Jenna and Ryder are far from friends—until a storm stirs up their passion in this contemporary southern romance from New York Times bestselling author Kristi Cook.
In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, The Cafferty and Marsden families are practically royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when the families finally have a baby boy and girl at the same time, the perfect opportunity seems to have arrived.
Except Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen—oh, and also? They hate each other. Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would prefer it if stubborn-headed Jemma didn’t exist. And their communication is not exactly effective: even a casual hello turns into a yelling match.
But when a violent Mississippi storm ravages through Magnolia Branch, it unearths feelings Jemma and Ryder didn’t know they had. And the line between love and hate just might be thin enough to cross…
About the Author
Kristi Cook also publishes adult titles under the names Kristina Cook and Kristi Astor. Her YA novels include Haven, Mirage, Eternal, and Magnolia. Kristi lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. Visit her at Kristi-Cook.com.
Read an Excerpt
Glancing out my window, I hold up my finger and thumb, creating a little frame around Ryder Marsden, who stands outside on the lawn below. I close one eye to get the illusion just right and then pretend to squash him.
I let the curtains fall back against the glass, effectively blocking the view of my nemesis standing there beneath the twinkle lights, looking way too hot in his charcoal-colored suit. It would be so much easier to hate him if he didn’t look so good. And I want to hate him; I really do.
You know those tragic stories where two kids from feuding families fall in love? Okay, flip that inside out and turn it on its head and you’ve got our story, Ryder’s and mine.
It all began like this: On April 6, 1862, at the Battle of Shiloh, Captain Jeremiah D. Marsden—that’s Ryder’s ancestor—took a minié ball in the left kneecap. Corporal Lewiston G. Cafferty—that’s mine—picked up Captain Marsden and carried him off the field of battle to safety.
On his back. More than a mile. Barefoot.
At least, that’s how the story goes. Frankly, I’m a little skeptical, but whatever. The point is, the Marsdens and the Caffertys have been like this ever since.
And when I say like this, I’m talking complete and utter familial devotion. Our families’ lives are so intertwined it’s sometimes hard to remember who belongs where and with whom. We do everything together—church, backyard barbeques, even vacations. One of my favorite stories is about the time my uncle Don was somehow left behind with the Marsdens after a trip to the coast and no one noticed for two weeks. Seriously.
The Marsdens and the Caffertys play out their drama right here in Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, population 2,190. This little slice of heaven boasts one traffic light, six churches, a library, and a picturesque town square. The only nod to civilization is a Ward’s just off the highway, and you wouldn’t believe how hard some of the locals fought it when they first proposed it, back before I was born.
If you’re wondering what it’s like to grow up here, just consider this—there are six choices when it comes to places of worship, but only one when it comes to fast food (the aforementioned Ward’s). Need I say more? By the way, if you want to see some real Shakespearean-style feuding, look no farther than First Methodist and Cavalry Baptist—they’ve been going at it for years.
Truth be told, not much has changed here in Magnolia Branch since the war—and when anyone around here says “the war,” they mean the Civil War. Yeah, a hundred and fifty years and several other wars later.
The Marsdens still live at Magnolia Landing, an old, antebellum-era plantation house on two-hundred-plus acres down by Flint Creek. It looks just like you’d imagine—pristine white and perfectly symmetrical, with huge columns and a half-mile-long drive shaded by a canopy of ancient oaks dripping Spanish moss.
And we Caffertys still live just down the road in a house that once served as Magnolia Landing’s overseer’s cottage. The house has been added on to several times throughout the years, giving it a haphazard, rambling look. Even so, I think it’s perfect—whitewashed brick and clapboard with wide plank floors and sleeping porches. Unlike Magnolia Landing, our house looks comfortable and lived in. Visiting the Marsdens is like visiting a museum—and really, who wants to live in a museum?
Anyway, our families have been desperate to unite through matrimonial bliss for as long as anyone can remember. But as fate would have it, they were always out of sync. Or totally in sync, depending on how you look at it. Either way, in all these years, there hasn’t been a single eligible male-female pair who could get the job done.
Until Ryder and me, that is.
We were born exactly six weeks apart, a perfect match, agewise. You can imagine what it’s been like since our mothers first plopped us into a crib together, rubbing their hands in conspiratorial glee as they planned our wedding. Playdates followed where the adults smiled and cooed as they watched us dig in the sandbox, where Ryder tugging on my pigtails was a sure sign of his adoration, where me throwing sand in his face only proved my devotion.
Star-crossed love? Ha! Not even close. Mostly, I try to avoid him whenever possible. I’m not sure how I’m going to accomplish that tonight, though.
