Cream of the Crop (Hudson Valley #2) by Alice Clayton #mf #review @alice_clayton


Cream of the Crop

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?

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I wish I could have read Cream of the Crop two decades ago because I think I would have benefited from seeing Natalie’s confidence in her size 18 body. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn to embrace my curves until my early 30s and it really is eye-opening to see how different the world treats you when you carry yourself with confidence. Now I just need to find my very own Oscar – all six foot six inches of muscled farmer with tattoos and a healthy appreciation for a great big a—hem derriere.

 

Natalie is an advertising executive who, based on the pitch she gives in the first chapter, is good at developing unique and successful marketing campaigns. Even though she’s been focusing on larger accounts in order to make a name for herself with the firm with the goal of making partner, she jumps at the chance to develop the tourism campaign for Bailey Falls. Why? Well, one of her best friends, Roxie, now lives there and it would be good for Roxie’s business and give Natalie a chance to see her friend more often. But the real reason is a certain dairy farmer who produces some of the best cheeses (Natalie’s addiction) she’s ever eaten. He’s also the first man in years whose mere presence renders her practically speechless (hehe hehe). Thankfully she overcomes her timidity after Roxie sets Natalie up to officially meet Oscar. Mind you, it was a hilarious meeting followed by an even funnier example of the importance of commas, but once the ice was broken, they freaking melted it with the heat they were generating. Being a confident, independent woman means that Natalie has no qualms about engaging in a short term affair with Oscar, and as she spends time with him, she wants more time with him, but can the city girl and farm boy have a real future together, especially living ninety minutes apart?

 

Natalie totally gives Grace Sheridan a run for the money when it comes to my favorite Clayton heroine. She’s funny, she’s real, she goes for what she wants, she works what the good lord gave her, and she is not afraid to say what she means. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have moments of insecurity, because does – she’s a woman after all. But she exudes confidence without being arrogant or uppity, and because of it, she seems to draw people to her. Yet we learn through her conversation with Chad and Logan that during her senior year in high school, she took a rather brutal hit to her confidence that nearly crushed her. I was devastated for her when I read that scene and it made the woman she became all that more impressive. Watching the relationship between her and Oscar develop was entertaining, amusing, and scorching, as long as they were in Bailey Falls, that is. While Natalie did okay with country life on the weekends, Oscar did not do well with city life, not even for an evening. That was a painful evening to watch play out, especially once it became clear that Natalie wasn’t going to budge and why. I’m just glad that Natalie was smart enough to listen to her mother’s advice and take the necessary steps to put her world back to rights. I loved how the ending of Cream of the Crop played out and am really excited for the next book in the series, because not only am I looking forward to seeing Clara butt heads with Archie, but I’m hoping for updates on Natalie & Oscar and Roxie & Leo.

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