(Image from Barnes & Noble)
Once upon a time, my husband and I took a very last-minute flight from Phoenix to New Orleans. Since neither of us had ever been to Louisiana, we planned to do a little sight-seeing when we arrived. Didn't happen. As soon as we landed, we got a call from the paralegal who worked for our adoption lawyer, telling us we could pick up our new baby a day earlier than planned. Needless to say, we high-tailed it to Baton Rouge. We flew out of tourist mode straight into the parents-of-a-newborn frenzy. By the time we flew out of the state, we'd seen little of Louisiana except for hospital and hotel rooms. Although I was ecstatic about our new baby girl, I was a little disappointed that we hadn't gotten to experience any of her birth area's colorful culture.
Reading about a place can never match experiencing a place, but after sinking into Southern Charmed by Melanie Jacobson, I feel like I've spent a week being romanced by my daughter's hometown, with all its many enchantments. Although there is plenty to love about Jacobson's newest, it's the setting that makes it stand out. A native of Baton Rouge, the author has penned a passionate and persuasive love letter to the city of her birth. And it's lovely.
The story revolves around Lila Mae Guidry, a 24-year-old high school teacher who loves her life in Baton Rouge. Although eligible LDS men of a certain age are a rare species in the city, she's prepared to remain single forever if that's what it takes to avoid yanking up her deep, deep Louisiana roots. What Lila's not prepared for is the return of Max Archer, the boy who humiliated her at her first Stake dance. At 26, her teenage tormentor is smart, successful, and full of the good graces he lacked as a kid. Not everything about him has changed, though—Max still thinks Baton Rouge is a redneck, backwater town where he would never consider settling on any kind of permanent basis. Lila can forgive him for most things, but not for that. Trouble is, she's falling for him. Hard. When push comes to shove, can she abandon the city she adores for the man she loves? Or will her Louisiana-love be the thing that tears the couple apart forever?
Although Southern Charmed is a light, breezy romance like this author's previous novels, it has more depth than the others. Take Lila, for instance—she's a typical Jacobson heroine, but the fact that she cares so much about both her underprivileged students and her mother's grief makes her infinitely more likable than her successors. Her story is fuller than theirs as well, giving it more substance. Add in the vibrant, Technicolor setting and I think it's safe to say that Jacobson has upped her game in a most satisfying way. Like its predecessors, Southern Charmed sparkles with warmth, romance, and the witty banter that Mel does so well. The ending is predictable, even cheesy, and yet I found myself sniffling and applauding at the same time. All the feels, I'm telling you, all the feels. I've always liked Melanie Jacobson, but Southern Charmed is her best yet. I adored it, y'all.
(Readalikes: Reminds me of Until Summer Ends by Elana Johnson; also of other novels by Melanie Jacobson, including The List; Twitterpated; Second Chances; Not My Type; Smart Move; Always Will; and Painting Kisses)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for very mild sexual innuendo
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Southern Charmed from the generous folks at Covenant in exchange for participating in the book's blog tour. Thank you!
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