Anything But Sweet
Harper Collins / June 25, 2013 / $4.99 digital
If Charlotte Brooks thinks she and her TV makeover show can turn Reno Wilder’s hometown upside down, he’ll be happy to prove her wrong. The ex-Marine has seen too much turmoil and he likes Sweet, Texas, just the way it is. Traditional. Familiar. A little dull. Everything Charli isn’t. But instead of backing off from his scowls like everyone else, Charli digs in her skyscraper heels.
Reno Wilder is a one-man unwelcoming committee, but Charli isn’t budging. It’s clear the gorgeous cowboy needs an overhaul just as much as Sweet. Someone needs to break him out of that gruff shell and show him how fun and rewarding a little change can be.
Candis Terry, also known for her Sugar Shack series, sets her new contemporary romance Anything But Sweet in the small town of Sweet, Texas. Sweet will seem familiar to anyone who either lives in a small town or enjoys reading about them, but what makes it different is that the town of Sweet is about to undergo a makeover.
Terry showcases the opposition between nostalgia for old-fashioned rural life with desire for tourist dollars, and mirrors this conflict with her hero and heroine. Reno is a native of Sweet, and recently returned after his military service; he has no desire for his general store or his town to be changed, and identifies strongly with the town’s past. Meanwhile, Charli is being paid to orchestrate the town’s makeover through the reality television show she hosts. Though she appears to be on the side of change, in fact she longs for a more settled lifestyle. The conflict between them is more subtle than it appears on the surface, and they have more in common than they can imagine on first meeting.
What made the story fun for me was Reno’s family, who are in favor of the renovations. Reno’s mother in particular takes the opportunity to throw Charli into Reno’s path. It’s clear she’s motivated by love for him; she wants to kick him out of the rut he’s fallen into, both with his romantic life and with his life in general. I most enjoyed her funny, pointed dialogue, a family trait which Reno’s scapegrace brother, Jackson, also shares. Their banter is contrasted with Reno’s more bitter, sarcastic humor and indicates that Reno might have been more lighthearted before he suffered multiple tragedies. He needs to move forward personally before his romance with Charli can prosper.
Reno refused to sound any more like a petulant child than he already did. So instead of pushing out the rest of his frustrated rants and raves, he bit his lip.
“If he turns any redder, we’re going to have to call 9–1–1.” Jackson chuckled. “I think he wants to know why you didn’t invite the lovely Miz Brooks to stay here instead of at the apartment.” …Jack picked up on the hidden message behind his narrowed eyes. “Huh. Look at the time. Got cattle to check. Gotta go saddle up.”…
When the kitchen door slammed shut, Reno glanced back down at his mother, who looked much as she had the time she’d sat him down at this very table and told him that under no uncertain terms would he ever be taken away from her and his father. They’d held true to their word. But that didn’t lessen the anxiety doing the two-step in his stomach.
“Well, now,” she said with a little pat on his arm. “I figured Ms. Brooks would want some privacy. A little peace and quiet. No place better for that than the apartment. Some days, I wish I could move in there myself. It’s so nice and serene.”
“You are welcome,” Reno said. “She is not.”
“This is all about the hardware store, isn’t it?” His mother gave his arm a tug, and he sat back down. “She put you on the list, and you don’t like that.”
“The shop is exactly the way Dad left it.” His heart took a wobbly sidestep. “There’s nothing wrong with it.”
“Except that your daddy had plans to make some changes. He just up and died before he got them done, sugarplum. I promise you, he wouldn’t mind your spiffing the place up a little.”
Anything But Sweet offers a slight twist on small town romance by showing the town’s progressing into the future while still maintaining its essence. Reno’s family members attempt to do the same thing for him, keeping the story lively and grounded. Hopefully Reno’s mother and brother will return for sequels!
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Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories. Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice. Follow her on Twitter @victoriajanssen or find out more atvictoriajanssen.com.