Have you ever wanted to go to the resort hotel from Dirty Dancing? Spend a week in the Catskills, sitting by a lake or joining in events in the parlor? It’s been a fantasy of mine since college, and places like that really do still exist. In Buns, the third in the Hudson Valley series, our heroine, Clara Morgan, hotel rebrander extraordinaire, heads up to Bryant Mountain House to help pull it (and its owner) kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I’m sure you can guess what happens next….
Clara is a loner, mostly through circumstance rather than by choice. A product of the foster system and abandoned by her mother, Clara has trouble trusting people, and some major issues centered around her lack of family. She has one positive connection – with her boss, Barbara – and is sent up the mountain to Bryant as a kind of audition for a partnership in the business. One more success, and she’s set. She just has to get Archie Bryant to buy into her pitch. And he’s a bit… stubborn. Everything is, apparently, perfect just the way it is and any problems the hotel is experiencing must be due to the economic recession. Of course, Clara has her work cut out for her.
I’m sure you can see where this is going.
Clara and Archie’s fighting turns to bantering turns to flirting turns to making out in linen closets, and all of a a sudden, Clare finds herself in over her emotional head. Archie is still getting over the loss of his wife a few years ago, but is ready to dive in, but Clara is panicking. And honestly, her friends (the heroines and their loves from the previous books) aren’t really helping. It’s Clara’s issues that really drive the plot, which makes the first person narration essential to the overall story.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of first person narration, I don’t really like living in one person’s head, and it’s really hard to do well. I have to say, though, I enjoyed it here, for the most part. There are a few times where Clara’s introspection is over the top, woe is me, but giving more insight into her neuroses definitely helped me enjoy her more as a character. There were a few times I felt like I was being beaten over the head with Clara’s insecurities (walls and protecting yourself and distance and running as a metaphor for running from her problems and from intimacy) but overall it works. I also have to say it gives the sex scenes an extra bit of spice. The book is described as an erotic comedy, and while I didn’t find it particularly descriptive when it came to the sex scenes, it was surprisingly intense.
On the downside, however, there are chunks of the story with no real interaction going on between the central couple, so the romance falls a little flat throughout most of the novel. The ending makes up for it, though.
There are a couple of turns of phrase that threw me a bit, such as calling rainboots ‘wellies’. No one in Boston calls rainboots wellies, but overall Buns is a fun romp with a surprising amount of drama and a full on happy ending. I’d recommend it to fans of contemporary romance, but if you aren’t already into the genre, I don’t think this is the place to start.