06 November 2017


Many years ago Roxie Callahan escaped her tiny Hudson Valley town years ago to study at the CIA California. After graduation, she became a private chef and, after years of hard work, has become modestly successful. No need to ever go back to suffocatingly twee Bailey Falls, right?

But then Roxie abruptly finds herself jobless and very short on cash. When her mother calls up, asking Roxie to take care of the family diner for her while she goes off on a grand adventure, Roxie really has no choice but to go home. Happily, Bailey Falls is not without its charms ... not least of which is hot organic farmer (very rich in old New York money, btw) Leo Maxwell.

I really enjoyed Nuts. From beginning to end, it is a lighthearted romp set in a sweet fantasy confection of a small New England town. Roxie and Leo's romance is consistently hot and fun -- they clearly genuinely like each other from the get-go and take enjoyment in each other's company as much outside of the bedroom as in it. There are a few dramatic moments toward the end, when a "secret" Leo has been keeping is revealed, but it is handled in a realistic, adult way that makes sense for the characters and the story. I liked that Clayton did not give Roxie and Leo a Happy Ever After, but a Happy Enough Right Now. A HEA would have felt unconvincing, moving their story ahead too fast. I loved that Roxie retained her autonomy and space while still being clearly and completely entangled with Leo.

The large supporting cast of characters was well fleshed out and entertaining. I did, however, wonder where the other queer folk were (Chad Bowman and Logan, while extremely charming, felt like tokens) and whether Bailey Falls had any non-white people, but I always wonder that. There was lots of talk about food and loving descriptions of cooking, which left me famished -- as did the ohmygodsohot sex.

If you enjoy cooking (or just reading about cooking) and have ever fantasized about living in an idealized Smalltown USA, nibbling luscious local produce whilst being rigorously seen to by a hot farmer, Nuts is for you. It certainly felt like it was written for me, anyway. I've read a lot of romance and erotica, but never before something that came so near to ticking all the boxes.

Nuts is the first book in Clayton's Hudson Valley Series, of which there are currently three. I certainly look forward to reading the next book, Cream of the Crop, featuring one of Roxie's BFFs and the beautiful dairy farmer next door.

Nuts by Alice Clayton (Simon & Schuster, 2015)

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