Because tonight is the annual Magnolia Branch Historical Society Gala. Think huge, formal party where the who’s who of Magnolia Branch gather to rub shoulders and gossip while they sip champagne and eat fancy food. My mom is this year’s chair and hostess, which means I have to smile and make nice and mingle with the guests. And yes, Ryder Marsden is one of the guests.
“Ugh,” I groan, peering out the window at the growing crowd. The party is in full swing out on the lawn, and I’m sure my mom is wondering where I am. Reluctantly, I leave behind the comfortable cocoon of my bedroom and hurry down the stairs and through the front hall. Smoothing down my pale blue dress with damp palms, I step out onto the front porch and take a deep, calming breath.
The first thing I notice is the oppressive heat. It must be close to ninety degrees, the air warm and heavy even though the sun set a half hour ago. The full moon has risen over the horizon, casting a silvery glow on the scene before me. The effect is magical, and I shiver despite the heat.
The yard has been completely transformed, every tree wrapped with bright twinkle lights, colorful paper lanterns strung between them. There’s a wooden dance floor out in the middle of the lawn, the band set just behind it. The strings are playing something slow and pretty while the rest of the musicians ready their instruments.
My mom has set up the buffet beneath the tallest, broadest magnolia tree, long tables filled with silver chafing dishes and manned by servers wearing crisp white aprons. She’s rented real china dishes for tonight—I’d helped her pick out the pattern, plain ivory with a bamboolike border.
Round tables are grouped around the dance floor, all draped in cream linens. Each table is lit by an ivory pillar candle in a hurricane vase, colorful hydrangeas arranged artfully around the base. It’s beautiful, all of it.
I search for my mom and find her standing beside the buffet with Laura Grace Marsden, Ryder’s mom. They are BFFs, of course—sorority sisters at Ole Miss, mutual maids of honor. Mama spies me and waves, gesturing for me to join them.
“Jemma!” Laura Grace calls out as I make my way toward them, my silver flats silent on the thick grass. “You look like a princess, honey. Come here and give me some sugar.”
I hurry to her side and allow her to wrap me in a Shalimar-scented hug. “You like the dress?” I ask her.
She grasps my shoulders and eyes me at arm’s length, her gaze scanning me from head to toe. “It’s gorgeous! Vintage?”
Grinning, I nod. “From 1960-something. Lucy helped me fix it up.”
We’d had to cut away most of the ratty blue tulle and replace the skirt, along with adding a new zipper. But the original satin bodice was intact, and it’s beyond gorgeous.
Laura Grace touches one of the pale pink rosettes at my hip. “You and Lucy should go into business together. Folks’d pay a fortune for a dress like this.”
Mama smiles archly. “I told you so.”
I ignore that. “Have you seen Morgan and Lucy?”
She points to her left. “Down by the creek with the boys. If you find Daddy, send him over here, okay? I think that strand of lights is coming loose.” She glances up at the twinkling limb overhead.
“Sure,” I say, though the lights in question look fine to me. Good thing, since my dad is a doctor, not an electrician, as he likes to say. Apparently, it’s a Star Trek thing.
And by “doctor” he means the PhD kind—he’s a physics professor over at the university.
“Oh, and, Jemma?” Laura Grace offers me a dazzling smile. “You make sure to save a dance for my son.”
I can’t help but roll my eyes. Yeah, as if that’s going to happen.
As I set off to find my friends I actually hear the two of them giggling behind me.
Unbelievable. What are they, twelve?
As I round the dance floor I spot my dad over by the bar. “Hey,” I call out, hooking a thumb in my mom’s direction. “You’re wanted over by the buffet. Something about loose lights.”
He picks up his drink with a sigh. “On my way.”
I hurry my pace, eager to find my friends. The moon illuminates the sandy, moss-strewn path that leads down to the creek, but I could easily find my way in the dark. I love to come down here at night and listen to the symphony of sounds—frogs croaking, katydids singing, owls hooting. The Mississippi Moonlight Sonata, as I like to call it.
When my sister, Nan, and I were kids, we would sneak down here on hot summer nights. We’d hike up our nightgowns and wade in the shallows to cool off and then lie down on the hard, scratchy picnic tables, staring up at the sky.
I miss my sister. None of us could understand why she chose Southern Miss—a good four-hour drive from home—when she could’ve gone to school in Oxford. But that’s Nan, always unpredictable, always rebelling against my parents’ expectations.
Not like me.
I can’t help but sigh as I follow the path down the slope and around the bend to the sandy clearing on the edge of the flat, black water.
“Fashionably late, as always,” Morgan calls out in greeting, her body a dark silhouette against the night sky. She’s perched on one of the picnic tables, her strappy-sandaled feet resting on the bench below.
