Book Review – Welcome to Sugartown by Carmen Jenner

Book Review – Welcome to Sugartown by Carmen Jenner
Book Review – Welcome to Sugartown by Carmen JennerWelcome to Sugartown by Carmen Jenner
Series: Sugartown #1
Published by Self-Published
Publication date: November 3, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
218 pages
Format: eARC
Source: ARC e-book

Ana Belle never wanted anything more than to hang up her apron, jump on her Vespa and ride off into the sunset, leaving Sugartown in the dust.

Elijah Cade never wanted anything more than a hot meal, a side of hot arse and a soft place to lay his head at night where he could forget about his past.

But you know what they say about wanting: you always want what you can’t have.

Nineteen year-old virgin Ana is about to discover that’s not quite true because a six foot three, hotter than hell, tattooed, Aussie sex god just rode into town. He’s had a taste of her pie and he wants more– no really, Ana bakes pies for a living, get your mind out of the gutter.

She’d be willing to hand over everything tied up in a big red bow, there’s just one problem; Elijah has secrets dirtier than last week’s underwear. Secrets that won't just break Ana’s heart, but put her life at risk, too. When those secrets come to light, their relationship is pushed to breaking point.

Add to that a psychotic nympho best friend, an overbearing father, a cuter than humanly possible kid brother, a wanton womanizing cousin, the ex from hell, and more pies than you could poke a ... err ... stick ... at.

And you thought small towns were boring.

Welcome to Sugartown.

*Content Warning. Intended for a mature 18+ audience. Contains explicit sex, oodles of profanity and a crap-tonne of AWKWARD

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Book Review:

Welcome to Sugartown is a sexy, fast-paced, action-packed ride served with a side of pie, sweat, and oil.  I would describe the book as Pushing Daisies meets Sons of Anarchy meets Hart of Dixie.  Carmen Jenner has created a memorable cast of characters in her debut novel, the first book in the Sugartown series.

Welcome to Sugartown begins with 19-year old Ana Belle going about her normal day, managing her family’s pie shop with her best friend, Holly.  The story is set in Sugartown, a small speck on the map of big ole Australia, and is surrounded by sugar cane fields. Sugartown is your typical podunk middle-of-nowhere-ville.  Ana Belle dreams of leaving behind her boring, small-town life for new possibilities and better things – “bigger cities and open-mindedness.”  But they’re just dreams, so she she stays doing the job her family carved out for her – making pies and making customers’ tummies happy.

Her mother passed away from cancer, but her father remarried to a much younger woman who is closer to Ana Belle’s age than to her father’s (Ana Belle names her the “dragon” which I thought was really funny).  Ana Belle is basically left to raise her 5-year old half-brother, Sammy, while her father and step-mother do whatever it is they do.

Ana Belle has a reputation in Sugartown as the “town bike” (everyone gets a ride).  What was disappointing to me was that her father believed those rumors.  The reader finds out that Ana Belle is most certainly not the “town bike”.  She’s actually a virgin.

Then Elijah Cade swaggers into her shop and turns her world upside down and inside out and makes her heart stop.

Elijah Cade is a man with a past, a flirty smile, lots of tattoos, and a disgustingly hot body.  He’s a “love ’em and leave ’em” type, traveling from town to town and living a sort of transient lifestyle.  Elijah is Ana Belle’s father’s newest employee and mechanic at “Bob’s Bikes an Auto” across the street from the pie shop.  From the moment he sees Ana Belle in her waitress uniform, sparks fly between them.

“Ana, this is exactly why you need a distraction like Elijah. Between Sam, your dad, the dragon and the shop you have too much stress in your life.  If you don’t blow off a little tension, you’re gonna explode! And I am not cleaning up chunks of Ana from the shop floor.”

After their initial meeting, which was full of hilarious and flirty banter, neither cannot stop thinking about the other.  Unable to sleep, Ana Belle distracts herself by staying up all night making pies in her underwear. Meanwhile, Elijah can’t stop dreaming about Ana Belle’s tatas. Ana Belle reluctantly agrees to go on a date with Elijah, a date that ends with a hot, searing kiss and an attraction that neither of them can deny.

“When I do finally get you naked beneath me-and trust me, it’s not a question of if, but when-I’m going to make sure you haven’t so much as looked at a drink. I want you to remember everything I do with my hands and my lips and my tongue.”

