June 19, 2013

Review: Carolina Girl by Virginia Kantra


I’m a long-time fan of Ms. Kantra’s books. Last year, the first book in the series, Carolina Home, was one of my favorite books, and I was anxiously waiting to read the next one. I’m happy to say that it was just as good as expected.

This is a pretty standard book with a pretty standard set of tropes.

First we have our heroine, Meg. She grew up in a loving home and had dreams too big for the small island. She was in love with her older brother’s best friend; a guy who broke her heart the day he took her virginity and left. Eighteen years later, she’s incredibly successful, lives in New York and shares her life with a long-time boyfriend who is clearly all wrong for her because 1. He’s never asked her to marry him and 2. He doesn’t console her after she loses her job. So she decides to go back home to put her life in order, figure out what to do and in the meantime help take care of her mother who was recently in an accident.

Then we have Sam, the hero. Unlike Meg, his family was a mess. His mother abandoned him when he was a kid, leaving him with a rich father more concerned with women than with taking care of his son. When Meg’s family moved back to the island, he found the love and warmth he craved, which is why he panicked when he had drunken sex with Meg. But unlike the usual tormented-by-a-loveless-upbringing, poor-little-rich hero, Sam is quite committed to proving himself, doesn’t hold irrational grudges against his father, and is pretty quick to realize that Meg is the one.

The setting is fairly predictable and trite, but as is the case with similar stories, the execution is everything, and the book delivers a romance that may not be particularly refreshing, but it was sweet, entertaining and reminded me of the reason why I love Contemporary Romance.

Meg is an ambitious and career-driven heroine; something we know isn’t usually compatible with the genre. Similar heroines tend to be dissatisfied with their work and welcoming of the magical wang that shows them how their life would be better outside the office and inside the kitchen. This book doesn’t entirely go there, although it had me worried for a second, and instead uses the rare compromise that still leaves the heroine in charge and in love with her job (but away from evil New York and directly into the idyllic small town, because what else?). I won’t lie, though, I would love to see a hero give up or make considerable changes to his career jut to be with the heroine. I’m aware that this is another unfair extreme, but it would be quite something. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for books like Carolina Girl, in which that option is considered, but only goes as far as becoming a convenient grand gesture.

Sam was an adorable, charming hero. His main attribute was being the one who decided to risk his heart once he realized the extent of his feelings. I also enjoyed reading about a guy who had so many generic traits but managed to make them his own by the force of his personality alone. As with everything else about this book, there was nothing new about him, but it just worked.

This series reminds me of Nora Roberts’ older Contemporaries (the Chesapeake Bay books in particular). There’s even a little kid that has a secondary role throughout each book (fortunately, she’s not one of those cutesy, precocious little kids). If you liked those books, you will feel like Ms. Kantra wrote this series just for you.

There you have it. This is a small-town-ish series (without the annoying townsfolk) that revolves around a tight family that has realistic issues.  None of the characters are cartoons defined by a couple of ridiculous traits, and the book is far from one of those mass-produced small-town Contemporaries that completely blend in together. Carolina Girl is a memorable book that pretty much proves that quality over quantity is always best, even if it means having to wait one year to find out how it all ends.

Review by Brie
Grade: 4
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:
Meet the Fletchers of Dare Island
Ambitious Meg, the daughter who never looked back
Steady Matt, the son who stayed
And rebel Luke, the Marine who thought he’d never return
Meg Fletcher spent her childhood dreaming of escaping Dare Island—her family’s home for generations. So after she landed a high-powered job in New York City, she left and never looked back. But when she loses both her job and the support of her long-term, live-in boyfriend, she returns home to lick her wounds and reevaluate her life.
Helping out her parents at the family inn, she can’t avoid the reminders of the past she’d rather forget—especially charming and successful Sam Grady, her brother's best friend. Their one disastrous night of teenage passion should have forever killed their childhood attraction, but Sam seems determined to reignite those long-buried embers. As Meg discovers the man he’s become, she’s tempted to open her vulnerable heart to him. But she has no intention of staying on Dare Island—no matter how seductive Sam’s embrace might be…
Carolina Girl by Virginia Kantra
Berkley. June 4, 2013.

14 comments:

  1. I saw you mention the Nora comparison a little while ago, and read Carolina Home as a result. I didn't love it (mainly because I didn't buy the chemistry between the MCs), but I really liked it, and I think the comparison is spot-on.

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    1. They are very similar, right? The voices are clearly different, but it's the same type of story and endearing characters.

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  2. I too would love to see a male lead give up a career for the female character. I get so irked about this all the time. I mean, that totally happens in real life, where one partner--regardless of gender--has a career that's more important to them/less mobile/more promising/whatever and the other partner makes a compromise in order to support that. Arg. With all that said, a comparison to the Chesapeake Bay series is kind of Kryptonite for me, so I may give this series a whirl.

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    1. Oh, a fellow Chesapeake fan ;-) I so love those books, which is one of the reasons why this series made me so happy.

      I agree that in real life couples make sacrifices and I would love to see that more evenly distributed in romance. But baby steps, I guess. I'm not particularly happy about it, but I guess if we start complaining, someone will eventually listen.

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  3. Love this review just because, however much I ask/hope for new and different in romance (and I do), sometimes a familiar story told really well, in a voice that just works for me, is the best kind of book.

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    1. That sentence was way more eloquent than my entire review! That's exactly what I was trying to say. Sometimes old and familiar feels, well, old, but sometimes feels just right and comforting.

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  4. How was her relationship with the long time boyfriend addressed before she got back together with Sam? I went to read a sample and enjoyed it but I don't want to read further if there's cheating involved.

    I've never read the author before. What paranormal book of hers would you recommend to check out first?

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    1. SPOILER:
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      She doesn't break up with the boyfriend until about the middle mark. She kisses Sam, but feels guilty and thinks that she doesn't want to be a cheater (although some would say the kiss counts as cheating). Then, when she realizes that her feelings for Sam are so strong and that she's really unhappy with the BF, she decides to break up, but the moment she's having the epiphany is also the moment when she finds that the BF slept with someone else while she was away. So that part wasn't handled that well, IMO. I feel like the BF was made really unlikable to kind of justify that Meg is unhappy and that she kind of cheats on him.

      Her PNRs are all in the same series: the Children of the Sea, which I highly recommend because it doesn't have traditional alpha heroes and it's not that heavy on the PNR. They all stand alone fairly well, but I always recommend reading them in order because there are some recurrent characters and storylines.

      Here's the link

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    2. If you decide to read one of her books, let me know! I would love to hear your thoughts ;-)

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  5. I meant to read the first book in the series last year and never got to it (I think it may have been geo restricted in e? Will have to check). But you've reminded me why I was looking at buying it. Should I start with the first one of the series (assuming I can get it for a reasonable price) or this one?

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  6. I can get Carolina Home in e but not this one yet. Guess that solves that problem! LOL

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    1. Good, because you should read them in order ;-)

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  7. Wow, Brie. I think we just found books that we both like: the Chesapeake books! Woohoo :)

    All right, now that you've made the comparison, I'm curious ;) I initially didn't pick up these books because I wasn't a fan of Ms Kantra's paranormal series... but looks like I'll have to try her contemporary romances :)

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    1. Everybody loves the Chesapeake books! LOL

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