Monday, July 4, 2016

[ARC Review]: "Cream of the Crop"

Cream of the Crop by Alice Clayton
Publisher: Gallery Books (July 12, 2016)
Series: Hudson Valley, 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Alice Clayton brings her trademark blend of funny and sexy to this second contemporary romance in the brand-new Hudson Valley series!

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

Where to Buy*:
More Info:

Reviews of Clayton's Previous Novels:

Wallbanger (#1) -- Kame
Rusty Nailed (#2) -- Kame

My Review:

Size eighteen women weren't supposed to show off their legs, which I did. They weren't supposed to show off their cleavage, which I did. Size eighteen women were supposed to wear trench coats in the winter, long sleeves in the summer, and somebody better cancel Christmas if they wore a dress that showed off some cleavage. Size eighteen women were supposed to dress like they were apologizing for taking up too much space. I took up space. I took up space in a city where space was at a premium, and I never apologized for it.

Natalie’s got confidence and then some, and has no reservations about going after a man, even if it’s only for a night of fun. But there’s something about the quiet, somewhat grumpy, tattooed man at the farmer’s market every week that makes her fumble and ramble. She may love the Brie he makes, but she’s interested in far more than just Oscar’s handcrafted cheese. When her advertising company picks up the small town where Oscar lives for a project, Natalie’s all over the job, mixing business trips with pleasure trips. But as much as she enjoys her time with her country man, she’s a city girl at heart. Can they find compromise somewhere in between the two extremes?

First, I know, I know, the title and cover may be a bit . . . unusual. But trust me, this book is worth the read!

Cream of the Crop was such a delightful read. It’s not so light that there’s not some angst/emotions popping up, but it’s still relatively fluffy and fun – and I mean that in the best possible way. I very much enjoyed Clayton’s writing style (and will be reading more of her books in the future), as well as Natalie’s spunk and sass.

Size eighteen women were supposed to be timid. Size eighteen women were supposed to be shy. Size eighteen women were supposed to be grateful for any male attention, and to feel especially honored if a good-looking man paid attention to them.

Fuck all that noise. I took the best looking guy home with me whenever and however I pleased. Confident went a long way. You walk into a room armed with the knowledge that you can have anyone you want? You can literally have anyone you want.

Natalie’s a take-no-shit and give-no-fucks kind of woman, and I loved her for that. She fully accepts that yes, she is plus-sized, but she’s damn beautiful and she has the confidence to take what she wants out of life. She wasn’t always that way; her backstory includes a douchebag POS ex-boyfriend who really did a number on her when she was graduating high school (controlling, verbally and emotionally abusive, made her believe she was never enough, etc., etc.). But after leaving him, she picked herself up and set her mind on a career where she kicks ass and a mindset that dares the world to call her fat and belittle her for her size. I could truly connect to some of Natalie’s early struggles about herself, and while I can’t say I’m to the give-no-fucks level that Natalie is (yet), I loved seeing such a heroine in print. Because we can’t forget that everyone needs to be able to see parts of themselves in books.

And no, this is not the story of the fat girl finding herself – and love – after losing weight. Nope, not at all. Natalie is an unapologetic size 18 from start to finish. She’s happy with herself. Which I also loved because far too often when there is a “heavier” heroine, much of her character arc revolves around her losing the weight and suddenly being beautiful. Fuck that shit. Lose the weight if you want to be healthier, I have nothing against that. But a person isn’t ugly because they’re fat and beautiful once they’re skinny; that’s society’s BS talking.

Thanks for everything Friday night, you're the best.  Missy XOXO

My mind reeled, rolling back to Friday night. Whoa, wait a minute. He didn't leave me to go to--

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a minute here. You left me to see your ex-wife, and then you knowingly feed me her thanks for the Friday night fuck muffins? What the hell?" I picked up the note and read it aloud with the most sickeningly sweet voice I could muster. "You're the best. Come on, why doesn't she just say, Hey ex-husband, thanks for the penis, thanks for visiting my vagina, here's some fucking awesome muffins?"

"She bakes me muffins all the time--"

"Oh, is that what they call it up here?"

"Is that what they call what up here? What are you talking about?"

"Well then, what the hell did I do last night: churn your butter? You better not have whipped her cream, or so help me God, I will---"

"I fixed her hot water heater."

I froze. Then blinked. And glared.

"What the hell kind of sick sex act is that?"

Let’s see, I laughed and smiled during a lot of this book. I could relate to Natalie and loved her attitude and confidence. What else? Oh! The chemistry between Natalie and Oscar is fantastic; this is quite a hot read, whether they’re simply kissing or getting busy on any available surface. ;)

I pulled his head down to mine, and whispered, "You're too tall. Get down here."

He did, but whispered back, "You really do talk too much."

But then no talking, because we were finally kissing. Again. I love kissing this guy.

Every Saturday at the farmers' market, as I'd walk away, I'd fantasized what it would be like to kiss Oscar. To feel those lips on mine. Would he be soft and gentle? Would he be strong and forceful? Would he lick my lower lip until I opened up, then slide his tongue against mine sensually? Or would he put his perfect hands on my face, turn it how he wanted it, and fuck my mouth with his own?

Yes. Yes. Yes. And fucking hell, yes.

Because while Oscar didn't talk much, when he's focused on something, he's all in. Fully present. This kiss, these kisses, they are lazy and unhurried, frantic and frenzied. How can they be both?

The only complaint I have is minor: I do wish we could have gotten Oscar’s POV thrown in. I don’t mind 1st POV in my romance novels, but I do prefer if it’s dual 1st POV so we can get the full picture and experience of the couple. The epilogue was done from Oscar’s POV, which was interesting since the rest of the book was entirely from Natalie, but I would have liked to see Oscar’s POV mixed in a bit; maybe not every other chapter, but at the very least a few times during the course of the story.

This was my first Clayton novel but it will not be my last. Fun and relatable and sexy as hell, Cream of the Crop reads like a good romcom. 

4 1/2 STARS! 

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I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley.

*Note: The quotes used belong to Alice Clayton; TBQ's Book Palace does not claim them. Any mistakes or typos in the quotes are my own fault.

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Remember, since this is a Royal Pick, come back on July 28th for a chance to WIN an ecopy of your own!


Until Next Time,


  *TBQ's Book Palace is a member of both the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles affiliates program. By using the links provided to buy products from either website, I receive a very small percentage of the order. To read my full disclosure on the matter, please see this post!

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