A Sweet and Stormy Southern Romance
by Kristi Cook
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
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In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.
Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.
But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.
Glancing out my window, I hold up my finger and thumb, creating a little frame around Ryder Marsden, who stands outside on the lawn below. I close one eye to get the illusion just right and then pretend to squash him.
When the curtain opens on our Magnolia heroine, Jemma Cafferty, she has neighbor Ryder Mardsen in her sights, only not in the usual sense. She’s playfully (or maybe not!) crushing him between her fingers! As it turns out, Jemma’s actually a good shot — the best in town — with a gun, that is. Her feud with Ryder doesn’t run deeper than imagined finger crushing. It’s tough to hate this tall, dark, and handsome heroic neighbor boy. Still, since their mothers have been planning their wedding since practically the day they were born, Jemma stubbornly insists on doing her best to despise Ryder.
Magnolia has been billed as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. And that kind of tagline will set readers up for false expectations. Though Cook includes a balcony scene, some characters with names that tip the hat to Shakespearean counterparts, and some scrapes between the boys, Magnolia is not a retelling of Shakespeare’s tale of “star-crossed lovers”. It’s loosely inspired by the Bard based on the following twist. R & J has two young lovers whose feuding families don’t approve of their relationship; Magnolia turns that on end. The Caffertys and Marsdens aren’t Magnolia Branch’s Hatfields and McCoys. They’ve been best of friends since the Civil War when a Cafferty saved the life of a Marsden. And ever since, the families have wished to become even more interconnected through marriage. Only the timing has never worked out. Until Ryder and Jemma were born….
I enjoyed Jemma immensely! She’s got her Southern Belle side: she’s smart, funny, and beautiful. But like many southern women, she’s also strong as nails. In fact, Jemma’s propensity to throw temper tantrums (often at the drop of a hat!) proves she’s definitely got a little Scarlett O’Hara in her as well. This cheerleader is the best shot in town. But you’ll not catch her wearing camo at the shooting competitions. She’ll be wearing a dress so she can rub more salt in the wound when the boys are bested by a “girly” girl.
Now let’s get back to those parental expectations. Ryder and Jemma’s parents have their children’s whole futures planned out. Football hero Ryder’s seems all but tied up at an SEC school and maybe even headed to the NFL. And Jemma’s expected to stay in Mississippi for college. But each has a different dream. Jemma has her heart set on film school at NYU, for instance. Kristi Cook ties in Jemma’s passion for film very well, making her need to stretch her wings both real and more pressing.
This is a romance, so it does come with drama. And much of that drama revolves around a hurricane that passes through town. This is where things get a bit steamy. Though the plot may fall into some familiar, predictable romance patterns, the section of the novel devoted to the storm will have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll not want to stop reading until you find out what awaits Ryder and Jemma — a predestined fate, or a journey of their own making?
— Dawn Teresa
4 of 5 Hearts. A Sweet and Stormy Southern Romance.
Magnolia tells the story of Ryder and Jemma, who aren’t Romeo and Juliet. They’re just two Mississippi kids who want nothing more than to shape their own destiny. Whether they do that together, I’ll not say and spoil all the fun! Take a seat in the shade, sip a little sweet tea, and settle in for the ride!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Edelweiss and Simon Pulse for providing me access to this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”