Monday, July 30, 2012

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: Redneck Ex by Claire Croxton

Release Date: December 22nd, 2011
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Page Count: 311
Source: Complimentary copy provided author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you!)

With one twang of a banjo string, Summer Leigh Johnson's tidy, organized life in Barrow, Alaska is jolted back to the Ozarks when her coon-hunting, tobacco-chewing, bull-riding, redneck ex-husband asks for her help. She has two options: turn her back on him like he did to her eleven years ago, or help.

Burdened with the curse of every southern woman—What Would Mama Do?—she goes to his aid. And what does she find? The man she fell in love with all those years ago and a second chance at love and family. The last time she gave her heart to Dwight, he flicked it aside like an empty can of Skoal. This time he's cradling it as gently as he would a speckled pup. It will take a lot more than Dwight's southern charm and good looks to convince Summer to stay.
What Stephanie Thinks: A romance between old flames blossoms in Redneck Ex, a novel about what a woman's values ought to be, southern hospitality, and true, destined love—the second time around.

Summer Leigh is happy. It's been eleven years since her prick of an ex suddenly claimed not to love her and sent her packing, but she's finally content with her new, successful life as an archeologist (with a doctorate!) in Barrow, Alaska. She's got everything she could possibly want: a tight circle of amazing, supportive friends, and her dream job, but every bit of composure she's had crumbles when she receives devastating news that Dwight, her ex-husband, has been hospitalized, and even more shockingly, that he's listed her as next-of-kin. What else can she do but go and tend to him, and maybe even try to find out what the hell he's thinking by asking her to be the one to come—even though he's the one who shattered her heart and soul years ago, and even though he's thousands of miles away?

Her trip to Germany is only the beginning though. About halfway through the book, she returns home, but finds she is plagued by her reunion with Dwight, who actually seemed glad to see her. But he's not sending her clear signals; one moment he acts like he's interested, the next, he's cool and unperturbed as ever. She won't let herself get hung up over him, and she certainly won't let him break her heart again. Or... will she?

Summer Leigh is the perfect example of someone who's experienced 
the heartbreak of being too generous, too kind, too sweet. She can't help it that she's such a good-natured person from tip to toe, even though she's got a strong personality and a smart mouth that make her seem otherwise. Now pushing 35, she radiates a vigor and vitality that she hasn't been lost since childhood, and it makes her such a memorable character. Dwight wreaking havoc on her peaceful life in Barrows may be wrecking her on the inside, but she's too strong to ever let it show. She also possesses a delightful self-deprecating humor. At times, however, her narration reads a bit too chick-litty for me (aka annoying). I mean, I understand Summer Leigh is a clever, but kind-hearted and sensitive girl, but her concern for her appearance (clothes, makeup, body image, etc.) is irritating and makes me wonder if she's got some growing up to do. It contradicts her compassionate, maternal side and makes her come off as superficial and feeble.

The storyline is obviously predictable—no huge surprises as the novel progresses—but it's a fun, substantial romance that makes my heart flutter at times, and my stomach drop at others. Croxton has such an effortless style, a voice I never got tired of reading. Though Summer Leigh and Dwight have some qualities I don't care for, or I feel could have been developed better, overall, they're likable, and clearly meant for each other. The first half of this book was really slow for me, but thankfully it picked up by the second half. In fact, I couldn't put it down once I was halfway through! I suggest Redneck Ex as an easy, down-to-earth read (i.e. one that isn't particularly thrilling, erotic, or haunting—just breezy, humorous, and full of sentiment).

Stephanie Loves: "Concerned that he was slipping back into unconsciousness, I said, 'Dwight, baby, don't go back. Stay with me.'
He squeezed my hand and smiled. Coughed again. Then said, 'You called me baby.'
Really? The guy's been unresponsive for three days and that's the first thing he says?
'I'll call you something else if you go back into a coma.' There were too many retorts running through my mind, so I had to grab something and throw it out there. I didn't think: you egotistical prat was nurturing enough.— sharp, laugh-out-loud-able humor. Love it!

Radical Rating: 
8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended. ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