“Hey, I’ve got a rep to uphold,” I shoot back. “Wouldn’t want to disappoint my fans. What are y’all doing down here?”
“The guys are sneaking in a case of beer. By boat,” she adds with a grin. “Me, I’m just watching.”
I can just make out a handful of boys down by the water’s edge, hauling in a sleek canoe.
“Very clever,” I say. “Let me guess—Mason’s idea?”
“Probably.” Morgan unfolds her long legs and steps gracefully down to the ground, coming around the table to stand beside me.
“You look great!” I say, taking in her simple pink silk sheath dress. Her pale blond hair is twisted into a knot at the back of her head, and a strand of creamy pearls encircles her throat. Morgan is the reigning Miss Teen Lafayette County, and she looks every bit the part tonight.
Her mouth curves into a pageant-perfected smile. “You look great too. Love the dress.”
“What, this ol’ thing?” I quip.
“No camera? I figured you’d be filming the party for sure.”
I carry my video camera with me everywhere. It’s a hobby of mine. I like to make movies. And, okay . . . I’d love to go to film school next year, but that’s a whole nother story. “Mama made me promise to leave it in my room tonight—said it would make the guests feel uncomfortable or something,” I say with a shrug. “Where’s Lucy, by the way?”
“I sent her off to find you ten minutes ago. She must have gotten lost.” She shifts her gaze to the spot just above my left shoulder. “Wait, here she comes.”
I swat at a mosquito as I turn to watch Lucy make her way toward us with a murderous scowl on her face. “I just got stuck talking to Mr. Donaldson for, like, fifteen minutes,” she calls out. “I’m all hoarse now. Where the hell were you?”
Mr. Donaldson is our AP European History teacher. He’s starting to go deaf in one ear but refuses to acknowledge it, so you have to yell at him. Loudly.
“We must have crossed paths or something,” I say with a shrug.
“So, what do you think?” Lucy strikes a runway pose, right down to the purposefully blank expression. The white halter neckline sets off her dark, bronze-brown skin, the easy drape of fabric highlighting her curves. She’s had her hair relaxed, and soft, glamorous-looking waves fall just past her shoulders.
“Perfect,” I reply. “As always.” She looks sophisticated, far beyond her seventeen years.
The boys have reached the picnic tables now, hooting triumphantly as they pass around the contraband cans of Schaefer Light.
“Y’all better take it easy,” I call out. “No ruining Mama’s party, okay?”
A grinning Ben salutes me with his beer. “Yes’m.”
Ben is Ryder’s cousin—second cousin, to be specific—and one of his best friends, even though they couldn’t be any more different. Ben is sweet, thoughtful. Kind.
Whereas Ryder, well . . . I’ll tell you about Ryder. He’s the star quarterback of our Division 1A state-championship football team. Top student in our class, and he doesn’t even have to work at it. He plays the piano like some kind of freaking prodigy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he composed sonatas or something in his spare time.
Oh, and did I mention that he’s gorgeous? Of course he is. Six foot four, two hundred ten pounds of swoon-worthy good looks. Spiky dark hair, chocolate brown eyes, and full-on dimples.
And his future? Right now half the SEC is courting him hard, and the other half is wishing they were. It’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll play for Ole Miss—Mississippi’s golden boy, kept right here at home.
Ryder brushes past me and my friends as if we don’t exist, unworthy of his notice, as he follows Ben and the rest of the guys—Mason, Tanner, and Patrick—to the picnic table behind us.
Tonight, the guys are wearing the standard dress uniform of khakis with a white oxford-cloth shirt and colorful tie. Their jackets—navy blue, of course—have long since been discarded, their ties loosened and hanging untidily against their shirtfronts.
Only Ryder, discordant in his charcoal suit and French-blue tie, remains jacketed and fully buttoned up, not even appearing to break a sweat despite the oppressive heat. He’s also the only one without a beer, I notice.
That doesn’t mean he’s quiet, though. They’re loud and raucous, all of them, shouting and cursing at each other as they discuss—what else?—football.
“You’ve gotta see this dude’s arm to believe it,” Tanner is saying. “I’m talking perfect spiral.” He mimes a throw.
“So? You need receivers who don’t suck ass for it to make any difference.” Mason tips back his beer and downs nearly half its contents in a single, long gulp. Mason is Ryder’s other best friend. He also happens to be Morgan’s twin brother. Back in elementary school, he wore his hair so long that people often mistook them for identical twin girls—a little factoid I like to revisit whenever he gets too annoying, which is often. He can be a jerk sometimes—hot-tempered and a little crude.
“Let’s see if you’re still singing the same song in two weeks, after we kick your sorry asses,” Tanner says sourly.
