DDS REVIEW: Honky Tonk Series by Carolyn Brown

Sunday, October 31, 2010 1:00
Posted in category Review

Duckies Do SeriesSandy M’s DDS Review of Honky Tonk Series by Carolyn Brown
Contemporary Western Romance published by Sourcebooks Casablanca Jun, Aug, Oct 2010

I read a couple of Ms. Brown’s books in her Lucky series last year, and while I liked parts of them, there were larger parts that just didn’t work for me. I got frustrated with multiple points of view occurring every few paragraphs, and what I called negativity in her characters took away from what fun and laughter there could have been for me as a reader. So with her new Honky Tonk series, I wanted to give her a second chance and this seemed to be a good place for that.

Book CoverI Love This Bar
1 Jun 10

Sigh. I’m sorry to say that not much changed from Ms. Brown’s previous series and this one. The points of view changes are still front and center and very frustrating to read. You get used to it a little bit, but when it happens within a couple of paragraphs instead of a number of paragraphs, it’s hard to follow and just plain hard to read. In the first chapter there were 13 POV changes, at a very quick count. I was flippin’ all over the place, and I knew it wasn’t going to alter throughout the book, so I just had to grin and bear it.

Consistency is a tad of a problem too. An example: Jarod arrives home late one night. So he doesn’t disturb his ill uncle, he takes his boots off at the bottom of the stairs and treads up in his socks. Three paragraphs later has him taking his boots off in his bedroom.

I still have a problem with the dialogue of the characters in these books, as I did with the previous stories. Most of the time conversations are stilted, it’s just not the way people talk to one another. Then there’s the meanness that seems to permeate the way these people interact with one another. I have a feeling Ms. Brown is going for feisty independence for her heroines and it just doesn’t come out that way.

Daisy has inherited the Honky Tonk, her home for the last eight years, when she had nowhere else to go and Ruby, the former owner, took her in, mothered her, and eventually gave her the bar that’s come to mean quite a lot to her. One night when crossing the crowded dance floor, she collides with and ends up in a jumble on the floor with a good lookin’, sexy cowboy. I actually like the beginning of this book. It’s cute and fun. But it doesn’t last long, because Daisy suddenly becomes a female no one would want to be near with her immediate attitude toward Jarod.

At least Ms. Brown’s heroes are fun characters. But they take too much guff from the heroines. Jarod has had his fill of being unlucky in love and vows not to get involved again. He doesn’t count on a pretty little flower named Daisy, though, despite the fact she’s a barmaid. They have some misunderstandings along the way, he doesn’t find out she’s also a vet tech until much later in the relationship, but by that he’s smitten and doesn’t care she owns a bar. He tosses his preconceptions out the door long before Daisy ever does. She hangs on way too long and is lucky Jarod is a very patient man.

Even the secondary characters, as much of a hoot as they are, get to be a little much with the mean gene making its way into their speech. They are good for a laugh, however, now and again. And that’s the crux of this series for me. There are moments when I did giggle at something. There are moments when I enjoyed a scene here and there, but those moments come late in this book, either half or a quarter of the way through. It’s after, of course, the heroine has finally come to her senses and she and the hero are close to declaring their love for one another and the meanness is gone. That’s so much more fun, makes it a more enjoyable read.

See LauraJ’s review here.

Grade: C

Summary:

She doesn’t need anything but her bar…

Daisy O’Dell has her hands full with hotheads and thirsty ranchers until the day one damn fine cowboy walks in and throws her whole life into turmoil…

He’s looking for a cold drink and a moment’s peace…

Instead he finds one red hot woman. She’s just what he needs, if only he can convince her to come out from behind that bar, and come home with him…

Read an excerpt.

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Book CoverHell Yeah
1 Aug 10

Not much changes with this book either. Cathy O’Dell is now owner of the Honky Tonk after her cousin Daisy marries Jarod from the previous book.

It’s New Year’s Eve and the countdown is on as the book opens. Travis is in town to work on the local oil rigging crew for the next couple of months. He’s just come into the bar and has spotted a very long-legged and sexy woman, whom he can’t help but lock lips with, especially since he has the excuse of approaching midnight. So he does just that. Right in the middle of the dance floor. Once again,  a good start. Things just doesn’t stay at that level once we move on.

