On this side of the world, even though we’ve had some wonky temps and oddball snowstorms here in the US, Spring has sprung! With Spring comes one of my favorite things, strawberries. Yesterday, May 20th was National Pick a Strawberry day, and since we are still staying at home and picking our own strawberries isn’t as easy as it used to be, I decided I’d share a book series to get you in the strawberry mood.
Gena Showalter’s Original Heartbreakers series is set in Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma. A small rural town, full of town gossip, busybodies, some transplanted bad boys and, of course, the constant scent of, you guessed it, strawberries! It seems like a no-brainer to highlight this series after binging on all things strawberry yesterday (and tomorrow and as long as I possibly can!). A series of six books and two novellas, some hit better than others, but all are worth the read. My personal favorite is the first book, The Closer You Come. The first Showalter contemporary I’d ever read, I devoured this book in one day and promptly flipped back to the beginning to start an immediate re-read…twice. In all my years of reading, I can count the number of times I’ve done that on one hand.
Jase Hollister is fresh out of prison, and his two best friends are determined to give him the opportunity for a second chance at life. Jase’s prison stint is predicated on a youthful event surrounded by a dark and twisted past. He was barely an adult, and he’s paid a hefty price. His friends, brothers by choice, Beck, and Lincoln, ended up putting their lives in order and making millions by using their brains, not brawn while Jase did his time. All three men are scarred by that horrific past event (no spoilers here) and welcome the distraction and comfort of small-town Strawberry Valley.
Brook Lynn Dillon is the responsible one in the family, a family that now consists of Brook Lynn and her wild-child sister, Jessie Kay. She does not have time for the distraction of a man like Jase. Keeping her life afloat and her sister out of trouble is more than enough on Brook Lynn’s plate. Brook Lynn is the epitome of “if she didn’t have bad luck she’d have no luck at all,” so even though the chemistry between these two is smoking hot, her resistance to his temptation is strong.
Jase, like his brothers by choice, has a lot of internal demons to slay. All that time in prison has left its mark on him, and acclimating to society has not been easy. A certain hot-blooded, albeit fun-deprived Southern beauty brings out all of his protective and possessive urges, now he just has to convince her that he’s worth the trouble that always seems to follow him.
The Harder You Fall is book #3, and it’s Jessie Kay’s story. Jessie Kay’s character has a ton of growth and development throughout books one and two. She’s now a reformed wild child party girl, and she’s finally doing right by her sister, and frankly, herself. These Dillon girls have been dealt a shitty hand in life, thank goodness they’re finally getting to the good part of life.
Jase’s friend Lincoln lives by strict rules and schedules. His number one rule actually adheres to its own tight timetable, and it revolves around relationships. He allows himself one relationship a year, for no more than two months. I told you these guys have some baggage to work through! The enemies to lovers, hate to love, opposites attract relationship between Lincoln and Jessie Kay had me at its tropey-ist best hello. Of course, the rule follower Lincoln meets his match in rule breaker Jessie Kay but man, it is a hard road, and they don’t call this series the original heartbreakers for nothing!
Can’t Let Go is book number five. It spins away from the three core fellas and gives us Jude Laurent, whom you later met as a secondary character. He’s a former Army Ranger who has suffered so much loss and pain that it’ll break your heart. After being maimed in battle, he returns home to the unimaginable loss of his wife and young daughter to a drunk driver.
Ryanne Wade is the local, beautiful bartender who serves alcohol to potential motorists, so right off the bat, she’s off-limits to Jude. That’s fine by Ryanne since she has long since sworn off men. A rival bar not only threatens her livelihood, but they also end up threatening her life, and Jude rushes into action to protect her. Can his protective streak and his long-buried desire for a second chance at love make him come to terms with the realities of Ryanne working in a field adjacent to the loss that shattered his life? It’s a lot, there are a lot of incredibly broken characters on the pages of Showalter’s Original Heartbreakers series. It delivers angst, frustration, and love and forgiveness in a sometimes gut-wrenching package set in a town that smells like its namesake, Strawberry Valley.