Elijah is really hesitant and cautious to start anything with Ana Belle because he recognizes that she is different from the flings and one-night stands of his past, not to mention the fact that Ana Belle’s father threatened serious bodily harm upon him if he hurt her.  He tries to stay away from her, but she is not about to let that happen. Their relationship progresses quickly and both of them develop feelings for each other.

“I breathe his breath, he breathes mine. Our eyes are locked, our bodies move into one another, and then, when his mouth meets mind, it’s like we both come apart. I taste his whiskey on his breathe. Whiskey and need.”

Then Elijah’s past comes back to haunt him and, consequently, Ana Belle and crazy things start to happen.  At this point, the tone of the book changes along with Elijah and Ana Belle’s relationship.  The book takes a really dark turn.  I won’t reveal what happens.  But things change dramatically.

The latter half of the book was very different from the first half of the book.   The first half was light and fluffy and had this romantic comedy vibe to it with Ana Belle’s sharp wit and  Elijah’s dirty internal monologue.  Whereas in the second half, there was a lot of action, plot twists and several very emotional and traumatic events that change the course of the characters’ lives.

There were elements of this book that I really liked and several things I took issue with and really didn’t like.

I really, really enjoyed Ana Belle and Elijah’s witty banter back and forth.  Ana Belle’s voice was very quirky and funny and I liked her as a character, for the most part.  I practically melt to the floor when Elijah calls Ana Belle “baby girl”.  Normally, I’m not a pet name kind of girl, but I thought that was a really sweet nickname and I could totally picture him half smirking and saying that to her. I admired Jenner’s writing style.  She did a great job at describing the small-town setting and the motorcycle club culture.

There were several elements of the story that just didn’t work for me.   The first is a personal book peeve (book pet peeve) of mine – that being instalust.  Both Ana Belle and Elijah were insanely attracted to each other from the get go.  I don’t have a problem when two people have that sort of instant attraction.  That happens all the time in books.  What I don’t like, and didn’t like, is when the attraction is really the only thing between them and forms the basis of the relationship.  That is what happened in this book, at least initially.  In fact, the first 15-20% of the book was both of them fighting their attraction for each other and telling the reader how hot the other person is.  It was a repetitive and a little much for me.  It wasn’t long (12%) before Elijah was saying, “Why the hell can’t I walk away?” And I was left wondering how he could feel that way so soon.  Neither of them had had any meaningful interaction for him to form this opinion of her, which leads me to my second issue.

From the reader’s perspective, there was hardly any “get to know you” time on the page.  What I mean by that is, the reader didn’t get to see the couple learn more about each other, nor was it alluded to that they had spent time together “off the page”.  I’m not saying that Elijah needed to court Ana Belle and go on chaperoned dates. I’m also not saying that there needed to be this long drawn out “will they or won’t they” period.  I simply wanted them to learn more about each other.  I have a really tough time loving the couple when it’s just meet, lust, attraction, fooling around, deeper feelings with no real foundation.  Their “relationship” was a little too fast-paced for my liking.  Perhaps, it was because the author wanted to establish their relationship quickly in order to get to the more emotional parts.  Eventually, Ana Belle and Elijah got to know each other and this was no longer an issue, but I really wanted that in the beginning of the relationship instead of descriptions of her “tits”.

I felt like the amount of drama in the latter half was a little over the top.  So much happens, like A LOT happens all at one time, to the point where I felt like it was just too much.  Additionally, Ana Belle started to get on my nerves in the second half.  Elijah does something that Ana Belle has a hard time getting over.  I get it.  He made a mistake, but what he did after he made that mistake was a tremendous show of love and twisted adoration.  And yet she still refused to even talk to him.  Her reaction was a little unwarranted, especially after what Elijah did for her and the punishment he endured (emotionally and physically).  The last 10 percent of the book was really rushed and the book ended very abruptly.  I would have liked some falling action after the emotional ending, like an epilogue or another chapter.

On a final note, there is cheating (sort of, it’s a gray area) in this book.  If cheating is something you have a strong issue with, then you may want to take that into consideration before you decide to read this book.  Personally, I have no issue with cheating in books, so what happened didn’t bother me.  I just thought I would give those of you who do have issues with it a heads up.

If you don’t have a problem with the things I took issue with, then this book could be a 4 or 5-star read for you.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to the “love” level with this book.  Nonetheless, I look forward to seeing what happens in the next installment of Jenner’s Sugartown series.

*I received an advance copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

2 stars

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