Monday, January 18, 2016

Unwrapping a Review of TUCKER, a Family Simon novel by Juliana Stone

I’ve been a fan of Juliana Stone since first reading her paranormal series, Jaguar Warriors and League of Guardians. When she turned to writing contemporary romance with the Barker Triplets, I was hesitant but she blew me out of the water with extraordinary characters and the most memorable book boyfriend ever in Shane Gallagher. I started to read her Bad Boys from Crystal Lake series but wasn’t too thrilled. I thought maybe she’d burned out after the exceptional writing she’d done with the Barker Triplets, but I don’t think so…

***copy purchased for my personal reading, but sharing an honest and unscripted review.

Blurb for TUCKER:

When all hope is gone, can love still find a way?

Tucker Simon has given up on love. After a tragedy, it’s just not in the cards for him, and he wishes his family would get off his back. He’s fine—or at least he thought he was–until a family wedding forces him to address a few things, namely his date, Abby Mathews. She’s been put in the ‘friend’ category, mostly because she deserves so much more than what he can give. But the more time that he spends with her, Tucker begins to think that maybe there is a chance for love after all…

Abby Mathews has been in love with Tucker Simon since he walked into her family’s bar nearly a year ago. But he’s got baggage and heartache a plenty. His one-night-stands aren't going to lessen that no matter what he thinks. Tucker needs a friend, but Abby wants to give him more, and as they navigate their way through a weekend in Florida, their attraction can’t be ignored. Abby has to make a choice. Does she cherish their friendship and take what she can get? Or does she go after what she really wants, which is Tucker’s heart… 

~*~            ~*~            ~*~             ~*~

We first met Tucker Simon through his older brother, when Beau was falling hard and fast for Betty Jo Barker in CONCEAL…if you haven’t read it…do! I knew then that Tucker was going to be a hard case when it came to love but I didn’t realize just how hard he was going to be about it, or how hard he was going to fall.

Tucker has loved and lost…his wife, Marley, was the one who had his heart only she’d gone missing when her plane went down on a wildlife rescue mission. Tucker was not about to suffer through anything like that again so he finds it easier to play the playboy…don’t get too attached and you have less to lose. His family isn’t going to let it go so easily though, especially his mom. His family wants to see him happy and in love but he knows that kind of love can never happen twice…or can it?

Abby Mathews has been in love with Tucker for as long as she can remember. She’s watched him with his one night girlfriends when he comes in but when he sits to talk over his beer, it’s to her…she’s the bartender at her family’s bar so she knows what’s what. When he comes in one particular evening looking rather down in the mouth, she inquires why. It seems he’s been invited to his cousin’s wedding and is not looking forward to the usual scrutiny, which will surely descend upon him, amidst the love and marriage effects of the wedding. She suggests he take her…as a friend. At first, he’s hesitant but then he reconsiders, after all Abby is much better company than any paid escort he had fleetingly considered. The question was…could they convince the family?

TUCKER is a story filled with angst on the part of Tucker…too much perhaps. His longing for Marley left me a bit on edge thinking any minute she was going to return since she'd never been legally declared dead, and throw a wrench in the works for Abby and I truly wanted Tucker to be with Abby. I wanted Tucker to be happy and Abby was the gal to do it for him. She is strong-willed yet patient, playful and teasing yet only uses it for good rather than evil. At times, some of the things she said struck me weird…such as referring to a certain body part as a thingy…she’s a grown woman, not a middle schooler. But overall, she was probably my favorite character in the book. I felt for her too often though while she waited for Tucker to get his head out of his you know where and realize it.

As much as I loved the Barker Triplet series, and expected as much from this spin-off as from that series, I wasn’t completely disappointed but I wasn’t as satisfied either. Juliana has always been great at creating her secondary characters but aside from Abby, I felt the secondary creations carried too much space in TUCKER. Too much information. It should have been more about Tucker and Abby. The editor in me wanted to revamp the story, build on Tucker opening his heart again with a bit more eagerness while cherishing his memories of Marley. It takes him a long time to admit even to himself that he has an attraction to Abby he can’t deny, and that wasn’t what I expected of Tucker. Abby wants more and if she hadn’t been so determined to win his heart, I think Tucker would’ve forever kept her in the friend zone

I also had to make the editor in me also had to shut up so I could finish reading because she kept pointing out the errors to me...a bit too much telling rather than showing...just saying. Sometimes, I just skim over those kinds of things and go for the gold…the love story, but it was a little harder to do with this one. The HEA was worth it tough.

It has some problems, it could’ve been better but I still think TUCKER by Juliana Stone is worth reading. The Simon family is complicated and as dysfunctional as any healthy family is in today’s world but Tucker’s banter with his family is always exceptional. Abby adds to it so wonderfully that she makes the book! I do have to agree with the perfect tagline for this book because it truly sums it up—Love will find a way…

Happy Reading Everyone!

TUCKER, a Family Simon novel by Juliana Stone, indie pub, available in print and ebook formats at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobobooks.

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