Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by HeatherMac. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Long Contemporary category.

The summary:

A broken truck, a broken career, and a breakup heard around the world land superstar John Tennessee McCord in Hellcat Canyon. Legend has it that hearts come in two colors there: gold or black. And that you can find whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s love . . . or trouble. JT may have found both in waitress Britt Langley.

His looks might cause whiplash and weak knees, but Britt sees past JT’s rough edge and sexy drawl to a person a lot like her: in need of the kind of comfort best given hot and quick, with clothes off and the lights out.

Her wit is sharp but her eyes and heart—not to mention the rest of her—are soft, and JT is falling hard. But Britt has a secret as dark as the hills, and JT’s past is poised to invade their present. It’s up to the people of Hellcat Canyon to help make sure their future includes a happily ever after.

Here is HeatherMac’s review:

This book was so charming.

SO charming.

Hamster wrapped in a blanket eating a carrot charming.

A tiny hamster nibbling on a carrot

Smart and funny with adorable visual descriptions, intense chemistry, and fizzy sparkling prose. It should be at the tippy top of your summer reading pile.

The main characters are drawn to each other first through their clever vocabularies. It is a book about smart people who think about things and enjoy witty banter, my ultimate catnip. Naturally, they are also your standard pretty people: perky blonde former cheerleader and tall dark and movie star handsome, blah blah blah, but I can’t hold it against them. The prose and the inner dialogues for the characters were so delightful, it seemed to want to be read it out loud. Not that I would do that. I’m an introvert covertly reading romance on a Kindle, hoping my blush doesn’t give me away. I laughed out loud often enough that it would have been embarrassing on a bus or airplane, but it was refreshing and enjoyable, and I would have braved it if necessary.

I devoured Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series last summer like courses in one enormous gluttonous feast, back to back to back. Is there a better place to be than three books in to a funny, clever, and romantic eleven book series?

Lucille Ball devouring chocolate from a conveyor belt

Anyway, the details of the individual books are hazy, but I remembered being charmed and absorbed enough to ignore my family for a couple weeks of summer vacation (grunting and feed yourself motions in their general direction), so I jumped at the chance to review her first foray into contemporary fiction. Also, I had read the preview for Hot in Hellcat Canyon at the back of one of the Pennyroyal Green series before realizing it hadn’t been published yet. Patience is not my best virtue, so I try to avoid the “here’s a taste, now wait a year” previews. Maddening. It was worth the wait, though, and the perfect romance for me- light, and funny with swoon worthy chemistry.

Britt is healing from some stuff (trigger warning for descriptions of abuse, though all in the past with no active peril) in the small town of Hellcat Canyon in California hill country. This town and its inhabitants are a delightful character all their own. She is cobbling together a living by waitressing at the Misty Cat Cavern (adorable name story, btw) and working for a property management company, but she seems content. Skypes often with her sister and nephew, has a lovely friendship with her next-door neighbor, and good set of bosses and co-workers at the bar where she works, and a fat cat named Phillip. She is just starting to get back to drawing again, which seems to be the biggest sign she is recovering from her situation. She is a bargain hunter, furniture refinisher, a crafter, and a healer of discarded and failing house plants. She isn’t well off, but she seems comfortable in her own skin and the life she has built for herself.

A swoony gif with the caption of Oh, he's so handsome

John Tennessee McCord is a famous television actor dabbling in movies, and scouting the location for an upcoming series on the gold rush in the area when his beloved and oft repaired pickup truck starts making funny noises right outside Hellcat Canyon. He stops into the Misty Cat, and hilarity and romance ensue. The secondary characters are all great, and I feel like there was something to laugh at on almost every page. There is Googling (as you do with celebrities showing up in your town), reading, and house renovation, and what starts for Britt as a decided fling, morphs into something much more without it ever being discussed.

This was my only real problem with this book: for such a well-spoken pair, they were crap at communicating about their relationship, (also the wonder at their fabulous vocabularies read a teeny tiny bit condescending the second time I read it…) but we had to have a conflict, right? JT’s ex happens to be wildly successful (decorating bus benches and billboards in town) but also insecure and needy, and when she shows up in town (thanks to paparazzi photos of JT and Britt on a date and sunbathing), Britt’s skittishness and emotional damage makes an inconvenient appearance.

A confused looking cat

Britt’s stubborn refusal to speak to JT about anything once his (very famous) ex-girlfriend arrives in town is both confusing and maddening, but I do love that her friends and sister call her on her stubborn pride interfering with her happiness. Also, the ex is a stone-cold bitch; vicious and villainous. There are prideful hurt feelings on both sides preventing honest communications, and so Britt and JT part ways before coming to their own separate realizations about the value and gravity their fling has come to have for them both. There is some adorable vandalism, a heartfelt wedding toast, and some hot sexytimes (often in creative places).

There is also no birth control or discussion of birth control in this book, which only struck me as odd because it seems to be the norm these days. There is also a super fun Susan Elizabeth Phillips shout out that has JT reading a bit of one of her books when he switches e-readers with Britt so she can read some Malcom Gladwell. JT is an autodidact, and I loved that he was so dedicated to learning new and different things. By far as sexy as floppy hair and ripped abs.

I also love that both of them are so dedicated to repair and rescue. It is super refreshing to read about a heroine’s pride in a great deal at Walmart in the face of a fancy person like JT’s ex. There’s even a second book in the series already published, which I shall buy directly after finishing this review.

An animated dog looking very excited

Go forth read, it is the perfect sparkling light summer book, adorable and sweet.

Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long received a B+ in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

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