I really was hoping for a different formula in this series from Ms. Brown. It would be nice to have a hero and heroine come together and have fun, be nice to each other, work together just because, instead of the heroine starting out mouthy and bitchy. But Cathy is down on men because of her ex-fiance. He turned on her one day, hit her, and she was out of there. Smart on her part, at least. But Cathy continually says she’s a woman who can take care of herself, so I wondered why she didn’t do that with Brad, the ex. It’s not until much, much later that we find out she did. I would have liked to have known that earlier, giving me a reason to like Cathy more than I do, knowing she actually did as she boasted, that it’s not all talk, which is what it all seems to be for much of the book.

So she’s committed to the Honky Tonk for the rest of her life. Her feelings for Travis grow, of course, because he is a great guy. I like him a lot. He’s a wanderer, going from state to state wherever the job leads him. He begins to question that existence, though, the more he comes to know about and love about Cathy. When she’s kidnapped, a plot turn that didn’t quite work for me – seems a little too contrived – he goes to her rescue, as she knew he would. She had faith in him whether she knew it or not.

But then this is the point in the book where I really started to enjoy it. Cathy’s tone changes and so does the tone of the story. Though the kidnapping concept lacks somewhat, it does lead her to taking care of herself as she should have done months before, and I do like the reckoning she dishes out. Her ordeal also makes her realize she loves Travis, but, as she describes their individual places in life at that moment in time, she’s rooted to the Tonk and he’s got wings to make him happy. She doesn’t want to clip his wings. Travis also doesn’t want to uproot her, so they both go their separate ways. It’s Travis who gives in first, and I personally think it should have been Cathy after all she put him through. But that’s just me.

Again, there were consistency problems a few times throughout the book. Also, we spend the first nine and a half chapters on smoldering looks and sinful kisses, then suddenly out of nowhere Cathy thinks of Travis as a friend.  I wasn’t ready for that in the relationship at that point, so it struck me as out of place. However, those sinful kisses are great scenes, and when they finally make love, those are also good scenes. I just wish they’d go a little farther than they do. I feel a little cheated when I keep getting rumpled sheets and kiss-swollen lips and nothing more after a night of passion.

As before, there are good parts I like, but they’re few. Ms. Brown has a terrific sense of humor and that comes out now and again and it made me chuckle. The romance is nice once past the halfway point of the story. Give me a difference in heroines’ attitudes and things might look up a bit.

Grade: C

Summary:

She’s finally found a place that feels like home…

When Cathy O’Dell buys the Honky Tonk, the nights of cowboys and country tunes come together to create the home she’s always wanted. Then in walks a ruggedly handsome oil man who tempts her to trade in the happiness she’s found at the Honky Tonk for a life on the road with him…

He lives the good life…

Gorgeous and rich, Travis Henry travels the country unearthing oil wells and then moving on. Then the beautiful blue-eyed new owner of the Honky Tonk beer joint becomes his best friend and so much more. When his job is done in Texas, how is he ever going to hit the road without her?

Read an excerpt.

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Book CoverMy Give a Damn’s Busted
1 Oct 10

Now, this book I really enjoyed! The heroine came with no relationship baggage like the two previous heroines, so maybe that’s the difference to Ms Brown when she writes these types of characters. We met Larissa in Hell, Yeah when she ends up in Mingus and the Honky Tonk trying to find herself. She definitely found herself and I found a new side of this author.

This is not to say there aren’t still some issues in the book, but this is such an improvement over those before it. The heroine has a much better attitude about life and her situation and men now that she has found what she’s looking for — friends, a home, and a business she’s happy to run — after scouring the world, literally, for herself. Larissa is a breath of fresh air in this series.

When Cathy, the heroine of the previous book, finally falls in love and decides to give up all to wed Travis, she gives the Honky Tonk to Larissa lock, stock, and barrel. No money involved. It’s tradition with the owners of the bar. Since everything about this little town in Texas is now home to Larissa, she’s telling folks loud and clear she’s there to stay, will never give up the Honky Tonk. LOL, well, there’s tradition where that’s concerned too.

