Thu
Aug 24 2017 12:00pm

First Look: Julie Anne Long’s Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap (August 29, 2017)

Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap by Julie Anne Long

Julie Anne Long
Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap (Hellcat Canyon #3)
Avon / August 29, 2017 / $7.99 print, $5.99 digital

Julie Anne Long’s third Hellcat Canyon book is a reunion tale that brings together Avalon Harwood and Maximilian Coltrane more than a decade after they last saw each other. Avalon fled the scene after overhearing Mac’s cruel dismissal of her, leaving him without the friend who had been his anchor and his moral compass. The catalyst for their reunion is a house—a Victorian mansion at Devil’s Leap that was the summer home of billionaire Dixon Coltrane and his family before he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to prison. The house is a presence, a symbol, and a source of contention that forces Avalon and Mac into each other’s company. From the pivotal moment in the past that caused Avalon to disappear from Mac’s life to the final scene, the house is central.

Mac is the first to return to Hellcat Canyon. Three years ago, after serving as an engineer in the national guard and some time traveling in Europe, he accepted a job as a groundskeeper on the estate his father once owned.  It was the house that brought him back: “For about two decades he’d been untangling the skein of his life as if it were a wad of Christmas tree lights, all of them burned out save one. That one was the house at Devil’s Leap.” Even though Mac’s time at Devil’s Leap was brief—only about eight summers—it represents a time of freedom and joy before his life fell into chaos with his father’s indictment. Mac knows the house is important to him but it takes him a while to admit that his feelings about the house are inextricably entangled with his feelings for Avalon.

Avalon is quicker to make the connection. When she finds her business partner and live-in boyfriend in their bed with an intern from their gaming company, she leaves him and their San Francisco-based business behind and heads for Hellcat Canyon and the comfort of family. On her way to her parents’ home, she catches a glimpse of the Coltrane house and is reminded that “it had starred in her fantasies from the moment she’d laid eyes on it when she was about eight.” When her father tells her that the house is being sold, her memories are stirred again.

In her memories, the inside of the house glowed like a burnished romantic flashback in a movie. Golden hardwood floors and about a half dozen crystal chandeliers and an extravagance of windows, many of them trimmed with William Morris-esque stained glass. Its beauty had been an ache.

Sometimes it seemed that as long as that house remained empty, it was like a snow globe around that time with Mac.

Small wonder then that both Avalon and Mac bid on the house when it is auctioned. Avalon, who plans to sell the house to a friend who is looking for a North State for her leadership training business, places the winning bid, but that is just the beginning of the contest between her and Mac for the house. A series of pranks with a high hilarity factor follows, including everything from nudists and a truckload of manure to Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud” at super volume and a “passel” of “Hummingbirds,” eight-year-old Brownie types.  The house is also the site of Avalon and Mac’s first conversation about their past (intense), their first kiss as adults (and Julie Anne Long writes great first kiss scenes), the first consummation scene (which sent the sizzle meter soaring), a key part of the Grand Gesture that precedes the HEA (totally sigh-worthy), and of the declaration: “Three words that contained worlds and the past and the future. They were as beautiful and intricate as the house...”

That declaration also works well as a description of Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, a novel that left this reader with a blissful smile and increased eagerness for the next Hellcat Canyon book.

***

Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Dirty Dancing at Devil's Leap by Julie Anne Long, available August 29, 2017:

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Janga spent decades teaching literature and writing to groups ranging from twelve-year-olds to college students. She is currently a freelance writer, who sometimes writes about romance fiction, and an aspiring writer of contemporary romance, who sometimes thinks of writing an American historical romance. She can be found at her blog Just Janga and tweeting obscure bits about writers as @Janga724.

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