This is an interesting series. It has romance, that’s for sure, however it also has humour, shows the power of friendship and throws in a healthy dose of mystery as well.
Beth Albright, in her previous life, was an actress on “Days of Our Lives” (a show that took up many a lunchbreak of mine at university). However, based on the strength of these three books, she has a very bright future ahead of her in the world of romance fiction.
The series opener is The Sassy Belles:
There are only two seasons in Tuscaloosa-football and waiting-for-football. When Lewis Heart, football announcer and voice of the Crimson Tide, vanishes after an impromptu romp with Vivi Ann McFadden at the Fountain Mist Motel, Vivi does what any Southern woman would do: call her best friend, Blake O’Hara Heart, attorney-at-law.
With the town gossip swirling around them, Vivi and Blake are determined to find out what happened to Lewis and clear Vivi’s reputation. Because after all, men may come and go, but the Sassy Belles are forever.
Those who know me will tell you that I love books set in this part of the world. The southern states were the one part of the USA I am kicking myself I didn’t get to while I was travelling. There is just something about the whole Southern thing that I can’t quite put my finger on, but I can’t wait to discover for myself.
The Sassy Belles has that special Southern charm – it’s funny, heartwarming, even heartbreaking and oh so colourful.
Blake O’Hara Heart is trying to work out the best way to tell her husband Harry that she wants out of their marriage. But fate – and her best friend Vivi McFadden – has other plans. Vivi calls in the middle of the night, frantic that she has killed her lover – and Blake’s brother-in-law – Lewis during sexytimes at a motel. It turns out when the police rock up to investigate, Lewis is not dead but he is missing. The lead investigator in this case? Blake’s former teenage sweetheart, Sonny – and he’s never stopped loving her.
From this point onwards, things get REALLY interesting. I’m not going to reveal what happens – but trust me, you’ll love it!
I love these characters. Blake is the sort of friend you want on your team always – she’s smart and funny and loyal. She wants to do right by everyone, which is a quality I adore. Vivi’s passion for life is infectious, and you cannot help but like her. You can see that there is a good guy somewhere there in Harry, but he does do some stupid too. Sonny is such a peach, and sounds pretty cute to boot. Oh, and what you learn of Lewis makes for a fascinating character.
I really appreciated how Beth Albright handled the Blake-Sonny-Harry triangle. Potentially cheaty (which is not my cup o’ tea), it was handled very sweetly and with a real sensitivity.
This is such a fun read and it just makes me want to dive right into the world of The Sassy Belles. A visit to Tuscaloosa is on my list of travel do’s now.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Release Date: 28 May 2013
We come back for seconds with Wedding Belles:
Seven months pregnant and head over heels in love, Vivi Ann McFadden is busy pulling together the final details for her wedding to Lewis Heart, famous play-by-play announcer for the Crimson Tide. But with two wedding-planners-gone-wild, a psychic giving her advice, and the ceremony happening on the same day as the wildly popular Crimson Tide kickoff game, chaos reigns supreme. Luckily, maid of honor Blake O’Hara Heart is on the job. She’ll tackle this wedding if it’s the last thing she does!
But not everyone is cheering for the happy couple. News of the upcoming nuptials has brought Lewis’s old flame back to Tuscaloosa-and she’s got a secret that could mean the end of Lewis’s marriage…before it even begins.
Lewis is back, and he and Vivi are having a baby and getting married. Or so they think. The little matter of Lewis having previously been married and that marriage still being valid may just throw a spanner in the works. Once again, Blake jumps in to help her friend.
The wedding, like all things Vivi, is going to be balls-to-the-wall extravagant. With two crazy pseudo-French wedding planners, the opening game of the Crimson Tide’s season, an impending birth and that pesky not-ex-yet wife, getting these two to the altar will not be easy.
But then again, it wouldn’t be a visit to our friends in Tuscaloosa without a little drama now, would it?
We also get to see a little more of Blake’s budding romance with hot cop Sonny as well. She’s still trying to extricate herself from the marriage with Harry, however they are waiting until Harry’s senatorial campaign is over to end things officially. It’s definitely not easy, trying to navigate both halves of her life while trying to dodge the snooping of Dallas Dubois, the much-married reporter who happens to be her teenage enemy.
Lots of big stuff comes up in this book towards the end, particularly in reference to Dallas. It will be very interesting to see how Ms Albright twists Dallas into a sympathetic heroine in the next title, Sleigh Belles.
With twists and turns, and craziness aplenty, Wedding Belles picks up where its predecessor finishes and keeps running with the fun. These people would just be the best fun to spend some time with.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Release Date: 30 July 2013
The third in the series is Sleigh Belles:
With her hair perfectly coiffed, nails freshly manicured and a heavy trail of perfume wafting behind her, local news reporter Dallas Dubois is sure she’s about to kick her career—and maybe her love life—into high gear. The director of the Tuscaloosa children’s Christmas play has fallen ill, and Dallas is ordered by her station manager to take the reins. Everyone is shocked—especially Cal Hollingsworth, who still remembers her as the Ice Queen from high school.
If nothing else, Dallas has never met a challenge that a little lip gloss and a Chanel knockoff couldn’t fix. But she has no idea how to relate to these kids, and their brutal honesty is giving her pause. Things are made even more complicated by the butterflies she gets whenever Cal is near….
But when long-lost family members reenter her life, Dallas’s icy veneer begins to melt. And with Cal by her side, she soon realizes that it’s what’s under all the hair spray that counts.
Now I wasn’t quite sure how I would be able to take Dallas as a heroine. In the first two books, there are moments where you just want to pull her aside and say “Love, pull your head in – you’re not really doing yourself any favours!”. Blake’s teenage rival in everything, Dallas hasn’t really come across that well before.
Oh, how I do love a good redemption story! We learn that life hasn’t always been so kind to Dallas. Estrangement from her mother and brother since her teens has led Dallas to become the highly driven and sometimes snarky person that she has. Finding out her back story definitely helped me to understand why she did some of the stuff she did.
I think out of the three books, there is a stronger focus on the actual couple. Cal is the best friend of Sonny, Blake’s man, and Dallas sure had the hots for him back in the day. When they are thrown together again with the Christmas pageant, old feelings rise to the surface and past impressions are blown away. Cal’s a bit of a sweetheart too! His belief in Dallas was just gorgeous!
Once again, a big strength in this story are the friendships. I loved seeing Dallas being able to finally have real friendships and the closeness with Blake and Vivi that she would never have thought to before.
I really hope this is not the end of my trips to Tuscaloosa. I have so enjoyed my time with these books. However, if this must be the end, Sleigh Belles sure was a good way to go out!
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Release Date: 24 September 2013
Note: I was provided with advanced reader copies of these three books by Harlequin via NetGalley in return for an honest review.