Hank Wells is in Mingus looking for Larissa Morley and he finds her quickly, in a way that’s probably going to have her pissed at him. I do enjoy the first meet of Ms. Brown’s heroes and heroines. Each one has actually been fun so far. Hank swerves to miss a deer in the middle of the road, which causes the car behind him to do the same and she ends up in a ditch. And ends up being Larissa. This is where the book could have reverted back to the heroine-with-an-attitude theme, but I’m glad to say Ms. Brown stayed true to Larissa’s character. She got a little snippy after the accident, as she did at other times in the book and as people are wont to do sometimes, but for the most part Larissa’s attitude is terrific.

These two hit it off right away, and that’s what made reading about them more enjoyable, instead of bitchiness thrown around all the time as the first two heroines did. There’s a couple of great scenes that I really love. The first is the picnic by the lake that Hank takes Larissa on. They make love for the first time there and that scene is tender and very nice, the best love scene of Ms. Brown’s I’ve read to date.

We get little hints that all is not as it seems with Hank. This has to do with a man by the name of Hayes Radner, who’s been trying to buy the Honky Tonk and other properties in and around Mingus throughout the series. He’s been turned down flat every time, but he’s persistent. It seems Hank is associated with this man, and he’s fighting a guilty conscience in not telling Larissa the truth, especially before the town meeting she and others have called to talk about the situation. He does try to explain it all to her, but they get interrupted. So we know trouble is on the horizon.

Larissa tosses Hank to the street when she learns the truth, and he realizes he’s made the mistake of his life. This is another time when that heroine negativity I don’t like could have come back into the story, but again Ms. Brown pulls it off and Larissa has her good cry at losing a good man and tries to get on with life. Hank gives her a call now and again and when they finally do talk, they come to an agreement to start again, go slow, and see where things lead.

This is where my second favorite scene comes in. Hank’s dad is a rancher and wants his son to take over eventually, so he’s grooming Hank to do so. At least he hopes so. Every year he hosts a rodeo for kids, and I had a blast reading about that rodeo and its little people events.  It’s the cutest darned thing I’ve read in a long time. Larissa is also involved, one of those baby steps in making up with Hank. A lot of fun all the way around.

Along with Hank’s dad he also meet his mother as well as Larissa’s mother, and what a duo that is. I did have some fun with them, though. Other secondary characters include those we’ve met since the first book, so the snarky attitude is back with them and they still rub me the wrong way now and again, as do some new characters who now hang out at the Honky Tonk.

Needless to say, this is my favorite book of the series so far. I’m hoping that Sharlene, the heroine of Honky Tonk Christmas, is more like Larissa than Daisy or Cathy. She’s baggageless too, so my hope may be answered. But I’m crossing my fingers just in case.

Grade: B

Summary:

He’s just doing his job…

If Hank Wells thinks he can dig up dirt on the new owner of the Honky Tonk beer joint for his employer, he’s got no idea what kind of trouble he’s courting…

She’s not going down without a fight…

If any dime store cowboy think’s he’s going to get the best of Larissa Morley—or her Honky Tonk—then he’s got another think coming…

As secrets emerge, and passion vies with ulterior motives, it’s winner takes all at the Honky Tonk…


Read an excerpt.

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Book CoverHonky Tonk Christmas
1 Oct 10

I’m glad to say that I didn’t really have to cross my fingers. This book is written in the same vein as My Give a Damn’s Busted and not its other predecessors. Again, the hero and heroine have their issues amid an attraction that starts from friendship, but we have an interesting backstory for the heroine and she doesn’t jump down anyone’s throat at the drop of a hat. I enjoyed HTC as much as MGaDB, even with its few problems.

What we don’t learn about Sharlene in the previous book when we meet her is she’s an Army vet with two stints in Iraq behind her. She still has nightmares about her time as a sniper, something women aren’t trained for as a normal course of business in the military. But when the higher-ups learned of her skill with a gun, she was recruited to take out threats to U.S. troops doing their duty.