“Just thinking it ain’t gonna make it so, bro. Where’d you say this kid transferred from? Holy Cross?” Mason shakes his head, chuckling. “Yeah, I’m not worried. You worried, Ryder?”
All the guys’ heads swivel toward Ryder. He tosses the football he’s holding into the air and catches it. “Nope,” he says with a cocky grin.
“Maybe you should be.” Tanner is glaring now, his arms folded across his scrawny chest. Tanner is my cousin, on my mom’s side. He goes to West Lafayette High, our big football rival. It’s some kind of weird districting thing, because he went to elementary and middle school with us. He probably could’ve applied for a waiver or something, but he didn’t. Mason claims it’s because Tanner knew he wasn’t good enough to play ball for Magnolia Branch, and who knows? Maybe he’s right. Either way, things have a habit of getting pretty heated whenever he’s around nowadays.
“Hey, did y’all catch the Alabama-LSU game this afternoon?” Ben asks, obviously trying to defuse the situation.
“They’re such morons,” Lucy mutters as the boys’ conversation steers toward more neutral ground.
Morgan nods. “Mason brought his shotgun, by the way. In the boat with the beer. They’ll probably go off and shoot stuff before the night is over.”
“So long as Jemma doesn’t go with them.” Lucy directs a stern glare in my direction.
Because I’m the best shot in all of Magnolia Branch—an indisputable fact. I’ve got trophies to show for it. Not that I would ever shoot a living thing—it’s just targets and skeet for me, thank you very much. But yeah, Mama taught me to sew, Daddy to shoot. That’s the way we roll here in Magnolia Branch.
“Not in this dress and not with boys who’ve been drinking,” I say, stealing a glance over my shoulder at the boys in question.
At that exact moment, Patrick turns toward me and our gazes collide. He smiles at me—a goofy, mischievous grin.
Inexplicably, my stomach flutters in response. I swallow hard, my pulse racing.
If there’s one thing I know about Patrick Hughes, it’s that he’s trouble. Big trouble. The Hugheses are old money—and I mean way old money—and Patrick is their little prince. Like Mason, he’s prone to having too good of a time, as evidenced by not one but two DUIs in the past year alone. Lucky for him, his daddy’s a lawyer, a partner at Marsden, Hughes & Fogarty, along with Ryder’s dad.
Nope, my parents would definitely not approve, despite his wealth and pedigree.
Who knows? Maybe that’s why I smile back.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. “Magnolia” is the most adorable book I’ve read this year! When I finished, I was giggling like a kindergartener, and I had a huge grin on my face. Love/hate relationships are always fun, and Kristi Cook did a phenomenal job with this one. Everyone who has experienced being a teenager knows that it’s almost instinct to rebel when his/her parents try to control everything. Naturally, when Jemma and Ryder’s practically arrange their marriage, they use every opportunity to show how much they hate each other. On top of that, the former childhood best friends drifted apart in eighth grade because of a misunderstanding — or, depending on how you look at it, a case of classic middle school boy stupidity — and both of them are too damn stubborn to talk things out. They’re so infuriating (in the best way possible). The initial tension, the instinct to protect each other, the memories of a friendship long gone (or so they thought): it all contributed to the absolutely perfect chemistry, the so-sweet-it’ll-sweep-you-off-your-feet romance. I loved seeing them grow closer throughout the story. When two people are stuck together during a hurricane almost as bad as Katrina, they’re bound to talk at some point. They both stand as wonderful individual characters, not just as a couple. Jemma is a strong, passionate female character (who also knows how to handle a gun), but she also maintains a certain naivety. It wasn’t hard for me to empathize with her. And then there’s Ryder (*swoon*), gorgeous, athletic, musically gifted and smart. Plus, he’s got a noble streak. But he’s not as perfect as he seems. Like Jemma, he’s always shouldering the weight of his parents’ expectations. “Magnolia” also has a wonderful moral tucked within its fluffy, romance-filled pages. At the end of the story, both Jemma and Ryder learn to push past their parents’ expectations and live life their way. They realize that, in the end, it’s about what they want, whether it’s pursuing a relationship or picking a major. I really enjoyed the family dynamic in “Magnolia.” I’ve experienced the weight of parental expectations all my life, so I empathized with Jemma and Ryder. I also know what it’s like to be a major daddy’s girl; I couldn’t stop smiling during the daddy-daughter bonding moments. I also enjoyed seeing Jemma and her sister bond; there was a lot of teasing and confiding. I wasn’t a fan of Patrick, the guy that Jemma starts dating at the beginning of the book. Honestly, Jemma wasn’t really into him either. I don’t really think his relationship with Jemma is necessary for the plot development, especially not a particular event near the end of the book. Bottom Line “Magnolia” is a wonderful summer romance. It’s as fluffy and sweet as cotton candy. I challenge you not to grin like an idiot or giggle like you’re five when you read it. Jemma and Ryder are both wonderful characters that fit together perfectly. The anti-Romeo-and-Juliet element is well done, and the theme sneaks its way into every aspect of the book (There’s a balcony scene!). The book is even divided into acts and scenes. The theme of parental expectations and making your own decisions is seamlessly blended into the romance plot. I found part of the plot unnecessary, but it certainly didn’t ruin my reading experience.
