Thursday, April 14, 2011

Review: Sugar Creek by Toni Blake

Nothing much going on with me, except I swear, my boss is going to drive me crazy with next week's presentation. Ugh, I've been working on the powerpoint slides the whole week and gosh, he is so picky. Ugh. Otherwise, I'm really looking forward to the week-end... except that I have to go through the clinic first, sigh. Ah well, can't have it all, right? :)

Sugar Creek by Toni Blake
published by Avon in May 2010
Welcome to Destiny, Ohio—where two families have been at odds as long as anyone in town can remember.

Rachel Farris returned to her childhood home with one mission in mind: get Mike Romo out of her family's apple orchard business and out of their lives. But hard-nosed and totally hot Mike, who happens to be the law in Destiny, is convinced the Farris clan stole the land from his family fifty years ago and he's not backing down. Even when shapely trouble shows up in a pair of designer blue jeans. However, neither the hunky cop nor the sexy prodigal hometown girl can anticipate the electricity that heats things up whenever they're together — adding new sizzle to an ongoing feud that's raged for generations, and soon putting both their hearts at risk.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Destiny series, Book #2

The Story: The last thing Rachel Farris wants is to return to Destiny to help her grandmother with this year's apple harvest, especially when the advertising company she works for is down-sizing and her job is on the line. However, Rachel doesn't have much choice even though she suspects the real reason she was called is that Edna is lonely. Unfortunately, she has not even made it back yet that she is pulled by sexy, hunky cop Mike Romo. For three generations, the Farris and Romos have been feuding over the Farris' orchard, although neither Rachel and Mike know how it all started. Between the feud and the speeding ticket, let just say Rachel and Mike are off to a bad start... and things don't get better when Rachel learns that Mike has intentions to buy the orchard from Edna... Despite everything though, sparks fly between the two and when the two give in to passion, fireworks explode. However, Mike is rooted to Destiny because of his past and Rachel can't wait to go back to Chicago...

My Opinion: Okay, I love contemporary romance - it's my favorite genre - and really, these days, they're getting scarcer and rarer... So I should be jumping all over Ms Shalvis, Ms Phillips, etc. However, I don't know if it's me being too picky or what, but most of them are misses for me and seriously, it is so frustrating! Unfortunately for me, Ms Blake and Sugar Creek fall into the miss category :(

For Sugar Creek, it wasn't so much Ms Blake's writing style that bothered me, but the heroine. I really had issues with Rachel. It wasn't so much her personality - I think that in that aspect, Rachel was your typical career-orientated woman who made it from a small town to a big city. She's strong and determined, enjoys her success, the sophistication of her life and is reluctant to come back to Destiny. Fair enough. However, what bothered me is that it seems to me Rachel didn't care about family or more specifically, Edna. Yes, Rachel is often helping out her relatives financially, and yes she loves Edna... but when you look at what she has done for Edna over the year, it all felt like empty words. Seemed to me, Rachel was so absorbed in her life and the big city to realize what was going on with her grandmother.

For example, Edna is elderly and has to take care of the orchard and nobody helps her. Really? Like Rachel has to be summoned in order for her to take some time off and go help and apparently, over the years, different cousins/relatives have had their turns. It just felt totally wrong for me. How hard would it be for each of them to take some time off to head for Destiny to help out? That way, everyone would be helping out and would spend time with Edna. Sounds like the perfect solution, right? However, definitively not the case, since Rachel has not returned to Destiny once since she left. Also, Rachel was not even aware of the yearly apple festival - that Edna implemented by the way - that kept the orchard afloat. How could you not be aware of it when it's been going on for 10 years. It just showed me how disconnected Rachel was from Edna and I really wonder if Rachel cared for Edna that much. Also, the suspicions that Rachel had about Edna making up stories about her weak knees because she was lonely - that rubbed me the wrong way as well. Even if Edna did make up story, if her relatives were taking better care of Edna, perhaps she wouldn't be so lonely and wouldn't have to make up the stories. Anyway, to me, it was just wrong and it really affected the way I felt about Rachel. Couldn't bring myself to love her character :( Another bad point is when Rachel learned that Mike wanted to buy the orchard and Rachel was so outraged. Well really, none of her family is interested in the business... so what did she expect? It was just frustrating.

