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Book Review and New Release: Ivy Entwined by Laura Simcox (Book one in the Something to Celebrate Series)


Title: Ivy Entwined
Author: Laura Simcox
Series: Something to Celebrate
Genre: contemporary romance
Published: 2013
Pages: 240
Format read: ebook
Rating: C+

(The synopsis for Ivy Entwined was posted last week, along with an interview with author Laura Simcox. If you missed it, you can find it here. Don’t miss the giveaway either–there’s still a few days left to enter to win!)

There were a lot of things to like about Ivy Entwined. The small town setting of Celebration, New York (somewhere near Syracuse) is charming and quirky. There’s quite a few colorful secondary characters, many of whom will hopefully show up in future novels–Alberta Fields, former English teacher and town council member; Ronald Watkins, a business owner also on the town council; and Sherry, Ivy’s administrative assistant, always make Ivy’s job interesting, to say the least.

“Excuse me.” Alberta waved from the front row. “Ivy?”

“Yes, Alberta? What can I do for you?”

Before Alberta could respond, the man sitting next to her rose and hoisted up his trousers. “We’re out of doughnuts, aren’t we? Always used to be three dozen at these meetings but Sherry only brought two dozen. Plenty of people here didn’t even get one.”

Alberta took a dainty bite of a pink-frosted doughnut and spoke around it. “That’s because you ate three of them, Ronald.”

“Put a sock in it, old bag.” Ronald Watkins smoothed a hand over his comb-over hair and scratched his ear.

Alberta sniffed. “Ivy, I know the town council is supposed to sit in the reserved seats, but I find myself unable to concentrate on the business at hand.” She heaved herself up and moved to an empty seat.

Ronald glared at her. “Good. Don’t see why she’s on the council anyway. Don’t own any commercial property in town.”

“Doesn’t. She doesn’t own, Ronald,” Alberta snapped.

“That’s for damn sure. And a good thing, too,” he muttered as he returned to his chair. “Don’t even see why we have to be here today. This ain’t a council meeting.”

Alberta leaned over. “We’re here to support our new mayor. Now quit complaining.”

Ivy let out a slow breath and turned to the woman behind her, who sat at a desk clicking a ballpoint pen. “Is that conversation going in the minutes, Sherry?”

Sherry, administrative assistant to the mayor of Celebration, rolled her eyes. “You want it to?”

“No. All I want is to get these heels off and flop in front of the TV,” Ivy answered.

“You and me both, hon. I’ve been sitting here recording this mess for twenty years. Your dad always hated town hall meetings, too.” Sherry drew a frowny face on the legal pad in front of her and then placed a large dot on the forehead. “That’s a bullet hole.”

Marcus’s uncle Herman is another character who keeps everyone on their toes, especially Marcus. I loved the scene where Marcus, whose rental car reservation was messed up, has to make his triumphant (he hopes) ride back into town in the car Herman uses for his realty business (Weaver Realty is your nesting expert. Crooked stick-on letters on the truck tell you so). It has aged artificial turf on the roof, and a chicken we can only hope has seen better days is wired to the top. The doors stick, and to make things even more interesting, it stalls when you attempt an elaborate driving maneuver–like stopping for a school bus.

Ivy’s grandmother Colleen is a hoot, and alternately acts as an instigating sidekick for both Ivy and Herman. Her Awful Christmas Sweater party makes for some laugh-out-loud moments, especially the descriptions of the attendees’ attire.

I enjoyed both Ivy and Marcus as characters, and the idea behind the plot is a solid one–newly minted mayor of the town, desperate to save it from the downward spiral it’s on versus the guy who’s come back to town with dreams of opening a big-box store–which will probably ultimately hurt the town–and who also happens to be the guy said mayor was crushing on as a young teen. There’s all kinds of push-pull factors going on with these two–their attraction to each other and Ivy’s family’s matchmaking on the one side against their opposing goals for Celebration and desire to make something of themselves–and the conflict they create is great.

All good things, and they kept me turning the pages.

Parts of the story didn’t work as well for me, though. Both Ivy and Marcus seemed to flip flop quickly–too quickly, in some cases–between what they said they wanted and what they actually did, and it was a bit disconcerting. At times I felt as if I’d missed something because the shift felt so abrupt, but checking back in the book often didn’t show me anything new to make the change make more sense.

The resolution is perhaps the best example of this–one of the characters suddenly does a complete turnaround from what they’d been working for nearly their entire adult life, ultimately deciding to go in a totally different direction. While I agree that it would have been nearly impossible for both Ivy and Marcus to get what they wanted here, professionally as well as personally, I’d liked to have seen more of the thought process that the character went through to justify the change. How did the idea occur to them? What did they have to do to achieve it, and how will it ultimately fulfill them more than the path they thought they were on? None of these things were made clear, and it left me unsatisfied with that part of the HEA. Without knowing their true thoughts, the “EA” portion feels up in the air–for now.

(Yes, the English teacher in me is cringing at the inaccurate use of pronouns in that paragraph. But gosh darn it, I’m not going to give any spoilers here, so she’ll have to deal.)

That said, Laura Simcox assures us that we’ll see Marcus and Ivy again in the series. Future novels set in Celebration might help convince me that this solution will ultimately work, and I’m more than willing to give them a chance.

In a nutshell: an entertaining novel with likable characters and a fun setting. I had some concerns with the way the resolution was achieved, but definitely plan on returning to Celebration when the occasion arises. C+ rating.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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