I’ve never lived in the South but will admit to a fascination with Southern life; and while I can’t verify its authenticity, I liked the southern small-town flavor of this book. Yes, everyone in town knows the heroine, but it makes sense – she’s a former Miss Alabama notorious for giving up her crown. I also truly liked both the hero and heroine; despite appearances, neither is perfect.
On the set of her sister’s TV cooking show in Ministry, Alabama, Emma Laroux has a run-in with the new producer, Matthew Pope. Matthew’s been shipped off from New York by the network and suffering from an allergy attack, blames it on Emma’s dog that’s also on the set.
Matthew quickly recognizes Emma from a notorious college weekend ten years earlier, but says nothing. That weekend had a lasting impact on Emma’s life. She’s never told anyone -– including her large family – what caused her to step down as Miss Alabama, even though Tad, the love of her young life, broke up with her immediately after. Everyone assumes Emma’s still heartbroken, as she rarely dates. This belief isn’t helped by Emma’s publicly polite treatment of Tad, who’s now the overbearing mayor of Ministry. However, we quickly learn Emma can’t stand him.
Ten years earlier, Matthew was an Auburn football player and guest of a fraternity house at Emma’s school when he encountered her in some kind of stupor. He was a pudgy country boy at the time, and has changed enough physically and behaviorally that Emma doesn’t recognize him.
Despite a rocky start, Emma and Matthew gradually become friends. However, they continue to hide major secrets. Matthew suspects there’s something off about Tad, as he notices Emma lives her life as if she’s afraid of what Tad might do. In addition to his part in the college weekend, Matthew’s holding back information about the cause of his panic attacks, and the fact that his rather complicated family lives just a few hours from Ministry.
As Emma and Matthew get closer, Tad becomes more threatening. In fact, the more we learn about him the creepier he seems. While I guessed early on at some of the things Tad had done – and wondered why Emma didn’t suspect the same – I was surprised at the extent of his misdeeds; he’s truly evil.
I’ll be honest. Matthew’s secret about the college weekend hung over the book for me, and as Emma and Matthew became closer I dreaded the big reveal. I wish Matthew had told her very early on that he met her on “that” night; there were enough other interesting surprises in both Matthew and Emma’s backgrounds for the story not to have to rely on just that one for impact.
Family plays a major role in both Emma and Matthew’s lives. We’re eventually introduced to all Emma’s sisters and her brother, as well as to her mother who’s getting married. Each of these characters has a major place in the story. In addition to family, some intriguing secondary characters are introduced and I enjoyed most of them, as well as how Emma’s relationship evolves with many of them over the course of the book.
As a sign of how much I liked Love, Alabama, the minute I finished it I went online to see if there was a release date for the next book, only to find nothing. I’ve downloaded Again, Alabama, the first in the series featuring Emma’s chef sister, but will continue to hope for a third book. I’d love for it to feature Emma’s brother Ben, and I know exactly who I want as his heroine.