Title: Cream of the Crop
Series: Hudson Valley
Author: Alice Clayton
Publication Date: July 12th, 2016
Shelves: Contemporary; Romance
Format: eBook (336 pages)
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 2 stars
Manhattan’s It Girl, Natalie Grayson, has it all: she’s a hot exec at a leading advertising firm, known industry-wide for her challenging and edgy campaigns. She’s got a large circle of friends, a family that loves her dearly, and her dance card is always full with handsome eligible bachelors. What else could a modern gal-about-town wish for? The answer, of course, is…cheese.
Natalie’s favorite part of each week is spending Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market, where she indulges her love of all things triple cream. Her favorite booth also indulges her love of all things handsome. Oscar Mendoza, owner of the Bailey Falls Creamery and purveyor of the finest artisanal cheeses the Hudson Valley has to offer, is tall, dark, mysterious, and a bit oblivious. Or so she thinks. But that doesn’t stop Natalie from fantasizing about the size of his, ahem, milk can.
Romance is churning, passion is burning, and something incredible is rising to the top. Could it be…love?
Advertising executive Natalie Grayson’s favourite day of the week is Saturday, because that means she can go to the farmer’s market and buy delicious cheeses. Natalie also loves the market because that is where she can get another eyeful of Oscar Mendoza, the guy manning the Bailey Falls Creamery cheese stand. When a marketing project arises in Bailey Falls, Natalie is the first to sign herself up for the job, because not only would this project lead her to her best friend Roxie, but also to Oscar and his cheeses. At first Natalie is uncharacteristically shy around imposing, broody Oscar, but as she spends more time in Bailey Falls, she finds herself falling for her favourite cheese farmer, and the beautiful town he calls home.
Though my review of Nuts was mixed, I was excited to read the next novel in the Hudson Valley series. I made sure to have all my reviews written up before I read this so I didn’t have any interruptions… but as I was reading this, I was actually looking for something to distract me.
Natalie is a great character: out-going, sassy, funny, adventurous. Just really entertaining to read about, and she’s pretty much the saving grace of this novel for me. I liked that she’s a plus-size woman and that she loves her figure and is incredibly desirable and beautiful. She is what made me keep reading, because while I wasn’t much interested in the plot and her relationship with Oscar, I was so invested in this really entertaining, bad-ass character.
Oscar is the brooding, silent type and he works hard on his dairy farm… And I honestly don’t know what else to say about him. There were some questionable things about his character, though. There’s a part late in the novel where he acts like a total dick since he doesn’t like Natalie’s social circle, which seemed really out of character since he was portrayed as being reserved and mellow up until that point. It was also weird to me that Oscar was known within their small town for being so shrouded in mystery, when all it took was a quick Google search for Natalie to find information on his past. I thought that was odd. But overall, I’m struggling to think of things to say, I just didn’t feel much of a connection to this character.
I wasn’t feeling much chemistry between these two characters. They see each other every week at the farmer’s market, then they hook up soon afterwards and have a somewhat casual relationship for a large portion of the novel. I just don’t feel that their relationship (and Oscar’s character) was developed as much as it could and should have been – a similar complaint I had with Nuts. On a happier note, I liked the glimpses into the characters we have already been introduced to in Nuts: Roxie, Leo, Polly, and Chad and Logan. There were many cute moments involving these characters and they added to the entertainment.
As for the plot, I thought it was evident from very early on in the novel how it would play out. From Natalie’s first chapter I knew how this novel was going to end. So the drama in the final quarter of the novel fell pretty flat for me, because the conclusion was incredibly obvious from the first chapter, in addition to me not caring much about Natalie and Oscar’s relationship. Putting it simply, I’m underwhelmed by this novel.
While I loved Natalie, Cream of the Crop felt quite rushed with not much chemistry between the two romantic leads, and I’m kinda disappointed by it.
Would you read this novel again? No. I’m not sure I’ll continue with this series, either.
Who would I recommend this novel to? Clayton fans, people searching for a plus-sized, body-confident female protagonist, NA readers searching for a fun read, foodies (again!)