Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley, #2) by Alice Clayton
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 12th 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: e-ARC
Source: the publicist

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton brings her trademark blend of funny and sexy to this second contemporary romance in the brand-new Hudson Valley series! Manhattan’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?

**Note:  This book was provided to the Book Hookup by the publisher but that did not in any way influence this review!!

This is the second book in the Hudson Valley series, this time about sassy marketing executive, Natalie, and creamery owner/cheese maker, Oscar.  This story had some laugh out loud moments and some smoking hot romance.  The characters were unique and their chemistry practically leapt off the pages.  I loved how both New York and the sleep town of Bailey Falls were treated like characters in this story as well, both playing a huge part in their character’s lives and in the decisions they make.

Natalie is a larger than life character.  She’s sure of herself, smart, fierce and confident.  She takes both the city and the country by storm and isn’t afraid to show the world who’s boss.  Of course, it hasn’t always been this way.  She was hurt in the past and spent way to much time living her life in the shadows thanks to a previous relationship.  However, she overcame that anger and hurt and has turned her life into something she fully controls and enjoys.

It’s a breath of fresh air to have a character who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it…a character who doesn’t necessarily conform to our current (some would say misguided) beliefs of what’s hot!  Natalie is a proud size 18 girl and doesn’t take sass from anyone.  I loved that about the story but it’s also where I have a small concern.  I must admit that no matter how much I loved this character, her description did frustrate me a bit.  I fully understood Natalie’s size the first time it was mentioned and I embraced it.  The second and third times I understood why it had to be mentioned again…but by the 20th time, I was over it.  For me, it turned Natalie from “a strong, sassy character” into “a strong, sassy character despite her size”…and that bothered me because if felt like it overshadowed and diminished the fact that she picked herself up, struggled, and succeeded after her terrible relationship in the past. And, to me, that was the real story…the thing that made her a hero.  This didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the book but led to a few audible sighs on my part.

Oscar was quiet and gruff and, in some ways, Natalie’s opposite.  But you know what they say about opposites!  This strong, sexy cheese-maker had a past that needed to be dealt with and a brooding demeanor that had all the ladies drooling.  These two had amazing chemistry and the fact that Natalie’s normally confident self was a bit more reserved when she first met Oscar was great.  I loved how she slowly came into herself again and how he appreciated her for everything she did and everything she was.  Of course, they had several obstacles to overcome that had me afraid for their future, and they found themselves in a couple of unique situations that had me giggling.  This is the kind of story that brings out all kinds of emotions as you read it and I really enjoyed that.

The secondary characters were wonderful and played a large role in the story.  I’m fairly sure I know who book 3 will be about and I think it’ll be a very interesting story as well.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am glad that I met Natalie…a girl who shows the world what it means to be fabulous!!


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