Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to…
Natalie Grayson is the definition of a Manhattan Girl. She loves her island and adores everything about her fast-paced, high society party scene, working girl life. But… there is that hot dairy farmer and her secret dream to live in the country, making cheese. So when Natalie gets the opportunity to work on a Bailey Falls tourism campaign, she jumps at the chance to head upstate to the Hudson Valley town where her best friend, and that hot farmer, reside.
Oscar is a man of few words who enjoys his small town life as a dairy farmer and premium cheese maker. However, when Natalie Grayson blows into town, he can’t help but get caught up in her whirlwind and go after this wonderful woman who makes him crazy. Thank goodness, neither Oscar nor Natalie wants a relationship or to fall in love…
Cream of the Crop is Ms. Clayton’s second, standalone romance in her wonderful Hudson Valley series. Although the story is standalone, we meet both Natalie and Oscar in the first book, Nuts, and I highly recommend reading it first. Cream of the Crop is filled with sharp humor and lots of steamy sex, but there are also some poignant moments that brought a tear or two to my eyes.
I loved the main character, Natalie. She is confident and talented. She’s no-nonsense and takes what she wants. I love that she is pretty aggressive and vulgar. She likes to talk bluntly about sex and what she likes. She also cusses like a sailor. I appreciated that her job came first, and she wasn’t willing to give up her life for a man. And, I am thankful that the author didn’t create this strong character, then tear her down, causing her to run to or need Oscar in the end. She maneuvers around pitfalls with grace and care, learning when to compromise without giving up bits of herself.
Oscar is a bit of a mystery, and since we don’t hear the story from his POV, we have to learn about him though Natalie’s eyes. He definitely fits Natalie’s fantasies and gives her lots of emotional support and encouragement. However, Hot Farmer Guy has an ex-wife with whom he has remained close friends. I liked this aspect, but what I didn’t like was the fact that he put her above Natalie at times and doesn’t see any thing wrong with his behavior. Although by the end of the book the compromises felt genuine and the epilogue provides hints that Oscar was willing to bend some to meet Natalie halfway to show her how much he loves her, I still don’t feel that enough was done to assuage my concerns that he would continue to place his ex on par with Natalie.
While I had issues with the storyline once and a while, they mostly seemed to work themselves out. At times Natalie and Oscar’s relationship seemed like it was all sex. We didn’t always get the quiet moments that generated the eventual love. But we did see Natalie fall for Bailey Falls. Her gradual give over to the small town was heartwarming and entertaining, especially as she continued to wear her high couture New York fashion and working on the farm.
This second time around, Olivia Song provided the narration for the body of the book. I appreciated and liked the fact that she is a different narrator than was used in the first title because it helped emphasize that the story was told from a different character’s point-of-view. Overall, Ms. Song’s performance was spot on. And just like in the first book, the entire story is shared from the female first person POV, until the male first person POV in the epilogue. Since I knew and expected it this time, it didn’t bother me. The narrator’s performance of Natalie was wonderful. She hit the snark and NY bossiness perfectly. She put emotion into the mundane: the hidden feelings of surprise and hurt, and the crassness and kink of their dirty talk and sex. Her performance was never over the top, but always on the mark. Her performance of Oscar was also good, but I think I wanted just a little deeper voice from this mysterious farming god. The small glimpse we had of Oscar’s “true voice” a la Deacon Lee, the male narrator, fit my impression of Oscar.
Overall, I found Creme of the Crop extremely entertaining, even with my few “issues.” The story is a great blend of small town romance, friendships, and a bit of crassness and kink, and I look forward to listening to more titles from Ms. Clayton.
My Rating: B+
Olivia Song Narration: A
Deacon Lee Narration: A- (needed more! – it was only the epilogue, so it was difficult to rate)
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 be…love?