Welcome to the Magnolia blog tour! I am soooo excited to be a part of this tour! I loved Cook's debut series, and I loved this standalone novel even more! Be sure to check out my super glowy review, and enter to the giveaway!
Magnolia by Kristi Cook
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: August 5, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
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!
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!
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About the Author:
As a child, Kristi Cook took her nose out of a book only long enough to take a ballet class (or five) each week. Not much has changed since then, except she’s added motherhood to the mix and enjoys penning her own novels as much as reading everybody else’s. A transplanted southern gal, Kristi lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.
That’s the official version–here are some other fun facts:
~ As an undergrad, I majored in History and minored in English at the University of Southern Mississippi. While at Southern Miss, I was a member of Phi Mu sorority, and I was a Dixie Darling. And yep, Brett Favre was our quarterback at the time!
~ I studied American History in grad school at Columbia University. I *love* history, especially the Civil War era (U.S.) and Regency- and Edwardian-era British history.
~ My all-time favorite book *and* movie is GONE WITH THE WIND. My favorite literary characters are Rhett Butler, Atticus Finch, and Mr. Darcy. I kind of want to add Peeta Mellark to that list!
~Weirdly enough (or maybe not so weirdly?) I’m also a big fan of STAR TREK (the original series). I never can remember if I’m supposed to call myself a “Trekkie” or a “Trekker,” though!