Holt Jackson is a building contractor whom Sharlene has hired to build an addition to the Honky Tonk since her business is booming. She needs the room so folks aren’t forced to wait in the parking lot to get inside to do some boot scootin’. Holt has two kids – his niece and nephew – he’s now responsible for since his sister’s death. Judd and Waylon figure prominently in the story, Sharlene falls in love with them before she does with their uncle.

What I like most about the story, and I wish there’d been even more of it included, is the fact Sharlene doesn’t have her horrific dreams when she sleeps in Holt’s arms. Don’t get me wrong, there’s several instances of this, I just wanted more. The fact it’s done with no sex makes it all the more satisfying, for the reader as well as Sharlene. There’s plenty of sexual tension between this couple too. The scene in the hayloft later in the book is a lot of fun, and I’m still torn whether I want it to go further or not. I do want Holt and Sharlene to consummate this relationship much sooner than they do. However, it works having them wait because of their dilemma overall.

Sharlene is from a very small town – Corn, Oklahoma. Yeah, it’s as small as it sounds. It’s also Mennonite country, so folks, including her parents, won’t appreciate the idea she owns a bar and still isn’t married. She’s not cut out for small town life and will never go back to Corn to live. Holt moves around a lot with his job, so it seems their relationship is doomed from the start. He even stabs it deeper through the heart later on when he decides to move to Corn himself because there’s a lot of work there that will give stability to the children’s lives. Now Sharlene has to decide which she loves more – her bar or Holt. You’d be surprised at her decision.

The kids are cute, but they get a little irritating at times. Okay, I know youngens ask a lot of questions and can’t keep quiet for anything, but I don’t need quite as much of that in my romance books. And their dialogue is very inconsistent, sounding like kids at the beginning of a sentence or question but then sound like an adult at the end of it. They do add some fun here and there, though.

All in all, with the same issues as in the other books, this is a solid read, entertaining and emotional. There is a section that seems a waste of paper and ink, let alone reading time, however, when Sharlene literally tells Holt in somewhat good detail all about the previous books. That is not needed at all. Ms. Brown’s sense of humor, especially due to her southern upbringing, once again comes through.

Grade: B

Summary:

She Means business…

Sharlene Waverly is determined to have the “new and improved” Honky Tonk up and running before the holiday. For that, she’ll need Holt Jackson, the best darn carpenter in the state. But his warm, whisky-colored eyes make her insides melt, and before she knows it, she’s sharing her darkest secrets and talking about the nightmares…

He’s determined to keep things professional…

Holt Jackson needs the job at the Honky Tonk, but is completely unprepared to handle the beautiful new bar owner he’s working for.

Sharlene and Holt try like crazy to deny the sparks flying between them, but their love may just be the best Christmas present either one of them ever got.

Read an excerpt.

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SandyM

I guess half good and half okay isn’t bad when reading a series. I got a little more with this one than I had anticipated coming off reading two previous books in another of this author’s series. I’m really glad Ms. Brown got away from the snappishness of her heroines. It doesn’t make them ballsy or self-assured or nervy, whatever adjective you want to use. For me, it just made them sound bitchy at times, but I still like the characters despite that. I had a much better time reading her gals once she changes the attitudes. The head hopping is quite distracting, even if you do get used to it after a while. The inconsistencies pop you out of the story very quickly. Seems those should be caught by the editing department. The books do get bogged down with what practically every character is wearing and also describes nearly every song that plays on the jukebox. I know that goes along with the bar backdrop of the whole thing, but it could have been kept to a minimum. The dialogue does need some work too. It’s stilted and awkward at times, even in the two latter books.

The heroes in these books are all very likable and give the series part of its fun. Ms. Brown’s use of southern-isms cause a chuckle here and there, even when a few of them are a little over the top. Her first encounters for the heroes and heroines are entertaining. I would prefer a little more heat in the love scenes, though. I felt cheated a couple of times when I was taken only so far and the door was closed in my face, so to speak. It doesn’t have to be overly explicit. Just more heat, steam, and sizzle would make reading them better.

Overall Grade: B-

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