I’ve enjoyed some of Alice Clayton’s books in the past. After reading Wallbanger, I realized I could count on her for a well-written, laugh-out-loud romance novel full of jokes and innuendos. Although I try to stay on top of the release schedules for authors I like, Nuts somehow wasn’t on my radar. As soon as I saw it, though, I snapped it up and settled in for a good read. As hoped, I found myself chuckling as I ran into all sorts of agriculture related puns and innuendos.
Roxie Callahan is a well-known personal chef out in L.A., but that doesn’t seem to register with her mother. When Trudy Callahan is offered a spot on a reality show for one season, she doesn’t doubt for a second that Roxie will come home and run their family diner for the summer while she’s away. Never mind that Roxie has only been home once or twice for very brief visits since moving away for college – Trudy is determined. Unfortunately, Roxie finds herself unable to say no to her mother (due to some problems with her clientele in L.A.) and winds up back in the Hudson Valley for the summer.
Although she’s very resistant to coming back home, the summer starts off pretty well when Roxie sees an attractive farmer named Leo Maxwell walk through her door. Although they get off to a bit of a rough start, with Roxie tripping and falling all over Leo every time they meet, it doesn’t take the two long to register their mutual attraction and then agree to a summer fling. To Roxie’s surprise — but no one else’s — they ultimately find themselves inclined to extend their “fling” far past just one summer.
As a native of upstate New York and a frequent visitor to the area around Red Hook, where the book is set, I must declare myself very pleased with Nuts. All of the details — from mentions of local farming situations to the presence of the Metro North — fit my experience. It brought the setting to life for me in a way I’ve never experienced before, which was very enjoyable. I could easily see this story happening in my town, to someone I know.
I also loved Roxie and Leo, both apart and together. The story is told by Roxie, so we obviously know her better, but both are well-drawn, likeable people. Roxie is shy about her feelings after watching her over-emotional mother throw herself into one relationship after another. Leo’s most recent ex was manipulative to say the least. They both carry around some relationship baggage, but only to the extent a normal human would. There’s no excess drama here.
Reading Nuts made me smile, both because of all of the jokes and because, with every page I turned, I was checking off things Ms. Clayton could have done wrong but didn’t. No Big Misunderstandings, no wild accusations… Roxie and Leo are real people, who behave reasonably but are witty enough to deserve the starring roles in a novel. I know for a fact I’ll be watching carefully for Ms. Clayton’s next book, and I’ll make sure to clear my schedule when it comes so I can enjoy it at my leisure.