I was given an advance reader copy and asked to give an honest review. From the beginning I couldn't put it down. Not many books I can honestly say that about. I read this in ONE day. Which for me is no easy feat. I have two kids and a dog and a husband. For me to sit and read pretty much doesn't happen in long increments. Anyway this is basically the story about two teenagers whose families want nothing more then for them to fall in love, get married and unite their families in matrimony. The teenagers however are not inclined to feel the same way. Family things happen and basically the two teenagers are left to weather a storm (an actual storm we are talking Hurricane) together where feelings begin to bubble to the surface and romance pretty much blossoms. Without giving anything else away I will stop there. This is my first book by this author. And I can say with all honesty I will be seeking out other titles.
A sweet YA romance about a boy and a girl who were in denial about about wanting to be together, Magnolia was a lovely read. From the coming of age of the two characters who realized they needed to follow their own dreams, to the thrilling danger of tornadoes and hurricanes, and the adorable romance, this book had it all. Jemma and Ryder were both great characters. Jemma was easy to relate to, though I didn't get why she held something that Ryder did when he was in eighth grade against him, rather than just confronting him about it. But, overall, I thought she was a likable heroine. Ryder was very sweet and a total gentleman, complete with all those southern manner. He was wonderful and utterly adorable and I just loved him. The romance was great. I liked how it was done, with the whole reverse Romeo and Juliet thing. Ryder and Jemma's parents wanted nothing more than their children to be together, but Ryder and Jemma were determined to do the opposite. In Jemma's case, it was because of something that happened years ago that she held against Ryder, constantly exacerbated by her parents to force them together. With Ryder, it was more than he was unwilling to let his parents control yet another aspect of his life. From that place of shared animosity, they slowly came to like each other again, then realize that they both felt so much more for each other, all in the midst of a massive storm. I thought it was very sweet and that Jemma and Ryder were a perfect couple. The plot was well paced and I was hooked the entire way through. The danger from the hurricane and tornadoes added a thrilling element to the story and the atmosphere of a small southern town was impeccably done. One thing I wanted, though, was to see everyone's (especially Ryder and Jemma's parents') reaction to the two of them finally being together. It would have been an interesting scene. But, it was fine as it was. I really enjoyed the story and the ending was lovely. Magnolia was a wonderful YA romance that I really liked. It was sweet and a truly enjoyable read. YA lovers, this is a book you'll definitely want to check out. *I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Magnolia by Kristi Cook Publisher: Simon & Schuster Publication Date: August 5, 2014 Rating: 4 stars Source: eARC from Edelweiss Official Summary: In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived. Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn't exist. But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over. What I Liked: AHHH, I ENJOYED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!! I had a feeling that I would, because several things from the synopsis called to me, but it's so wonderful when something you think will be awesome actually IS awesome! Really awesome! YAY! Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden don't like each other very much. Their families have been waiting for two generations in each family to line up. The families are the opposite of the Montagues and the Capulets - the Caffertys and the Mardsens LOVE each other, because one ancestor saved the other, during the Civil War. So Ryder's family and Jemma's family keep pushing Ryder and Jemma together. But Jemma has Ryder all figured out, and Ryder is chasing after her cousin, Rosie, anyway. But when a freak hurricane sweeps through Mississippi, stranding Jemma and Ryder in Jemma's house, things don't necessarily change - they become clearer. There are so many things I would like to share with you all about this book! First, let me tell you how much I loveeee books that feature a romance in which the protagonists hate each other and then fall in love. That's not *quite* the case in this novel (I'll explain later), but it mostly is, and I LOVE IT. The tension, you all, it is palpable! Cook did a really great job of developing this type of romance. I seriously need more books with romances like these! If you know of any, please tell me!! I also loveeee that this book is set in the Deep South. You didn't find too many of these books in YA these days, set in the Deep South. South, yes - Florida, sure. Texas, even. But not necessarily states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia. The South is veryyyy different from the good old North, Mid-Atlantic, New England, West, etc. Personally, I've lived in Baltimore for forever, so I'm happy to see a setting in the Deep South. That's diversity too! LET'S TALK ABOUT THE ROMANCE!! This book is Romeo and Juliet backwards - meaning, the families aren't feuding, they're totally best friends, and WANT their children to date, go to school together, get married, etc. There are a lot of great Romeo and Juliet parallels in this book, like the first letters of the first names and last names, a sort-of balcony scene, Rosie, etc. The thing is, over the years, Ryder has found that he really does like Jemma Cafferty. And Jemma has found that she really does like Ryder Marsden. But one night changed everything, when Jemma overheard Ryder saying things about her. Now, Jemma is determined to stay away from