Other than that, well I didn't really connect with Mike either. I didn't get a feel for him. Yes, his character was developed, but his past and his reasons for being a cop and all, it just didn't reach me. The romance was okay, I mean two persons that dislike each other, but can't help but be attracted and start a fling. Then, they deny that it's becoming more serious. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything I haven't read and without characters that stood out, well the romance didn't either. The sex scenes were hot though :) Plus, I did like Edna's character and her story :) Edna was a hoot, but also one tough lady. I think Rachel learned a lot from Edna throughout the story and that will only make her a better person :) The friendships - Rachel with her best friends, reconnecting with high school friend and Mike with his respective best friend - really add to the book as well :)

My Grade: C. This book was not badly written or anything. It's simply that I didn't love the H/H, didn't connect with them and thus, it was a miss for me. There is just so much the writing, setting and secondary characters can do to save a book.


  1. Oh! That sucks!! I hate when I don't connect with the characters :( And I take it personal when the heroine is lacking.

    But I do agree, over all, I haven't read many straight up contemporaries lately. 'tis sad.

  2. Oh Nath, I agree! Secondary characters and setting can do wonders for what would otherwise be a failed read in many cases (and of course the all important writing). They can be SO important.

    I'm so glad that you at least connected and liked Edna.

  3. I have to own up that I like this series and Toni Blake's writing style, but I am with you on Rachel . . . I had problems with her in previous books although the spotlight wasn't really on her. there are just some characters that don't jell for all of us and obviously that was the case here for you. Appreciated the honest review. Would like to read the book just for the fact that it moves the saga with these two families along.

  4. Well, I liked this one a lot more than you did. I didn't have a problem with Rachel focusing on her career & not the orchard. The orchard was Edna's dream, not necessarily Rachel's. I got the feeling that Rachel couldn't see herself staying in Destiny, so she left all those years ago.

    Sorry this wasn't a good read for you. Do you think you'll read the next one?

  5. Alex - Yeah, I know, Alex :( I think that's my biggest issues with contemporary romance ^_^; Ah well.

    And I know about straight up contemporary romance!! I really don't understand why there isn't more :(

    Hilcia - They are all important elements, but sometimes - and most especially in contemporary romance - if the H/H aren't great, then the book still flops ^_^;

    Did you read this book, Hils?

    Dr J - Rachel appears in other books, Judith? I didn't realize. If you enjoy the series, then yes, probably, you want to read this just to know the whole story :)

    Leslie - LOL, I know you enjoyed it way more than me.

    Perhaps I wasn't clear in the review, but I didn't have an issue about Rachel being a career woman or preferring Chicago... Although at times, she sounded a bit snobby when talking about Chicago, but that's another story.

    The orchard not being Rachel's dream was totally understandable as well. Not everyone takes to the family business and that is fine. The problem however is that the orchard is such an integral part of Edna and by not being aware of it, it gave me the impression that Rachel didn't care for Edna.

    Helping Edna out during the harvest is not for the sake of the orchard... it's to take care and help out your grandmother. The apple festival is not about keeping the business afloat, but being aware of what's going on in your grandmother's life.

    I doubt I'm going to read the third book... but I might go back and read the first book in the series, since it's in my TBR pile.

  6. That's too bad this book didn't work for you. I've read a few of this author's books before (not this one) and I liked them.

  7. Ames - Yeah :( I have a few other books by her. I hope it's not going to be the same Jill Shalvis situation :(

  8. Hmmmm...I'll more than likely still get this. I've got quite a few of TB's books; problem is, I haven't read any of them! :-)

  9. Dev - LOL. A problem we've all had! :)