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REVIEW:  Crossing the Line by Kele Moon

REVIEW: Crossing the Line by Kele Moon

Dear Ms. Moon:

I saw that this book was out and kind of balked at the price. I liked the first one in the series but I never finished the second one so I hovered over the buy button.  The author then offered the book for a potential review.  Here’s my two cent summary. If this book was $3.99, I’d be telling everyone to buy it. At $7.99, it is a tougher call. I liked it but I want to let the reader know a few things that might affect whether this is a purchase for them.

Crossing the Line (Battered Hearts #3) by Kele MoonFirst, the story is told in five different parts. It starts out present day when Tabitha, a best selling YA author, returns home to care for her sick mother. She ends up injured and puking out her guts when Wyatt, the town sheriff shows up.

The story then goes backward. We see how Wyatt and Tabitha first meet in third grade; Tabitha’s strong friendship with Clay  (the hero of the first Batter Hearts book) and then Wyatt and Tabitha’s young adult romance. About 60% of Wyatt & Tab’s story is before the present day.

Tabitha lives with her alcoholic mother and her drug addled brother. She’s never sure whether she’ll be eating ketchup for dinner or a piece of bread. When Wyatt offers her a cookie, Tabitha wonders what he wants but she takes it because in third grade, that might be the only food she has the for the day. Wyatt’s attention is arrested by Tabitha and his devotion to her never wavers, not through elementary school or even into high school or through their long separation.

For Wyatt, the only woman (and I mean only in every way) is Tabitha.  The reverse is true as well although Tabitha attempts, at times, to deter Wyatt’s interest.  There young love is sweet and endearing.  As Wyatt starts fighting professionally, the story follows the couple until their eventual separation. The fight scenes were fun.

I also felt that there were some great emotional punches (as Melissa from SMS Obsessions would say) such as when Wyatt tells his twin sister that love hadn’t been so kind to him and Juju replies that she just fought harder than he did.

I really enjoyed the childhood and young adult romance of Wyatt and Tab but some people prefer older protagonists. They are older by the end of the story but not for a good portion of it. They aren’t bogged down by high school concerns such as who gets to sit next to whom in the lunchroom but issues such as whether Tab and Clay have enough to eat or whether Tab is safe in her home.  Plus, Wyatt’s father is the sheriff and he has to keep his relationship quiet from his family because Wyatt is certain that his father would want the relationship to end.

The major sticking point for me was the long term separation. That is not shown in the book but we know that there are thirteen years during which Wy and Tab are separated and Tab’s reasons for this are both good at the time but lose power after the years pass. Why couldn’t she have returned earlier when she knows how much she loves Wyatt and how much he loves her? The thirteen years could have been two or three or even five. I didn’t get Tab’s reasoning and that really bugged me. And conversely, I felt like Wyatt could have been more proactive.  It seemed pretty obvious what was the root of their separation and that neither did anything for years and years seemed worthless.

I enjoyed this story of young love that blossomed into a lasting adult love. It was full of longing, angst, and emotion. B

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW:  Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

REVIEW: Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally

Dear Ms. Kenneally,

Having enjoyed the three previous Hundred Oaks books, I was happy to have the chance to read and review this one. I’m pleased to say that it did not disappoint, and Racing Savannah was an enjoyable reading experience. Set several years after the previous books in the series, it features a new set of characters, and like the previous books, it is easily read as a standalone.

Racing Savannah by Miranda KenneallySavannah Barrow is a high school senior who has just moved to Franklin, Tennessee, where her father was offered an irresistible job training horses at Cedar Hill Farms. Savannah, who also loves horses, has ambitions to become an exercise rider, which she feels would be a much better career opportunity than working behind the scenes. She meets Jack Goodwin, the son of Cedar Hill’s owner who’s running the operation himself as a one-year test, after stopping a prized horse that had spooked and bolted. It soon becomes clear that Savannah is able to get through to the high-strung Tennessee Star, and that both she and Jack are very much attracted to each other. With social and financial disparities, family expectations, and the fact that Jack is her boss, there seems to be quite a lot to keep them apart.