Ryder. And Ryder - well, Jemma is sure that he is just an arrogant, smug, stuck-up player who doesn't miss a chance to aggravate her. So as you can see, it's not quite hate-at-first-sight-then-love, because the two of them liked each other a lot at first... then grew apart. I LOVE THIS. Jemma kisses some other guy, Patrick, and then goes out with him a few times. This shakes things up, upsetting Jemma's mother, and making Ryder... jealous? Maybeeee. Then the hurricane happens. I'm neither a fan nor a hater of crazy natural disasters that throw the protagonists together. This one served well though, especially since a hurricane isn't too uncommon in the Gulf south (not like here in Baltimore). I loved every moment of Ryder and Jemma, stuck in that house, in the storage, in the bedroom. The tension was thick enough to cut open! Jemma never really "got over" her feelings for Ryder - in fact, they may or may not have developed more, especially with that hurricane. All the wonderful alone time due to the hurricane is amazing. Ryder and Jemma's relationship blossoms on the romance side, without becoming too cliche or overwhelming. And the aftermath of the hurricane is perfect, strained, awkward, and perfect. There is more to this book than the romance. Jemma and Ryder are seniors, and both are expected to go to state schools. Ryder is an amazingggg quarterback, so he could get his choice of any division 1 school, it seems. Jemma is a cheerleader with excellent grades, so it's expected of her to basically go to a state school, and still cheer on Ryder (on the sidelines or in the stands). But Jemma has always had the dream of making films, and she wants to go to NYU for film school. But her parents are like, no, state schools only. I like that this is such a huge deal, because it totally makes sense. Moving allllll the way to a huge, mass-populated city is a big deal of anyone in this quaint town. Also, something really significant happens with Jemma's older sister, Nan. This isn't a spoiler because you have no idea what happens! I promise it's probably not what you think. But it's huge, and takes up a lot of Jemma's thoughts. Her parents put her college application process on hold, because of Nan's situation (which makes sense, but really, it's the perfect excuse for them to say no, we're not going to consider letting you apply to NYU). So it's not just all about the romance. BUT THE ROMANCE IS AWESOME. I just *knew* I would enjoy this book, but I LOVED it! I'm so glad I pushed myself to be on this tour, to read this book! What I Did Not Like: Perhaps everything ended a little *too* perfectly? I wasn't too bothered by this, but this is something I would usually note. So, you are warned. Happy endings are, well, happy. Not a bad thing, necessarily. Would I Recommend It: YES, YES I WOULD!! I loved this book a lot, and as someone who isn't the biggest fan of contemporary romance novels, that's impressive. I've pushed myself to read more contemporary romance novels this year though, but I've been really picky. So far, so good! This is just one more that I really enjoyed! Rating: 4 stars. A lovely standalone novel! I love books with hate-turned-into-love romances - if you know of more, let me know! This one certainly featured an awesome one. And much more!
Six hours. Six hours is how long it took me to devour this book. I started it at midnight (poor decision on my part) and stayed up until 6 am to finish it because let me tell you, this book is AMAZING! Oh man, I could just gush and gush about this this book but I will actually try to review it, as hard as it might be. I have been in a funk of just reading okay books (besides Belzhar) and Magnolia successfully got me out of my funk! There was so much that was right in this book that it is impressive. The premise is brilliant yet simple; Jemma and Ryder’s families have been friends for decades (going back to The Civil War) but they have never had a boy/girl match that could finally unite their families in marriage until Jemma and Ryder. It is essentially the exact opposite of Romeo and Juliet and it is AMAZING! I thought that the allusions to Shakespeare were WONDERFUL and the scenes/acts just fit perfectly into the story. Jemma and Ryder have both been told over and over again that they are perfect for one another which have caused a very distinct wall to form between them; neither of them wants to give into their families' insane tactics and planned out futures. This is a romance book at its core but like great YA romances, it is grounded in real life with real life situations; these characters are both trying to figure out what they want from their futures which makes it easy to relate to both of these characters (for me, at least). I loved seeing how their passions were sprinkled throughout the book because then choices of majors/schools make complete sense to the reader. Both Jemma and Ryder choose not to take the road that is carved out for them and it's so cool to see how alike they really are even though they've been strained since 8th grade. We get to see these characters acting immature and mature, the good and the bad, but they are constantly growing and learning which is great to read about. Jemma and Ryder are distinctly different people with different life goals and I loved seeing how these two came to understand one another. Kristi wrote two real characters that both had flaws and passions which made for two highly believable characters; they fought and were stubborn but they also worked through these differences and got to see the other person's point of view. It was a really well-crafted story and the characters were amazingly written. This ship. This ship is the most wonderful thing. The buildup is amazing and I loved seeing how Jemma’s thoughts changed towards Ryder during the book. It was amazing and beautiful and wonderful. I've already gone back a few times just to read the highlights because they make me SO HAPPY! Just go read it, it's amazing.
