You already know that our heroine has an unfortunate name, and she’s aware of it. But her name is also a reminder of her parents, who loved her very much, and represent the fondest memories of a childhood that became tragic when they died and she went to live with her strict grandmother. But June wasn't the only one who ended up living there; Luke, her neighbor and friend, was abandoned by her mother and came to live with them. June was in love with him her whole life, but things didn't end well between them. She left the small town and swore never to come back. But those are the type of promises that come back and bite you in the ass, and that’s exactly what happens to June several years later.
The story begins when she’s about to open the bar she’s dreamed to have for the past nine years. But her license is denied because she has some legal issues in her hometown. So she has to go back home. Once there, the judge forces her to do one month of community service. And guess who’s going to supervise her? That’s right, Luke. But that month will also force her to reconnect with her grandmother and with the life she left behind.
I know that last week I was complaining about small-town series, and starting a new one seems like the last thing I should be doing. But unlike most of those romances, this one felt substantial. The characters had depth, the conflict was solid and the story emotional. The small town was slightly quirky but felt more grounded in reality than in fantasy. It also helped that the romance was the absolute focal point of the book, and the secondary characters didn't distract from it.
The main couple had tons of chemistry and good reasons to be damaged. Luke broke June’s heart because he felt incapable of love. I’m not a fan of that particular ploy, but Ms. Beckett handled it well. It helped that Luke was young and confused, but even in the present as a grown man, his vulnerability and insecurities felt authentic. June, on the other hand, was willing to risk her heart, and she does everything in her power to teach Luke how to love. Their characters were perfectly balanced and very sympathetic.
Another great thing about this book was that the secondary characters were interesting and the sequel-bait hero had a reason to be in this book. Not only that, but I’m not quite sure who his heroine is going to be. It was enough to pique my interest without overpowering the main story.
The one thing that prevents this book from having a higher grading was that the heroine is the one who sacrifices herself in the name of love. She worked so hard to have her bar, but in the end Luke is all that matters. I’m not a fan of big sacrifices; I believe in compromises, communication and balance between love and life. I wish we could see more of that in the genre -- less big gestures, and more realistic rearrangement of the characters’ lives to make room for each other without losing themselves in the process.
However, Sultry with a Twist is Ms. Beckett debut book and she did a great job. It has a strong story with interesting characters, and the perfect balance between angst and comedy. I was entertained from start to finish.
Review by Brie
When Mae-June July Augustine hightailed it out of Sultry Springs, Texas, with her heart in pieces, she swore she'd never return. But nine years later, one thing stands between June and her dream of opening an upscale martini bar: a month of community service under the supervision of the devilishly sexy Luke Gallagher, her first love and ex-best friend. As lust turns to love, June must decide where she belongs: in the glorious anonymity of Austin or back in Sultry Springs with the man who intoxicates her like no other.
Soucebooks Casablanca. October 2, 2012