Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Source: Gift from Author
TYPE OF NOVEL: Contemporary Romance, Novella
SERIES: Sylvan Hills #1
SETTING: Sylvan Hills, North Carolina a small mountain town not far from Asheville
SYNOPSIS: Tara dreams of buying and restoring her grandparents’ farm, a place where she felt happiness and peace as a child. But Tara’ s dreams are crushed when another offer that she just can’t beat is made and accepted. Before Tara finishes overcoming her disappointment, she unexpectedly encounters the new owner of her grandparents farm, Justin Hunter, an ex-lawyer who is moving away from Manhattan to raise his half-sister Marley. Tara and Justin are easily attracted to each other, but when Tara finds out he is the one who outbid her, she firmly decides she wants nothing to do with him. Is Tara too stubborn and prejudiced to give Justin a chance? Will she learn to let go of the past and open her heart to new possibilities?
WHAT I LOVED:
- North Carolina Mountains: Yes!! This setting is brilliant and this fictional town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the perfect backdrop for a small town series with its quiet country life, southern hospitality, breathtaking scenery, and strong artistic vibe. Not to mention its a place this Carolina girl loves to visit and explore!
- Sylvan Hills and Its Inhabitants: Sylvan Hills is a charming hamlet full of quirky residents that memorable and endearing – think: modern-day Highbury or Stars Hollow. I loved learning about some of the businesses and traditions of Sylvan Hills, it is definitely a place I’d love to visit or maybe even live! In addition, aside from our main characters – Tara, Justin, and Marley – it was interesting to encounter and spend time with some other characters, who I can tell will be featured in other novels of this series, such as Tara’s sisters – Shelby and Charlotte.
- Personal Obstacles and Baggage: Aside from the conflict over the farm, I loved that there were other deep-rooted personal obstacles for these characters to work through. They all have painful pasts and people/experiences that have left scars. This story illustrates how these experiences can shape a person’s actions, how difficult it can be to cope with what life deals you sometimes, and how rewarding it is when you experience a personal breakthrough and move on/rise above. It was an inspiring experience to see how these characters overcame their own personal roadblocks and found their paths to happiness.
- Heartwarming Relationships: I loved all important relationships Ms. Lynne created in this story. Justin’s care and concern for Marley is inspiring and palpable. And his fears for her and his responsibilities are understandable. In addition, I enjoyed seeing little hints of Marley’s thoughts and feelings, she is a quiet and moody teenager on the outside, yet much more is revealed on the inside. It was lovely to witness the relationships between Justin/Marley and Tara/Marley. And when all three were together it just gave you all the warm fuzzies!
- Pride and Prejudice Nods: As you may already know author Alexis Lynne and Austenesque author Pamela Lynne are one and the same! And I was delighted to spot some subtle nods/similarities to Pride and Prejudice in this tale, such as the large age difference between Justin and Marley, the fact that Justin and Marley are orphans, and Tara’s dad being negligent.
WHAT I WASN’T TOO FOND OF:
- Minor Quibbles: I thought Justin may be a little close to being too flawless and his feelings for Tara maybe came on a tad too quickly. This may be more of a personal preference, but I would have loved to have seen Justin have a little less perfection and a little slower development.
I’m already enchanted by Sylvan Hills and I cannot wait to return! Even though she is writing under a different name and in a different genre, I see so many Pamela Lynne trademarks in this story, such as: a large cast of well-drawn and interesting characters, strong antagonists, and a swoon-worthy romance! This is one holiday romance I heartily recommend!