Magnolia is simply amazing. Nearly everything about this book was perfection. The setting? Absolutely on point. The characters? Couldn't have been better. The plot? Yes, please! Seriously, I have so much love for this book! It's perfectly southern. The setting, the characters, the dialogue; it all reeks of slow accents, insults veiled with the perfectly placed "bless her heart", and everything else I love about the south. This book totally took me by surprise and swept me off of my feet. The way that Cook weaves in a backwards Romeo and Juliet scenario had me from the start. You just knew that Jemma and Ryder were going to be together by the end even though you had no idea how. All of the ways that I pictured it happening never came, but Cook delivered anything better than I could have imagined. The storm was perfect! The relationship between Jemma and Ryder was truly amazing. There's no insta-love here. Rejoice. I can't say much because I don't want to give away anything. Magnolia is a book (and romance!) that's best experienced firsthand. Before picking up this title for review, I had never heard of Kristi Cook before. Now I consider myself as one of her biggest fans. I'm practically tripping over my own feet to find something else by her. Her ability to not only capture the essence of the south without throwing in cliches and stereotypes, but to capture the teenage spirit and the appeal of love and hate has made me a fan for life. Do you love YA? Do you love believable romances? Do you love characters that seem to become real people? Then you simply have to read Magnolia! **I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review with no compensation.
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Edelweiss.) 17-year-old Jemma wants to go to film school, and doesn’t want to date the boy her entire family wants her to date – Ryder. Can Jemma make it to film school? And does she really hate Ryder? This was a sweet contemporary romance novel, and I liked that Ryder and Jemma didn’t let their parents influence their relationship. Jemma was quite a harsh girl, she held grudges, and wasn’t going to let anyone dictate to her how she should live her life! She called Ryder a jerk, but in truth Ryder had done one thing wrong, and she had it held against him for 4 years! (Best not to get on this girls wrong side!) I liked Ryder, and I liked how he continued to love Jemma, and to support her when she really needed it, even when she was being mean to him. The storyline in this was okay, and we did get some tornados, and unexpected death, and the truth finally coming out to liven things up. Having never been anywhere near a tornado before it was actually quite interesting to read about tornado warning alarms and tarpaulins and parcel tape. The romance in this was actually quite light, and while we did get a couple of kisses and a bit of flirting, the relationship built quite slowly, and was based more on trust and real feelings than lust. The ending was pretty good, and I loved how Ryder and Jemma managed to fool their parents into agreeing to their college plans. I do however think that this pair’s relationship is never going to be simple or easy though! Overall; fun, light, YA contemporary romance, 7 out of 10.
I love how it overall incorperates a little bit of a Romeo and Juliet twist while still keeping to an origional story! One like I've never read before!
