are not. But that's ok because phobias aren't rational. Pepper realizes this and has even tried expensive immersion therapy to help, without success. So when Rhett calls her up and tells her he's gotten her a job as a dog walker, Pepper's understandably upset and fearful.
She walks one chihuahua to a dog park three times and is cured to the point of having five dogs by the epilogue.
|I'm the dog on the right.|
The characters face no real struggles or issues. Pepper's not planning on sticking around past the summer, and Rhett's a Southern boy through and through, so there's a bit of fretting over the expiration date of the relationship. Rhett wants to keep the relationship secret because of the local gossips, but every time he turns around he's telling someone about them. So why then, when his sister correctly guesses that he and Pepper are a couple, does he not just open his mouth and say, no Lou Ellen, I will not be in your bachelor auction because of my girlfriend and by the way, I'm being blackmailed by the bad guy into getting him the auction spot? And the villain. Oh the villain, you guys.
Pepper's boss, the "honorable" Judge Hogg rescinds her job offer on the morning of her start date because his mama needed him to give the position to her friend's nephew. Later, without knowing who the other is, he approaches Pep in the dog park to violently sexually harass her. Now A) the town is the size of a postage stamp and she has a Northern accent, who the fuck did you think she was and B) the whole exchange is so cringingly bad, as a grown ass man who presumably did graduate from law school asks Pepper if she's from Tennessee (because you're the only ten I see) and makes honking noises while pretending to squeeze her breasts.
Boss Hogg is the villain from Dukes of Hazzard, guys. A fat, greedy southern cop/business man/sometimes lawyer who owned most of the town and the Dukes' property. An ineffectual bad guy who would do just about anything for money and power, though always stopping short of actual physical harm.
Judge Hogg is a dull, smarmy judge/landowner/grant committee chair keeping Rhett from opening his dream vet clinic due to building permits. An ineffectual bad guy who'll do pretty much anything for his criminal mother, though his only real crime (besides sexual harassment) is stealing a town statue to destroy Everland's morale.
Come on. The author even has Pepper think, "She'd imagined the judge as a paunchy Southern villain, short and jowly with a pale complexion and thick lids."
The only thing missing is the suit. She might as well have written, "Think Boss Hogg but don't actually for copy-write reasons."
In addition to that character, who I think is poorly written all around, I found the sex scenes to not be my cup of tea. "Her hips were cool in contrast to the heat of her secret skin." "It's a trick to be witty with a finger massaging your lady button." Do we really need these kind of euphemisms for the vulva and clitoris in 2017? I know there are only so many ways of writing the same scenes, but "secret skin" comes off really sex negative to me, especially in a scene from the male POV.
But the worst crime, and the one I alluded to in my opening statement, the writing is cheesy. For example, "Last night he hadn't simply opened Piper's legs; he'd opened a part of his heart." These two think things like this all. the. time. It's bad enough his name is Rhett Valentine and he lives on Love Street, like I understood a certain amount of sugar was to be expected going in, but you couldn't have switched to Sweet-n-Low for the dialogue?
Spoilers for the ending: For the big climax, Pepper goes running back to Maine to check on her dad, who's been admitted to the hospital. (Which, double spoiler, he turns out to be a real asshole and I don't think the author knows it. Like I get that she's 24 or something, but you seriously didn't tell her you were in the hospital? Or sold your farm? Or were moving cross-country in an Airstream with a woman you just met? That's fucking cold, man.) This book actually has the balls after everything it's put me through - finding fucking pirate treasure and magical phobia curing dogs named Kitty and even a goddamn psychic - to pull the "they both fly across the country to make the grand gesture and end up missing each other". That's been out of style for thirty years in romance. Bro, come on.
I love a good Southern romance and a fish out of the Hudson Bay. My favorite movie is Sweet Home Alabama, so I don't even require they have good plots! But guys, watch Hart of Dixie on Netflix instead of reading this one.