Savannah comes from a low-income, working class family. Her father, while very good at what he does, is not educated, and this has limited his career prospects. Her mother died young several years earlier after battling late-stage breast cancer, and the uninsured Barrows were left with crushing medical debts. Her father now has a pregnant girlfriend, and money is extremely tight; since they are new to Cedar Hill, he does not want to rock the boat in any way, and expects the same of her.

Savannah’s dreams are bigger, and when opportunities come her way, she is happy to grab them – including the possibility of training as a jockey. She hopes to achieve a more secure life for herself and hopefully for her family as well, not wanting her soon to be born sibling to grow up with free lunches and second-hand clothes. The possibility of being more ambitious academically doesn’t really occur to her at first; nobody in her family has graduated from high school and the idea of college seems completely out of reach, something for people with money and more choices than she has. Savannah is generally suspicious and mistrustful of rich people, whom she feels are playing by a different set of rules, abusing their privilege or simply unaware of it.

The challenges that the Barrows are struggling with – lack of formal education, consequent financial difficulties and fewer career opportunities, almost insurmountable medical debt – are unfortunately all too common and I felt that they were realistically portrayed. I read in the author’s note that like Savannah, your own background was far from affluent, and your goal was to show that it is still possible to set ambitious goals and achieve them, and it certainly comes through.

In some ways, Racing Savannah is similar to the first book in the series, Catching Jordan: both Savannah and Jordan are teenage girls trying to make their mark in a male-dominated athletic field, and both are more used to having male friends than girlfriends. Jordan, however, comes from an affluent background and is in a leadership role as a quarterback and team captain, while in Savannah’s case, the roles are the more standard romance dynamic of poor heroine/rich hero. The levels of sensuality in the two books struck me as comparable as well, with some (relatively brief) scenes happening on the page and some off it.

The details about training and racing horses were well-integrated into the story. While I can’t speak as to the plausibility of two seventeen year olds being given the responsibilities that Savannah and especially Jack have, I was able to buy into it in the context of this story. Readers more familiar with horse training and racing might feel differently. The high school parts of the book worked for me, and Savannah’s friends, Rory and Vanessa, were very well-drawn secondary characters.

Not everything worked for me, however. I realize that a single narrator is very common in YA, and that this is how this series has been written as well. But while Savannah was an engaging and often entertaining narrator, I felt that this book could have benefited from some of Jack’s perspective as well. With only Savannah’s point of view available, some of Jack’s less fortunate decisions seemed designed to introduce tension into the plot rather than seeming organic to the character. There was a point where I actually wondered if there was another hero waiting in the wings, as you was the case in some of your previous books.

One of the things I appreciate about the Hundred Oaks series is that it is only loosely connected – no sequel baiting or past characters being inserted into the stories unnecessarily. The characters in all the books attend the same school, but there aren’t always links between them beyond that. This was mostly the case in Racing Savannah as well, with the exception of a wedding scene that featured several past characters a bit too prominently for my liking.

My final complaint is that the villains were very one-note: a rich family whose members – primarily the men – abuse their power and privilege in various ways. I would have liked a bit more subtlety there.

In all, Racing Savannah was a well-written novel with an engaging heroine. The issues I listed above were enough to bring down the grade a bit, but not enough to stop me from enjoying it. For me, this is a very solid B.

Best regards,
Rose

Rose lives in a country where romance readers are few and far between, so discovering romance websites was a welcome development. When not busy with reading and graduate school, she can often be found online discussing romance novels or sports –occasionally both at the same time. She has no TBR pile and is forever looking to change this unfortunate fact; recommendations for historicals, romantic suspense and contemporaries (preferably of the non-small town variety) are welcome.

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