Becca: Books set in the South capture my heart, maybe it’s because of my childhood spent there or maybe it’s because of the relaxing vibe and comforting feel. The quote above perfectly describes the setting and feeling of this book for me. Even when the storm takes place, I was just in wonderment of the the beauty of Magnolia Branch Mississippi. This book was amazing from start to finish! Lisa and I kept going back and forth asking each other if we wanted to read more because neither of us wanted to stop! Lisa: This book was exactly what I needed. The perfectly sweet, fun contemporary read that I love the most. Becca and I had trouble putting it down and continuously agreed to read more each day, getting through the entire book in only a few sittings. My very favorite type of romance is a slow-burn, enemies-turn-lovers type of romance, and that’s exactly what we got here. Jemma and Ryder have grown up together in the small town of Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, where everyone knows everyone… and everything. Their BFF mothers have been pushing them to be together for their entire upbringing, and they’ve been battling this push with full-on disgust. Jemma has a bad memory of Ryder from their middle school days that she just can’t seem to let go of. Ryder feels the hatred radiating toward him from Jemma, so he keeps his distance at all costs. But as they get thrown into an uncomfortable position, riding out a tornado together, they learn how to make the most of the situation and learn to deal with each other, for better or worse. Becca: Lisa is right, this was a perfect slow burn romance. My heart broke for Jemma after what went down between her and Ryder in middle school. I understood where she was coming from, but Ryder was also an immature pre-adolescent boy… who unbelievably are even more stupid then teenage boys in my opinion LOL :) The entire book had a reverse Romeo and Juliet feel which ended up being really adorable. Instead of chapters there were Acts and Scenes. Jemma even has a Juliette balcony attached to her room :) Kristi Cook is absolutely amazing! I think my favorite thing about her writing is her descriptions. From fun things like Jemma’s dress, to beauty like the Mississippi country and to scary things like the Hurricane and tornadoes. Her descriptions pulled me in and made me feel like I was there! Lisa: I loved so much about this story, I just can’t stress it all enough. I loved that the characters’ conversations were very fit to their age group, and they didn’t sound like they were in their 30′s. (which is something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately.) I loved both Jemma and Ryder. And Ryder and Jemma had their fair share of mistakes and bad decisions, they had great hearts and they meant well. Jemma would explode over the littlest things, but that just made her seem more real to me. And Ryder’s attempt at being “cool” with his friends was a mistake that I think is very common among boys of that age. Such an incredible story that I loved from beginning to end. I totally agree, Kristi Cook is definitely an author to watch out for. This is my first K. Cook book, but after loving this so much I’ve decided I should probably try Haven too. Though it’s not my usual genre, when you find an author you love, at least in my opinion, you grab on and hold and tight. Becca: These characters were just perfect and like Lisa said they were true teenagers. The way they acted, the things they said and their egotistical attitudes… like I said perfect! I liked Jemma and Ryder so much! I feel that because this story was told from Jemma’s POV we learn more about her and let me tell you she totally rocked!! She was so talented in so many ways, a girl that could sew a vintage dress, handle a video camera like a pro, shoot a gun better than any man she knew and then dust off her pom-poms and cheer at the homecoming game! I just loved her sarcasm and kick a$$ attitude! Ryder was this sensitive football playing hottie with a true dose of southern chivalry. I just adored them both :) I am with Lisa on reading some more Kristi Cook books, she completely surprised me with her talent and style. We will definitely be reading more of her books in the future! Overall we had to give this book 5 stars! We just absolutely loved everything about it! The story, the setting, the characters and the writing were all 5 stars and… PERFECT! (I know I sound a little redundant but its true!!)
If you’re looking for a young adult contemporary book to get lost in this summer–even if only for a few hours–Magnolia might be just what you’re looking for. I’ve been struggling a bit with young adult reads as of late, but Magnolia definitely brought me out of my funk. I got sucked into the story right from the first page and read it in one sitting. I’m not sure I even took a short break to grab a snack or anything. I was that in tune with the characters and the story. I enjoyed the reverse “star-crossed lovers” theme to this book. It made it stand out from the pack for me. So often you read of the characters who are in love, but can’t/shouldn’t be together because of their families, their background or… whatever. The opposite is true in this book. Jemma and Ryder’s families have been encouraging them to be together for years! It’s time to unite the families and all the pressure is on them. Which, you know, is a lot to deal with at such a young age. So, regardless of the attraction they feel, neither of them wants to give in to their parents’ wishes… stubborn teenagers. :) As much as I enjoyed the story, it was really the characters that made this book for me. Jemma was likable and relatable. Ryder was adorable–even when he was being a “jerk” in the beginning. I loved the dynamic between the two of them. They were friends when they were younger and Jemma had a crush on Ryder until he crushed her at a dance in junior high. At that point they became more “frenemies” than friends. That’s where we are when the book starts. Things quickly begin to change as the story continues though. Jemma can’t help but notice Ryder… and thinks he might be noticing her, too. But it’s not until severe weather forces the two of them to come together that things really pick up between them. I’m a total sucker for friends first stories. I don’t care how predictable they might be! This book had a little bit of everything. The will they/won’t they was cute and believable. Jemma and Ryder had a ton of chemistry. The romance was sweet in that first love kind of way and it just made me smile. There are some pretty tense moments during the storm, and while I can’t say I was actually on the edge of my seat, I was a little concerned about how everything would play out. The side characters–namely their families–were interesting, too. They were just so determined these two together that it was amusing at times, frustrating at others. They were a little over-the-top, but not in a bad way. I loved the vibe this book gave off. I felt like I should be reading it on the porch of a mansion in the south, with a glass of sweet tea in my hand. I had high hopes for Magnolia when I first saw it and I was excited to get the chance to read it in advance of its release. It was everything I wanted and more! I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.