Title: Cream of the Crop
Author: Alice Clayton
Series: Hudson Valley #2
Release Date: July 12, 2016
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 alsoindulges 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?
Alice Clayton delivers another phenomenal romantic comedy with Cream of the Crop. This story is everything I’ve come to love from this author and then some. Cream of the Crop is fresh, sassy, hilarious, and smart – topped with a delicious dose of dirty talk and plenty of steamy encounters. Oscar and Natalie are a seemingly unlikely pair, but between their instant chemistry and undeniable connection I was immediately sold on this couple. No one does romantic comedy quite like Alice Clayton. She expertly balances witty dialogue, sarcastic exchange, and slapstick comedy with a ton of heart, genuine emotion, and absolutely sizzling heat. From the moment Natalie lost all of her New York cool (and her ability to function) in Oscar’s presence, I knew I was in for some bellyaching laughs with this book. As the city girl’s high fashion world collided with the country boy’s flannel paradise, sparks definitely flew. Natalie and Oscar’s journey is wrought with embarrassing moments, overenthusiastic townspeople, unimpressed cattle, plenty of farmhouse trysts, and more cheese than you can catalog. The result is an unforgettable romance that will leave you grinning (and craving some brie).
“Tell me,” I said, looking up at him.
“Tell you what?”
“What you thought about me, before we met.”
“You mean before you scared my cows and then attacked me in Leo’s barn?”
“Yes. Before the luckiest day of your life, what did you think of me when you saw me, stumbling and stammering each Saturday?”
I fell in love with Natalie right from the start. Not only is she intelligent, successful, beautiful, and strong, but the confidence she exudes is downright contagious. As I read, her voice filled my head, making its way into my heart and warming me with a heady sense of self-worth. Natalie is a real woman who has learned to embrace what society might deem as flaws, discovering and celebrating her inherent beauty. I loved how she turned the tables, taking her insecurities and owning them in a way that allowed her to thrive. As Alice Clayton developed this character over the course of the novel, I found myself in awe of her story. Beneath the composed and accomplished woman was an incredibly vulnerable girl. My heart ached for Natalie, but the unconditional love and support from her family and friends, along with the positive direction in which she had steered her life, left me utterly enchanted by this character. Her unavoidable (and seriously hilarious) awkwardness around Oscar, evidence of his ability to totally dismantle her carefully constructed world, just made Natalie all the more human and unmistakably lovable.
“Cross a bad boy with a supermodel, add a dash of linebacker with a big scoop of Polynesian love, and then you might, just might, have an appreciation for the wet dream across the market from me.”
Oscar was an enigma. Strong, silent, and very much a mystery, he was a man that inspired so many questions from the moment we first met him in Nuts. I was definitely anxious to get to the heart of him. Oscar’s relationship with Natalie was just the thing to unravel this private man and I loved the way in which Alice Clayton utilized their connection to grow this character. I never expected Oscar to be so passionate, loyal, and sweet but he proved to be full of surprises throughout their journey. His personal history was unexpected, but as he laid himself bare before Natalie, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and I finally felt content in my understanding of this character. There were moments of vulnerability that shined through, giving Oscar a genuine feel that had me falling that much harder for him. His fierce love for Natalie, just as she was, was icing on the cake and his almost reverent view of her left me swooning. Throw in his bad boy appearance and delightfully filthy mouth and I was a total goner.
“Details are not only appreciated, they are coveted, revered, and possibly typed up and framed. So go slow, and make it worth it.”
Cream of the Crop is the total package. I laughed hard and felt deeply as I experienced Oscar and Natalie’s journey. Alice Clayton engenders such a great sense of community with this series that I couldn’t help but revel in the comforting familiarity of returning to Bailey Falls. I enjoyed seeing more of Leo, Roxie, and the rest of their small town crew – all bringing life and humor to Oscar and Natalie’s story. Alice Clayton’s writing seems to only get better with each new novel, and I have to say, this might be my favorite so far. Her descriptive imagery borders on magical, bringing Natalie and Oscar’s world to life for readers to get lost in. From start to finish, Cream of the Crop embraces the distinct personalities of the couple, bringing the story to a close in a way that embraces the new possibilities ahead for them without requiring either party to relinquish their individual dreams and leaving me feeling content, empowered, and incredibly hopeful. Oscar and Natalie may just be my new favorite Alice Clayton couple! Their story is a quirky and colorful addition to the Hudson Valley series and I’m already anxious for more of this crazy crew.
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Don’t miss the rest of the Hudson Valley series:
Nuts (Hudson Valley #1)
Buns (Hudson Valley #3)