Review ~ Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton

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Cream of the Crop (The Hudson Valley Series #2)

Alice Clayton

27251473.jpgManhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is…cheese.

Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his, ahem, milk can.

Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be…love?

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I have been waiting for a thoughtful, honest, sweet romance that doesn’t need high amounts of drama to pull readers in, and boy-o did I find it. Cream of the Crop is a wonderful, delightfully light story of a budding romance. The realism of Oscar and Natalie’s journey easily pulls readers in and it will stay with you for quite some time.

Natalie is such a super character. Even when I wanted to shy away from liking her, I couldn’t do it. In the beginning (read that in a deep, masculine, movie-type voice over, would ya?), Natalie’s ability to go out and get any guy made me question her. She wasn’t using her amazing confidence to search for something strong and real. Instead, the “I know I’m awesome” attitude was almost a wall around her, using men before they had the chance to use her. As much as I wanted to take that nugget of emotion to put a wall between Natalie and myself, enough of the “real” Natalie peeked through and I found myself enamored with her. I wanted this chick as a friend. Her flaws (what I saw as flaws) kept her human and, to utilize a phrase made popular by another author, perfectly imperfect. I allowed my “friendship” with Natalie to strengthen and blossom, much like anyone lucky enough to know her would.

Oscar is an original. He may not be a man of many words, but what he says counts. So much. Like Natalie, Oscar tested me, but instead of seeing if I could stay non-judgmental, he challenged my character. Yes, he did some things that made me mad. He’s a guy; they’re a different breed. But he also said some things that made a lot of sense. In fact, this morning I had to re-read an entire scene (which is not normal for me as not a re-reader generally) just to make sure the impact was similar and if I had missed anything. I didn’t miss a dang thing. And that impact? It was stronger.

I will say, I would have liked their time together fleshed out more. By the end I was still hurt for Natalie and while I respected her decision, I wasn’t totally on board. There was also someone else that I needed to step up and say something (I’m sorry, maybe), but while I felt it was implied, there wasn’t enough to back it up.

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys realistic, humorous, sweet (and spicy) books.

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