Title: It’s In His Smile
Author: Shelly Alexander
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Release Date: June 2016
Length: 292 pages
Series?: Red River Valley #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Miranda Cruz isn’t just the best darned waitress in town anymore; she’s Red River’s newest innkeeper. But first, she has to find the contractor who’s disappeared with her life savings so she can start renovations. Not so easy for a woman who never depends on anyone, especially a man. And when a gorgeous old flame shows up, the fire between them is reignited and threatens to send her dreams up in smoke.
Acclaimed environmental architect Talmadge Oaks returns home to Red River on family business. He plans to get in and get out quickly because a professional catastrophe is waiting back in Washington. When an unforeseen snag keeps him in Red River longer than expected, he finds himself entangled in the renovations of his late grandmother’s Victorian inn. Handy with a hammer, he offers to help the beautiful new owner, but his motives aren’t completely selfless. Will his secret demolish everything they are building? Or can their undeniable passion keep them together?
Miranda Cruz has lived under the shadow of her flighty, man-hungry mother all her life in Red River. Or, as Mrs. Wilkerson puts it, her hussy of a mother. Miranda has worked hard over the years to raise her younger brother and make something of herself. She was tired of being a waitress at Cotton Eyed Joe’s, so she struck a deal with Bea, the mother-like figure she didn’t have. Now Miranda is the newest proprieter in town, stuck trying to remodel Bea’s old inn with a disappearing contractor while struggling to be seen around town for her accomplishments and not her mother’s behavior.
With Bea’s passing, her grandson and famous architect Talmadge Oaks is back in town to take care of family affairs. With a crumbling bazillion dollar project on the fritz in Washington, he wants to get back as soon as possible. With the reading of Bea’s will, he discovers he’ll be in Red River longer than he planned, wrapped up in the renovations for the inn. There’s just one catch.
Want a first look at the book? Check out my First Chapter First Paragraph post on It’s His Smile.
Miranda – a 28-year-old innkeeper with a notorious family she’s trying to overcome
Jamie – Miranda’s college sophomore brother ready to spread his wings
Bea – the motherly figure to many in Red River
Talmadge – Bea’s grandson, a legendary architect harboring deep-seated guilt
Joe – Talmade’s uncle and Miranda’s former employer, owns Cotton Eyed Joe’s
Lorenda – Miranda’s best friend, Langston’s sister
Langston – Talmadge’s best friend, Lorenda’s sister
Francine & Clydelle – town busy bodies who love the male physique
“I’m not judging. Lord, I’m green with envy as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.”
“As if your mother wasn’t bad enough, now you’ve teamed up with these old loons.”
Miranda drew in a sharp breath at the insult.
Francine lifted her purse. “Watch it, sister. This purse is a lethal weapon, and I’m not responsible for my actions when my blood sugar drops. I haven’t had lunch yet.”
“My cane’s been known to accidentally slip from my grasp and do some serious damage too.” Clydelle waved it in the air.
“When you grow up poor you have two choices. You can either stay poor, or try to work your way out of it.”
“They’re painting. On ladders.”
Francine kept talking. “Their butts jiggle when they move the paint sprayer back and forth.” She shot a disgusted look at her sister. “Until she went and ruined it.”
“I would’ve gone as high as a fifty,” Clydelle huffed.
“If we get to heaven, I’m telling Mamma on you,” said Francine.
The Highs and Lows
- Miranda. She is a strong-willed, stubborn woman who wants to do it on her own. She doesn’t want to owe anybody. She raised her younger brother. She sounds so familiar, in more ways than just those. She can’t depend on men like her mother. She can’t depend on men, period. It’s just principle.
- Bea. She was the kind of grandmother or friend you’d want to have in your life. She did everything she could to help other people, especially teens. She took Talmadge in at a young age and she and Joe helped Miranda out when she was a teen to help her get a start. She was revered and respected in the town, and wanted the best for Miranda.
- Talmadge. He is a famous eco-friendly architect who blows and goes and doesn’t slow down. He put Red River in his rear view and never looked back. Too many bad memories and ill-placed guilt.
- Loner Syndrome. Both Talmadge and Miranda – as well as a few others in Red River – suffer from Loner Syndrome, feeling they are better off alone than in a relationship – no matter what sort of relationship that may be. For some of the characters, like Lorenda, I understood this attitude, but for some it seemed misplaced.
- Sexual Tension. I think this book had the highest level of sexual tension I’ve ever read in any book. The want between the two characters was on some other level, and both of them took every opportunity with their internal dialogue to make that fact known.
- The Mommy Mafia. These women – which include Lorenda – are hilarious! They might enact a hostile takeover at Cotton Eyed Joe’s if someone doesn’t feed their hormone levels! They are good friends for Miranda, who feels she doesn’t have many. Turns out, she has more supporters than she even knew.
- Red River Rag. The local community is flanked and awed and insatiable and irrisistible. Someone in town is running a covert ops mission and publishing all the juiciest gossip – whether true or not – with photos! – on a Tumblr blog called the Red River Rag. And everyone reads it. Everyone.
- Mrs. Wilkerson. This dried up old bag wears a cross every day and is a self-righteous old biddy who obviously hasn’t been listening to her pastor about kindness, compassion, or…you know, Jesus. She is just nasty and ugly. She tries to derail all of the good things Miranda is doing for the community – while spewing her personal beliefs as well. The town shows her! (in a much nicer way than she showed Miranda.)
- Francine and Clydelle. These two women are a hoot!
The story itself was quite comical even from the first events at Bea’s wake. The I-can’t-be-with-you part wasn’t comical except for when Jamie gets involved – usually because of the Red River Rag. The Mommy Mafia, Francine, and Clydelle are the comedic relief.
Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip?
A 2014 Golden Heart® finalist, Shelly Alexander grew up traveling the world, earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and worked in the business world for twenty-five years. With four older brothers, she watched every Star Trek episode ever made, joined the softball team instead of ballet class, and played with G.I. Joes while the Barbie Corvette stayed tucked in the closet. When she had three sons of her own, she decided to escape her male-dominated world by reading romance novels and has been hooked ever since. Now, she spends her days writing steamy contemporary romances while tending to a miniature schnauzer named Omer, a tiny toy poodle named Mozart, and a pet boa named Zeus.
Enter for a chance to win a Kindle Fire or one of 3 Amazon Gift Cards!